Embracing the whole: Confessions of a generalist

I’m an obsessive type, and it’s a quality that I’ve always felt serves me well. I’ve generally credited each of my life’s long string of obsessions with getting me to the next place I need to be, educating me, and showing me who I actually am. Ultimately, over these (almost) 49 years, I’ve acquired a significant amount of knowledge and experience around a whole lot of seemingly unrelated things, and it seems that I may be finally reaching a point in my life now where all these disparate obsessions are coming together to create a bigger picture of what that actually means.

As for “what that actually means,” it seems to me that it’s time to really embrace my life as a generalist, which is to say that I’m giving up trying to define myself as any one thing at all. This isn’t something that’s usually rewarded in a society that so values specialization and precise labeling of all things, but it’s me all over, and it’s exhausting to pretend otherwise. In professional terms, what this means is that I’m going to work hard at all the things I’m deeply in love with right now (teaching, directing, adapting, writing) without defining myself by any one thing, and dealing with conflicts as they arise. This is largely for the enrichment of my own heart and soul, but I’m also determined to prove to my teen students that it really can be done—that they are not doomed to a single career for their entire lives, and that who they are as whole amazing young humans with all their competing loves and interests is something they are actually allowed and able to be. As they are watching me toil in the teaching studio and in rehearsal, wrestling with both words and orchestration, taking some time to write a manga review or talk passionately about books, frantically meeting with lighting and set designers, telling old stories about my acting career, helping someone with their old Mac, building a new website, singing a song from that album I recorded, running home to spend some time working on the YA fantasy novel I’ve been writing—as they are watching me do all these things, I want them to understand that there is room in their lives for their whole selves, always. It really can be done.

I’ve known that I was a generalist for a long time, and I’ve fought with myself over it now and then. It’s time to stop fighting and just work myself to the bone for the love of it, with no apologies.