Saturday, May 1, 2010

Renaissance woman or specialist?

St. Hildegard, a 12th C Renaissance woman

I have never wanted to be limited in what I do or write. I have always prided myself on having pursued a number of careers, living in a bunch of cool cities, basically being what one of my students called a "Renaissance woman." I like setting goals for myself and then accomplishing them and moving on. Whether it was attending graduate film school, getting jobs in the film and television industries, or publishing two novels with a major publishing house, I have worked hard and seen results (for the most part, they've been positive!).

"Setting goals and meeting them" - great, right? But what about the "moving on" part of the equation?

The flip side of being a Renaissance woman or man is the perception that you are a "jack of all trades, master of none." In other words, by continually moving on and not specializing in a career or a job, you are assumed to lack stability or focus. Would an employer want to hire someone whose resume makes them look like they have career ADD?

The assumption is that the person who keeps trying different things is one who gives up before mastering each of them. Perhaps the person is lazy or unwilling to put in the time and effort necessary to achieve success.

But what about the person who does succeed at the task and who moves on because he's bored or because he has a lot of things he wants to accomplish in this lifetime? That's the category I put myself in. There are so many things to do in this world - work, travel, write, dance - that I can't possibly stop with just one or two or five. I want to keep changing, keep moving, keep experiencing new things and meeting new people. How else do you have subjects to write about? If I stayed in my small town in Connecticut or even in Boston or New York, if I had stayed in the small engineering firms and teaching at the small studios, if I'd never gone back to graduate school, where would I be now? A master of marketing? Maybe the owner of a small studio myself?

I have most definitely given up the opportunity for a steadily increasing paycheck, a pension for retirement, a more profitable and stable job, perhaps the chance to own a home...and sometimes, like this week for instance, I wonder if I made the right choice to embrace continuous change. Today, yeah, I do feel some regret but tomorrow, I might not. Hopefully, the good will outweigh the bad in the long run.

That's the chance you take in being a Renaissance woman.