Master of None: When Not Having a Thing Is Your Thing
I’m sitting in a stranger’s living room listening to my daughter sing an Italian aria. I don’t understand a word of it, but I could listen to it for hours.
Since I’m a freelancer, there’s no downtime. I listen, I smile when she catches my eye from the other room, but I’m working. I’ve got at least three different projects open on my iPad; right now, I’m writing question banks for a high school math course, editing a science fiction short story and waiting for notes on a world literature survey course. I’m also emailing back and forth with a new client about editing articles for their website and managing their blog.
My daughter took a long time to find her niche. She tried lots of sports when she was younger. Oh, man, did she try. Soccer. Softball. Volleyball. We signed her up for all of them, went to all the practices and all the games. We were very supportive. All those spring mornings that felt more like winter, clinging to a Starbucks cup to keep my hands warm while she desperately flailed at soccer balls before falling on her face.
She joined choir in middle school. I went to her concerts because, as previously mentioned, I am a supportive dad.
Those concerts, by the way, are designed to torment parents. We all want to be there to hear our kids. That’s just being a good parent. But they try to cram as many performances as possible into one night, knowing they have a captive audience, so well-meaning, innocent parents who came to see the sixth grade girls choir also end up listening to the sixth grade boys choir, the seventh grade girls choir, the seventh grade boys choir, the eighth grade boys choir . . . I could go on. And you’d think I’d be done. But then, since everyone’s here, let’s toss in the band and orchestra concerts, too. Ladies and gentlemen, the sixth grade boys band! I hope none of you had dinner plans.
One of the local high schools holds a regional vocal competition each spring, so I went to that, too. Supportive Dad here! I stood in the hallway with her while she paced, made sure she had her music, calmed her down when she definitely did not have her music, helped her find her music in her friend’s car, and then followed her into the classroom where the judge was waiting for her. I sat in the tiny chair with the conjoined desk, and I waited for her to start singing.
And I cried. So did the judge. And when the high school student assigned to deliver the results to the nervous singers in the hallway brought my daughter her graded judge slip, she had tears in her eyes, too. “It says, ‘you have a beautiful voice,’” she whispered, and then ran back into the classroom.
My daughter does have a beautiful voice. A professional quality voice. A “let’s go into debt to get her voice lessons” voice.
It took her a lot of failure, but she finally found her thing.
She is a master.
Me? My thing is kind of all the things. I’m a jack of all trades.
I majored in Engineering, then Computer Science, then gave up on the whole thing and switched to English. I am, to my knowledge, the only human alive with a Bachelor’s Degree in English who also has three credits of Calculus.
Turns out that created a skill set uniquely suited to freelancing.
We all want to be masters. We all want to find our thing. And, hey, we all want to bring an audience to tears. But freelancing favors the generalist. Knowing a little bit about a lot of things – and knowing how to find out more when you need to – is the skill that butters our bread. We can write about how to assemble a vacuum cleaner, how to find x and y in an algebraic equation, and how to avoid splitting infinitives (and when it’s totally okay to split them), all within the same billable hour.
Freelancers have research skills and flexible, adaptable brains, and while we’re never going to sell out an arena of screaming, crying fans with those talents, we can use them to support the ones we love – who just might.
Over 53 million people are already freelancing in some capacity … you could be next!
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