Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The journey of the Jane

Well, I guess I should get this started. Too many times I have thought: "this would make a great blog entry," and haven't written it down or posted.

So, what is this about...I am not sure. A journey? Is a blog supposed to be about that?

I have heard of people writing blogs when they have started a life-changing journey, so I guess this is one.

I still have to write up and "about me" and fix this page up a bit...but all that has bogged me down from actually writing. So, I have decided to just start!

What is this journey? I don't think of it as a journey from (or out of) one thing - I am the "Jane of all trades" after all. Often people write up blogs when they are on a weight loss journey, or maybe about their kids, sometimes it is about an illness, other times it is about politics and (of course) their viewpoint on particular issues. I think within my nature I am not a "specialist" but a "big-picture" type of person (who is stuck in a world full of specialists!) so I look at my journey as more than my weight loss, children, illness, opinions about politics - etc etc. It is all interrelated.

I guess the best way to start to is to explore this meaning of Jack of all trades (master of none). In today's society of mono-skilled specialists, experts, masters, and gurus, it is a bad thing to know many trades/skills...because to learn many skills you don't have the time to become "the master of" one.

"A Jack of all trades may also be a master of integration, as the individual knows enough from many learned trades and skills to be able to bring their disciplines together in a practical manner" (Wikipedia).

It was not always bad to be a polymath. In fact, until recently, it was a positive circumstance. Hell, Leonardo da Vinci was known as such...Actually, Leo was often described as a Renaissance man; a term similar to, but slightly different than, the idea of polymath or "Jack of all trades."

The ideas of the Renaissance could be described in this context by the words Homo universalis (or universal man). The ideal of Renaissance humanism was for one to develop one's potential and acquire universal learning. The natural human instinct of curiosity was robustly encouraged. Today we use the term generalist (as opposed to specialist) when someone uses a general approach to gathering knowledge (rather than a focused, specialized approach, i.e., gathering knowledge about one thing and one thing only - my addition to the definition) (The History Guide: Renaissance Humanism; Wikipedia)

But we sure love our polymaths! Here are some beloved, fictional polymaths:

Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Gregory House of House M.D, Buckaroo Banzai, Artemis Fowl, Grand Admiral Thrawn of Star Wars, Batman, Mr. Peabody, Gil Grissom of CSI: Las Vegas, Agent Pendergast, Hannibal Lecter, Doc Savage, Mr. Spock of Star Trek, James Bond, Jarod of The Pretender (TV series), Dess of Midnighter's Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, Charlie of Heroes, and MacGyver (to name a few, I am sure you could think of more!) (Wikipedia)

So, what about us women???

Are we just all assumed to be polymaths? Are we naturally multitaskers and that makes us immune to both the positive and negative connotations about the "Jack of all trades" label?

Well, maybe most women are multitaskers. Maybe it is part of our instinctual nature around motherhood, home life, etc. But how does that fit into the career world of experts?

I would like to take a stand about this term and add "Jane of all trades" to the definition. Women suffer from and enjoy this term (or at least the spirit of it) as well.

I am so often told I know so much about so many things; that I have done so many things. People seem envious of me for having such a varied experience in life, education, and career. The problem that most of them don't see is that knowing a lot about a lot of things won't get you a career in this be-an-expert-at-what-you-do marketplace.

Maybe I was born out of my time; my kids think I am a relic from the past anyway =)

More next time...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! Well written and such insight. Jane is a phenomenal person who understands the challenges women face every day. Can I quote you?