The Renaissance Woman Today

I can’t be good at everything

Imagine my surprise when I came to this realization. Society says we should strive for perfection in all things. To boldly go where no writer/artist/knitter/printer has gone before. To be different, unique. Special. 

Fine and dandy, but I call bullshit. 

Extroverts and Type A personalities run the world. They push. And push. More, better, faster. I bought in to it. When you already operate from a brain that is attention deficient, what are a few more things to rattle around up there? A busload of screaming kids, all clamoring for attention. You get used to the noise and disarray. It took a good long while before I realized I didn’t want to get used to the racket, especially racket of my own making. 

In my arrogance, I thought I could juggle all the balls and be equally good at everything. It took a few clues landing on my head with a thunk to realize I’m not. I’m not good at everything. And I don’t need to be. It’s not a race against the world to reach the top. It’s not a death march up Everest. 

With realization came planning.

What could I let go of? All the juggling balls don’t have equal weight. What was important to me? Important enough to want to hang on to that, and not something else. Creating was important, but what did that look like? I had way too many hobbies, I needed to let go of some. I did, but I still haven’t let go of the material things surrounding the hobby. One step at a time. Into storage with them.

Writing stayed. It had to. It’s part of me. Novels, poems, and essays. Trying to write short stories and flash fiction went by the wayside, they are not my strong points. I’m well rounded enough without them, although it was hard to tell myself that. Write all the things! That’s what I used to believe.

Printmaking stayed. I have a deep-seated love of the smell of ink and the creation of an image on paper rolled through a press or rubbed by hand. I kept watercolors and drawing pads to create ideas for prints, and to see if an image would be better suited to another medium than printmaking. It’s hard to let go of some types of art. I’m never going to be the kind of watercolor painter I wanted to be, acceptance of that made my painting better as I found my own methods.

Knitting and weaving. There’s something about the tactile nature of knitting and weaving that appeals to me. The creation of something practical, useable. The design of a pair of colorwork mittens, a hat, or table runners is a meditative experience. Seeing the design come to life is gratifying. Knitting and weaving stay. They get pushed to the side sometimes, but they stay in my repertoire. 

Everything else that stays is for a practical reason. I no longer design websites, except my own. Sewing is for masks and quilts, but it’s for fun when I feel so moved. Photography has mostly gone, except for practical stuff. I majored in it, I shouldn’t let it go, but the truth is I loved working with a Rolleiflex camera and its square format, and a 4×5 camera with its huge negatives I developed myself. Now that the world is digital, it’s really hard to work with old-style negatives and development. It was another meditative experience swept away by point and click. I still have the old cameras, just in case. 

I really wanted to be a Renaissance woman. I don’t think it’s possible anymore. That’s okay, the last thing someone needs is to pressure themselves into scattered interests with no time to improve them all. I can’t be perfect at everything, but I can do some things to my own satisfaction. Most days, that’s enough.

One comment

  1. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

    Wow, that’s a lot of interests. What strikes me is the thread of visual/tactile arts that is so strong. Have you considered hauling out those old cameras anyway, digital photography be damned? You’ve done a lot of work considering everything; I don’t mean to add to the clamoring of what competes for your attention. That realization that we don’t have to be perfect at everything is what happens when you live long enough. Of that, I am sure. Do what makes you happy when you aren’t doing what you must to survive.

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