Several years ago, a friend and I were discussing our life choices over dinner. The work we did, the hobbies we loved, the way we spent our time. She manages a locally owned and run store and I asked her if she liked her work. Her response was intriguing to me, probably because it resonated with me so deeply.
She said, (and I'm not quoting directly, but, in reaching back into that conversation from the past, trying more to come up with the essence of her words), that she was reasonably content with her job and liked the people she worked with, and that it paid the bills and provided health insurance. I asked her why this and not something she loved more, and her response was that she is a too much of a Generalist to pick a more specific career path and pursue it. A lover of home, gardening, cooking, and herbalism, and probably many other things I'm unaware of, she preferred to have bill paying work that was perhaps less demanding than other career choices might be, so that she could fully devote her off time to other pursuits she loves.
Some years later these words are still bouncing around in my brain as, in the midst of midlife, I try to make sense of my own choices.
Merriam Webster defines a Generalist as "one whose skills, interests, or habits are varied or unspecialized." This description leaves me a little flat, because it doesn't describe the rich variety of pursuits that I love, but it's not inaccurate.
If I has to list my favorite hobbies and pursuits, they would include gardening, cooking, preserving food, sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlework, painting, refinishing furniture, Feng Shui, home decor and design, real estate, hospitality, food service and presentation, travel, languages, yoga, writing, reading, acting and theater...and that's just off the top of my head.
I have worked in a variety of fields in my adult life, including natural food retail, hospitality (read: bars, restaurants and hotels), massage therapy, Feng Shui consulting, real estate, bookkeeping/finance, and construction. I have always wanted to be that person who loves one thing most, and could pursue that career path and immerse myself in it fully. It seems so simple, to have a love and just follow it to where it leads and makes most sense. But I am not that person, have never been that person. I am a Generalist, a lover of oh so many things.
So how does a generalist, a lover of many things, thrive in a world that prefers the 40 hour+ work week. How does one pay the bills, love and support family and friends, and still have time to devote to these life loves?
Are you a generalist? How are you making all of this work for you?
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