Jack of All Trades, Master of None

We had just pulled into the driveway and turned off the car when I turned to my mother and demanded “What am I good at?”

I was seventeen years old.

It was late spring, early summer, around the time of graduation. My birthday is in late May, so I wasn’t yet eighteen. I was accepted at a university a little over an hour from home and still had an undeclared major. This was all I had in mind when I questioned my mother about what she thought I could do well. I had no idea what the next year would hold and no idea where to go from there. I felt lost and I wanted my mom to help me figure out the future for me.

She shook her head and sighed at me. “Honey, I don’t know.”

Reading that, you might be inclined to think that my mother knew nothing about me, and actually, you’d be wrong. The thing was that, growing up, I was good at a lot of things. I did well at school, I could play sports well when I gave a damn, and I generally had a good head on my shoulders, good hands to work with, and the drive to do anything I wanted. With pride, I often called myself a “jack of all trades.”

The thing about that phrase is that the other half of it is “and master of none.”

I’m fair at a lot of things that I do, both mundanely and spiritually. With that said, I am not an expert in anything. At all. (Well…I’m well-versed in Black Dog mythology, but I wouldn’t go so far as to consider myself an expert in the least. You want someone who does some damned good work and research on Black Dogs, check out Theo Bishop and her article “Black Dogs.”)

I am still learning, and I will always be learning. It wasn’t until I began my old blog that I began to really think and become more comfortable with my identity as a Pagan. It wasn’t until I moved out here to Virginia that I began to open my eyes and ears a little more and settle in to take things more seriously. I had time when I moved out here to pursue the things I wanted and to begin leading the spiritual and religious life I craved, versus the one I had become accustomed to. When I moved here, I allowed myself to let go of the closed mind that I had developed and loosen up a bit. And I began to notice things again. Or, to be more clear, it seemed that things were beginning to notice me again.

There’s a quote I often think about when I’m mulling on this idea. It’s at the end of Scylla’s post on mentors, how she wraps up the entire thing:

Sometimes we ask for something, and we get something a little different. Eventually, longer than we’d like, we get something amazing. Keep your chin up – Witchpower does things, you don’t step on the path without garnering notice.

This is an idea that Scylla mentions a few times at Root and Rock, that when you begin to step onto the path, things start to take notice of you. Putting out that kind of energy, opening yourself up to it, draws their attention to you more. And you might start to hear and see things, or feel things even, that you didn’t before. And sometimes that might scare you and you close up again, run in the other direction away from the things that go bump in the night. And sometimes you decide to keep walking, to keep on the path and keep moving forward. I try to keep moving forward along the path, despite the random things I hear and see, like the disembodied sneeze in the kitchen a couple days ago.

But I make no claims of being a spirit-worker, mystic, or any other title like that. I know that to claim that title is to dedicate years of work to learning and experiencing things, not just declaring yourself something one day and then growing bored with it and walking away. There’s a sense of power in these words, in these titles, and when you take on that mantle, you take on a responsibility as well.

You don’t get to call yourself a doctor just because you watch Grey’s Anatomy every week and not expect consequences when you try to perform surgery on strangers.

Putting in the work, putting in the dedication and the energy and the time that it takes to become something, to develop a skill, is not a bad thing. Not being instantly good at something isn’t bad either. There are plenty of things that I was horrible at when I first started; it took three years of university study for me to finally feel comfortable enough to speak in class about my interpretations of the reading. Today, I am much more comfortable with interpreting what I read, to the point where I use those skills in a spiritual or religious context with bibliomancy. But it took time and dedication and a lot of trial and error to get there, and I am still learning about it.

Spiritually or religiously, people tend to take extreme offense when they are called out in these situations, having only just started a new technique or skill a month ago and then suddenly offering advice on that topic. And frankly, that pisses a lot of people off, both long-term workers and new folk who are still learning how to dig out the good information from the bad.

Personally, I think that’s because religion and spirituality is viewed so different from mundane activities. We know that being a doctor takes years of hard work, but why can’t I be a professional Tarot reader only two days after picking up my first deck? And I think it’s because we view religion and spirituality as intensely personal. And it is, there’s no doubt about that. But what you do for yourself or by yourself is different from what you offer other people. Whenever I do Tarot readings for others, I try to add a caveat telling them that I am still learning the cards. Please do not take my readings and interpretations as advice for changing life situations and finding out that maybe you should have waited a bit before moving halfway across the country without a job or a place to stay because my reading told you that a change would be good for you.

I don’t need to be sued, thanks.

It’s okay to admit you don’t know anything, and it’s okay to admit that “Hey, this is my experience and it’s how I view things and maybe that’ll change later as I learn and experience more things, but this is what’s good for me right now and that’s okay.” That’s another reason I write here, because I want to see how I grow and develop on my path as time goes on.

My name is Kaye and I’m twenty-three years old. I’ll be twenty-four in two months. And I’m still learning. I’m still developing my skills and I’m still reading and researching and adding to what I know, to my knowledge. I’m always willing to share what I have learned and my experiences, but there are others out there that have been doing all this much longer than I have. And it’s okay if you and I are in the same boat. There’s plenty of paddles here and I’d welcome the company.


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6 Responses to Jack of All Trades, Master of None

  1. I can relate to this post. Priding myself in being a Jack of all Trades too. I think for me it’s also influenced by my relatively short attention span causing me to move on to the next thing before mastering the previous. If I really had an affinity or interest in the previous activity i will often return to it some time later. I’m sometimes too curious about everything and I’ll jump from interest to interest.

    • I’m similar. I get so distracted by so many cool, shiny things that I don’t really sit down and concentrate on getting really good at one thing. There’s just so many fascinating things out there and I want to learn them all.

  2. Torhalla says:

    I am also a “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”. I have done so many things in my 50+ years, it’s mind boggling. I do sometimes say master of one. I am a great sewer. I have been sewing for 50 years as a hobby and money saver.
    I always love learning new things and expanding my knowledge.
    Never stop moving forward, even when you believe you’ve found your niche in the universe.

    • Thank you for your comment, and I’ll be sure to remember your advice to never stop moving forward. I don’t think it’ll be too much of an issue (I’m always hungry for new information and learning new things), but in those moments I might get too comfortable, I’ll try to remember your words.

  3. Zenith says:

    I would consider myself this as well, not spiritually but in the mundane world. I have a lot of hobbies but nothing I’m extremely good at. I really need to narrow my list of hobbies down to 2-3 things and focus on them to improve.

    • Yep, I’m the same way. I can learn a thing and be passable at it pretty quickly. I’m fair stubborn and that sometimes works in my favor when I’m learning new skills. It did affect me, though, because when I was still a History major, I had no idea what to focus my thesis on. I ended up going for the minor instead, despite having everything I needed (except for two classes – the thesis and one 400-level) for the major. I just want to KNOW ALL THE THINGS, so I get distracted and end up reading bits and pieces instead of really focusing.

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