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Jack of All Trades, Master of None

I recently applied for a job that I thought was perfect for me. It called my name from the end of a long road, waving its hands and gesturing me towards it. The position was a big change for me, going back to a career path that I’d left more than twenty years ago. But I wanted this job and judging from all of the signs along the road, it wanted me too.


The job was at a large public institution and there were lots of bells to ring and whistles blow along the way. When I got to the end of the road we finally met and greeted each other. We chatted, exchanged pleasantries. The smiles were natural and heartfelt. The conversation flowed. We liked each other. This could work.


After waiting a few weeks where I dreamed of a life with my new job — the trips we’d go on, the masterpieces we’d create — the job went with someone else, someone with more relevant experience. Instead of shaking hands and walking further down the road with my new job, an enormous sinkhole appeared in front of me.


As I stood there, at the edge of this massive hole in the earth, I felt completely lost. This new job was supposed to define me. I’d left one career, one I’d been successful at for twenty years, and this was going to be my next step. Now what?


To my right, there was an infinite field of wheat as far as the eye could see. To my left an eternal forest of old-growth Douglas Firs and Western Hemlock. And behind me the road I’d just traveled. Where would I go?


I contemplated going towards the wheat, walking through the scratchy fields until I found a clearing and maybe a calling. And I imagined going into the forest, towards the darkness and mystery of that world where I might walk far enough to find the perfect plan. But neither of these directions harkened me forward the way that job had called me so clearly.

And when I looked behind me, towards the road I’d just traveled, I knew I didn’t want to go there. I’d left there for a reason and I was certain that I didn’t want to return to that place.


My mind swirled. Who was I now if I couldn’t travel the road where the sinkhole now blocked my path? The phrase, jack of all trades, master of none flashed across my brain in bright pink neon letters. This was a saying I’d heard for years, one that referred to people who didn’t really focus, undirected people, losers. That would be me now. I wouldn’t be the person who stepped from one path smoothly onto another. Without this new job, I would have to stand alone, just me. And who was that?