In high school, I met with a college admissions counselor, who asked me about my extracurricular activities and academic performance. For sports, I had done ballet and track and cross country. I had won an art competition, performed in the school musical, and played guitar for the jazz band. I excelled at history and I loved science. I worked in a research lab, where I helped screen for mutations affecting mesodermal development in worms.
“So you’re a Renaissance woman” he said, looking pleased. “College admissions officers love that.”
I always assumed that growing up meant pruning away my interests to concentrate on a single discipline. That is the logical route to take; we live in an era of specialization. Being a jack-of-all-trades, or a student of all disciplines, is confusing and chaotic.
I have been searching for that one single thing that I am good at; I still don’t know the answer. None of my ventures have seemed to be quite the right fit for me. Lately, it has occurred to me that I need to play to my actual strengths, rather than the strengths I wish I had, or the strengths that I think I could develop.
My strength, as I see it, is that I am interested in everything. This doesn’t seem much like strength – these past years, I have often thought of it as weakness. The flipside of being interested in everything is that you never really master one thing. My concentration – and my ability to focus – is hampered because I am always going off on tangents. As they say – “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
I cannot change who I am; all that I can do is try and find a way to position myself to turn a potential weakness into strength. And so, after all these years, I have reached a point where I realize that I just need to accept my strengths for what they are and learn to work with what I have.