reverb10 Prompt: Lesson Learned

Prompt: Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

Just the other day I registered a new blog. I couldn’t help myself! And it made me happy. Years ago, I would have chided myself for starting another project, and spent a lot of energy worrying if I’d ever finish it. This time, I realized I didn’t care if I ever finished. That wasn’t the point. And that’s when I realized I had made a big jump towards self-acceptance…

I grew up with a mother who loved me deeply, but couldn’t understand why I never finished anything. In fact, she once actually yelled “Why can’t you ever finish anything!?!?!” and the sound of her voice at top volume is burned on to my brain. I hear it sometimes when I walk into a room and see the debris of a project abandoned halfway completed.

I don’t finish things. I love to start, but I rarely finish. It’s true. And for a long time I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that I should be more like my mother who could work at something start-to-finish in a straight line. After all, my mother is very well respected in her field. She accomplishes stuff. How was I ever going to live up to her example if I didn’t finish things?

But then I read Refuse to Choose by a wonderful woman named Barbara Sher. She has this theory that people like me wired differently. We’re not linear. We’re not start-to finish or one career for life. We’re not one trick ponies. We’re Scanners. That’s her term for people who don’t settle on one thing, who can’t chose one path, and who love everything. You know, people who look at college course catalogs and want to take every class? People who would, if time and space allowed, have three careers? People who have a few obsessions that they ping-pong back and forth between?

She makes the argument that some of the best minds were scanners – DaVinci, Jefferson, and Aristotle. They were into everything! And respected for it! The only thing is, in today’s day and age of specialization, people who were interested in politics and inventing lazy-susans and running a farm, well they would be called dabblers. They would probably all have been diagnosed with ADD and given drugs. That’s right. Thomas Jefferson would have been put meds to calm his brain down. Where would we be as a country?!?

Sher argues that there is a great need in the world for amateurs like me. And I love her definition:

Am.a.teur n: from Latin” one who loves

1. somebody who does something for pleasure rather than pay
2. somebody who had only limited skill in, or knowledge of, an activity
3. somebody who love or is greatly interested in something
4. somebody who appreciates and wants to understand so many things that he/ she can’t possibly specialize in only one field – i.e. a Scanner.

She also describes types of Scanners – not everyone is the same. Me, I’m a Cyclical Scanner. I don’t love everything. But I love a lot of things, and I go between them like a bee in her favorite garden. Once I get what I came for, I move on. I’ll come back like clockwork, but I might leave that book half-read or the quilt half-made in the meantime. For example, I am intimately acquainted with several shelves at my local library. I go to the section on Buddhism, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ve checked out that book at one point or another. I may not have finished it, but I’ve read it. Once I had enough to chew on, I returned the book and moved on to something else. Quilting. Poetry. Genealogy. Vegan Baking. Linguistics. Yoga Philosophy. Tailoring. Yup, I’ve been to those shelves too! Eventually, I cycle back around and wind up at the same shelf I started at. I’ll go back to a book, and perhaps get a little farther this time, read a new chapter, before moving on again.

So, when I started the blog with no intention of finishing, I remember thinking that this was just part of my cycle. I can’t recall being that aware of it before. Often times it’s my husband who has to say “You always do this right before you dig out your scrapbook stuff again,” or “You are about to get really into decorating again, aren’t you?” in order to make me aware of the cycle turning. This time it was me. I thought to myself “How awesome are blogs? I can start this, obsess, leave it when I want to move on and the come back. Perfect!”

And that is the response to today’s prompt. I didn’t discover I was a Scanner this year. But I discovered I was really, truly, completely OK with it and had completely integrated the idea into my sense of self. And that is a beautiful thing!

I went back and checked Refuse to Choose out from the library again. I did something Scanners do a lot – I re-read. I found it interesting that in the chapters on Cyclical Scanners she make a few recommendations about life, lifestyle, and jobs. She says that if you love doing all kinds of things, perhaps a job in education is the ticket. After all, you get lots of breaks, the work itself is on a yearly cycle, and you often get times of day off that others don’t. All of this allows for amble opportunity to explore things you love in pockets of time while also making a living. Lo and behold, I work in a school. I get lots of breaks. As soon as I’m bored, the semester ends. I have late afternoons to myself. And I LOVE it. I don’t consciously remember reading that part of her recommendations, but it must have made an impression.

In fact, today was the last day of the semester. I am looking forward to two weeks to read, learn, and revel in my latest project … by New Year’s I’ll be on to something else. And that’s ok.


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