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A jack of all trades is better than a master of one

Truly fascinating phrase, isn't it? I was made aware of this twist on it through an Instagram reel, of all things. Apparently a similar phrase was used to dismissively refer to Shakespeare, and then to all "generalists" – people interested in and fairly good at multiple things, who chose not to narrow their focus – and this second line seems to have been added on more recently.

One of my favourite K-dramas, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, features a man who holds a whole assortment of qualifications. Known simply as Chief Hong, he's taken courses in everything from painting houses and being a realtor to fruit plating and entertaining children. (At one point, Yoon Hye-jin actually wonders if he's a certified dentist too, and doesn't seem surprised at the prospect!) We see him speak Russian, read Mandarin, communicate via sign language, repair a boat, make soap, make wine, make coffee, make a jewellery box, cook, patrol, take photographs, read poetry, collect records, fight like a pro, surf, repair, and help people. It's a way of life that's pretty convincing. It reminded me of my grandfather, who taught himself many things, and even their homes look alike.

My grandparents' living room

Nana measuring paneer

Images from Hometown Cha Cha Cha via IMDb

I've never had any doubts that I'd rather be a jack (jill?) of all trades. Expertise does have its charms for me too, but my mind is attracted to so much that I think it would be pretty impossible for me to pursue just one thing. And I've always thought of that as a more rounded, wholesome life. The phrase "Renaissance wo/man" has such a ring to it (let's bring it back!) – at one time, before "careers", this must have been the ideal.

At the beginning of each year, I list out a set of goals that I'd like to aim for. They're not exactly resolutions, more like steps I'd like to take in various areas of my life to improve and grow. A guide, essentially, and I don't manage to check them all off the list, but as we never really stop growing, it's probably okay to move them over to the next month or the next year.

This year, I thought a bit harder about what I actually want, rather than what I think I should aim for. And that made a difference, because my priorities changed a bit. For instance, I wrote that I'd like to connect with new networks of people, and support artists and creatives, and dedicate time and money to learning. 

My last formal education was ten years ago, when I finished my Master's degree. Since then, I've done dozens of online courses on various platforms and been richer for them. I love learning and expanding my knowledge and skills, so this hasn't been something I really had to think about. But this year, I've decided to go a step further and actually invest in this goal. (Writing about it will hopefully make me feel accountable!) I want to learn entirely new things, and I also want to cement and advance the knowledge I already have.

We're a quarter in, and I've 1) been practicing with a platform for graphics, 2) attended a family history conference, and 3) taken Korean lessons. I love the joy, the thrill, the empowerment of being in the dark about something and then slowly seeing the light. I'm about to sign up for courses all summer, at least until August, and I feel pretty invigorated. I never know where I'm going to end up while learning, but I'm in it for the journey.