(Image credit here.)
I thought I would close out this year on a positive note. This semester has been a turbulent one, and I could ramble on about all of my woes, but despite all of the hardships, I realized that through it all, everything ended on a good note. Maybe everyone could enjoy a little optimism at the end of what is usually a stressful season.
I’ve always considered myself a “jack of all trades.” I have the attention span of a squirrel, and my interests change with the seasons. I once looked at a year book and realized that I had changed my hairstyle at least five times throughout the year. I’ve dabbled in everything from robotics to Aikido to fashion design. But when someone asks me to describe in detail my skill set, I can say only, “Well…I went to one competition. I designed the presentation and wrote the paper…” or “I learned the basics for a few weeks. Not a pro or anything…” It’s never enough to put on a resume.
Even after discovering that the full saying is “a jack of all trades and master of none but better than a master of one,” I continued to stress over the fact that I had this repertoire of interests and no mastery. I’m a perfectionist. I want to be the very best at absolutely everything I do, but any sane person knows that such a lifestyle isn’t accessible. Then again, who said I was a sane person? I strove to be a jack of all trades and a master of all, but that pursuit usually ended with my eating an entire gallon of ice cream. It stretched me in every direction until I was completely drawn and quartered.
My first semester back in America was different for some reason. At first, I missed Japan. (I still do to some extent.) However I was also excited for my last year of college and my potential future. What was before me? I didn’t know. What was behind me? I didn’t care. Somehow, I managed time better. I did more despite wanting to do less. I assumed that I had become comfortable in my mediocrity. Yes. Mediocrity was just fine. At least it was stable, but it didn’t mean I could relax especially in choir.
“I think you know what I’m going to ask you.” My church choir director is giddy with excitement as he bounces from section to section, giving out Christmas music like he’s Oprah.
“Well…it can be one of two things,” I whisper. One of the basses sitting behind me snickers. The piece of music my choir director had just handed to me says there’s a solo and a flute part. At this point, I’m praying that it’s the solo I have to sing and not the flute part I have to play. But he doesn’t want me to sing.
Some things never change. They probably never will. I know the power of the word “no,” but I’m still a pushover, and most people know it. But what’s the big deal? It’s just a flute part. Practice a little. Play it. But imagine this: you haven’t walked in six years and suddenly you’re asked to run a marathon for charity. Let’s say this charity helps orphans. You’re perfectly capable of walking; you’re just lazy. You have a few weeks (at most) to go from zero to hero.
You do it. You do it for the orphans.
Well, I didn’t play my flute for orphans. I did it because I was there, and I was fully capable of playing it even if I didn’t necessarily want to. My choir director would have a hard time finding a flutist during the Christmas season otherwise. Unfortunately, I only had a few hours during finals week to practice, so I had to improvise a little.
After all was said and done, I realized that I had survived somehow. I made it through the piece. No tears. No panic. Nothing spectacular happened. I wasn’t suddenly deemed a virtuoso. Crowds didn’t throw roses at me. I didn’t even take a bow. (That would have been strange considering I was playing at a church service.) Afterwards, my choir director pulled me aside as I was preparing to leave and told me, “I always know I can rely on you.” I think after four years of working with me, he finally tired of my dismissing his compliments. I almost always apologize after a performance. But I didn’t dismiss this.
After years of lamenting over the fact that I may never be a master of anything, maybe I was after all? A new year won’t change my perfectionism. I think part of me will always strive to be the very best. I want to be fluent in 10 languages and write 7 best selling novels. I want to be the cool mom that can cook like a pro, work full time, and still have time to participate in every school fundraiser while maintaining the most beautiful fairy tale relationship with my husband. Maybe I’ll never do any of those things, but knowing that I’m reliable?
That is the most comforting thought I can hold onto as my final semester of college approaches.