I was walking down the sidewalk thinking about a new Twitter tagline for myself. Let’s just pause to let that thought sink in, and for me to feel appropriate shame. Anyway, here’s one of my ideas: “making moms cry at weddings, babies cry at new music concerts, and artists cry with optimism on my blog.”
I’m beginning to embrace an identity which I have spent years resisting: that of a dabbler. In college, I was totally a dabbler. I identified strongly as a classical violinist, a poet, a fiction writer, a singer-songwriter, and a labor activist. I divided my time, somehow, and it felt like all my interests were feeding each other. I think the secret to all this carefree creativity was that there was very little pressure to monetize my interests or my activities. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
Maybe it was when I became a real adult, with bills to pay, that the pressure to specialize began to mount. One needs to have A Career — to focus on something, to get very good at it, and then get better and better at it, rising in the ranks, thus making more and more money and becoming more and more professionally fulfilled. Right? That’s how it works. One doesn’t flit around doing seven different things, somehow managing to succeed at all of them and feed oneself in the meantime. Especially when, dear god, you play the violin. The violin is a jealous mistress and when you spend too much time away from her, she starts sounding really out of tune and everyone can totally tell. You’ve been cheating!
But somehow I’m returning to my old dabbler identity again. I mean, I’m supposed to be a violinist but here I am writing a blog post. And I’m supposed to be a violinist but I’m drinking hot tea to get ready to record vocals on my band’s new album. And I’m learning how to fry vegetables, and inspiring my friends on facebook to fry all their vegetables. You know? Life is so varied, sometimes it just doesn’t work for me to get focused.
I knew a wonderful collaborative pianist who, in his forties, was going back in school for a degree in science. He had worked as both a carpenter and an EMT. Unsurprisingly, his email signature was this quote. The punchline? Specialization is for insects.