A Master of What?


This blog began some three and a half years ago and at the time I couldn’t really put a finger on what I was good at and hence the title.

Over these past years, kindly folk have suggested various masteries I could claim as my own but I’ve usually shrugged them off.

I’ve always struggled to say “I am good at…” and always wondered why.

Recently, I realised that perhaps it is because I possess no socially acceptable standard that I am a master of anything. It is hard to claim something for which you have no proof.

If you can say in society, “I have a degree in Literature/Creative Writing/Journalism. I am a good writer”, everyone around you will nod their heads, admire you and agree “You are a good writer.”

If you can say in society, “I have a Masters of Education from [name your own prestigious university]. I am a good teacher”, you will be regarded as an asset to any classroom.

If, however, you possess a degree in Mathematics but do not work in the field, what is it worth?

If you are qualified to teach science and mathematics but teach in an area where those skills are irrelevant, what good are you really?

And yet, I know I am a good writer. I know I am a good teacher. But my evidence for such claims is circumstantial and personal.

It is the people who tell me, “Write more blog posts, we love your writing”. It is the staff who smile happily when they realise you will be teaching in their classroom.

Fine for me.

Not so much for society.

One of my (pathetically) prized possessions is a photocopy of the front page of a training manual I once wrote which was reviewed by the upper management Training Manager (for some reason that I do not recall).

On the page, he had written “This is the best training material I have ever read in my 13+ years of training”.

Like all positions of employment I’ve ever held in my life, I had neither the qualifications nor experience to be employed as a training developer but for some reason they gave me the job anyway and I got this review within my first year on the job.

But it doesn’t look as significant hung on the wall as a Bachelor’s degree.

I’ve never even sat a music exam. So I have no proof that I can sing, play piano or guitar or write music. Well, I do have a school report from Year 9 Music that says, “She has a good working knowledge of music theory at this level and in the end-of-year examination scored an impressive 100%” so there’s that, I guess but I’m not sure how that would play out.

“So, what Grade level did you reach?”

“Me? Oh, well, none. But I have this great report from my Year 9 music teacher. Want to read it?”

“Probably not.”

The prompt for this post was a comment that found me consumed with jealousy for those who can claim a qualification to legitimise their obvious skills. I’d offered some assistance with a task on the basis of believing I possessed some relevant skill but was countered with the explanation that the other person possessed a high level qualification in the area in question and would therefore not require my unqualified help.

I can’t argue with that.

Of course, if it concerns me so much, why don’t I go out and gain such qualifications? Because I’m a Jack ofย ALL Trades. Which qualification would I pick?? I’m not sure I’ve got enough time or energy (or money!) to pursue a degree in literature, journalism, music, fine arts, computer programming, IT support or a Masters/PhD in Education, Science, Mathematics or a trade qualification in building, carpentry, painting, textiles, electronics, costume design, cake decorating or car maintenance.

So I think I’ll just go on as before, having a stab at anything that takes my fancy whether qualified to do so or not, and live the life of a Jack of All Trades.

And hope that someday someone introduces a Master of All Trades qualification.

I’d like to hang that on my wall.

MofAT certificate


55 thoughts on “A Master of What?

  1. Bugger em. I honestly think you’re over-estimating the significance of a piece of paper. If it kept you from doing what you do well, that’d be frustrating. But you DO write and teach and sing and play music and do forth, paper be damned, and no one who’s read what you write or observed you teach or heard you sing or play music doubts your expertise. You don’t need paper proof to be “real” at anything.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. What others think is irrelevant. It’s how you feel that counts and you know what you are great at. I say, keep doing it and doing it well. Pieces of paper count for very little in the long run. And make sure you keep writing, because I enjoy reading it very much.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you. Especially for the support for my writing. The Inner Critic has been pretty harsh of late. I’m not sure I could stick to what I’m qualified to do anyway. I’d miss music and art and writing and building stuff even if it’s at a ‘making it up as I go’ standard. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Consider that some of the โ€œgreatest minds in historyโ€ had no degrees, took no tests and were certified in nothing. They thought, experimented, hypothesized, wrote down observations and just happened to be right.

    Qualifications are meaningless in the assessment of skill. I could give you many examples, but you have you have your own. What matters in life, if youโ€™re counting, is performance. You can point to accomplishments. They illustrate performance. Youโ€™ve succeeded at tasks where others failed or didnโ€™t succeed as well. If your training material was the best in over 13 years, it was better than others (probably including some certified folks).

    Relax. Enjoy the confidence that is due you based on your skill at everything. You are entitled to all the rights and privileges.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I can so relate to this. I once wanted to be a journalist but it didnโ€™t happen and Iโ€™ve got no formal qualifications beyond Year 12. Honestly, a piece of paper is just that. Do what you love and keep writing as people obviously love your words. Just go for it. Youโ€™re YOU, master of whatever you want to be!! ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Heather, Heather, Heather…

    Tell those negative thoughts to shut up. I agree with Elly and the Traveller. A piece of paper doesn’t meant squat. It’s how you embrace life and treat people that matters and in those areas, you are over qualified. I admire that you are willing to try anything once and I’m amazed at what you have accomplished in the time I have known you through blogging. I wish we lived on the same continent because I see you as someone truly delightful and totally worth hanging out with. Plus, I could get out my pompoms and cheer in person.

    Rah! Rah! Go MOSY! You’re awesome!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I knew you’d be shaking your head. ๐Ÿ˜› Sorry, Mary. ๐Ÿ™‚ This started about two months ago, so I did try but I think I needed to out her in public to shut her up.
      Thank you for your support, yet again. I too wish we lived a bit less than 15,000km apart. I reckon we’d have a hoot together.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Gosh, Mosy – frustration rules the day, eh ? :-\
    Don’t worry: after all, you ARE good at many, many things, even if you don’t have bits of paper.
    Whereas I, she said loftily, am good at nothing at all. Can’t run, can’t raise a family, can’t sew, can’t design, can’t grow vegies … and most certainly can’t build a studio with my bare hands.
    So quit yer moanin.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. A fellow Mathematician who does not do Mathematics work… I think I knew that but had forgotten.

    Degrees are paper, it’s what you do that counts. If you write and people like it, you are a writer. If you teach and others say you are good, you are a good teacher. If you run a marathon, even if the Nigerians have showered and flown home by the time you finish, you’ve done better than the other 99% of the world that will never run one. Or built a school in the Himalayas, but that’s something else… Anyway, if such a thing ever comes about I will nominate you for Master of All Trades ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I agree with Elle. Paper be damned and sometimes you can be better at something than someone with a paper qualification in that field. Sadly some people will still insist that you need a piece of paper to be qualified in something…they can think what they think. Experience and actually trying things hands on says much more than just cramming last minute and getting pretty paper to frame for it.

    I suppose it’s similar to loving someone: you don’t need to be formally married to claim that you are in relationship and love each other.

    It’s good that you see yourself as a Jack of All Trades, and rightfully are. If you are very stuck in a sticky situation where, say the world is ending, you’d probably have the skills to save us all.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve read all the comments and I know it shouldn’t matter whether we have the credentials or not, but damn it, it does.

    I too have been on the receiving end of some snot-nosed comment about ‘yeah, you’ve been doing the work for 15 years, but get the designation and then we’ll talk’. That comment knocked me out of my warm-and-fuzzy place for a long time.

    It seems that the piece of paper is tangible, but the great things we ACTUALLY DID are just stories and therefore irrelevant ๐Ÿคจ

    Keep on doing what you’re doing, MOSY. You have the right stuff and are doing amazing things.

    btw – you have a degree in Mathematics?! I bow in deep respect to those with degrees in Mathematics. During my career years, people with Mathematics were highly coveted because of their logic, ability to conceptualize, and problem solving skills.
    I’m sure there are graduates with Mathematics degrees out there who are complete duds …. but I haven’t met one yet.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Joanne, I love how you always understand what I’m saying. We can say it doesn’t matter all we like but in the end it’s what society uses to rank people. And it hurts. I’m sorry that it happened to you like that. No idea what they’re talking about. Idiots.

      Don’t be too impressed with my degree. It was supposed to be a degree in physics (I wanted to be an astrophysicist) but I couldn’t cut it. Hm. I wonder what my life would be like if I was going around answering the “what do you do?” question with “I’m an astrophysicist and I work at NASA. Do you want to see my qualifications?”…? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • We all know it matters sometimes, to some people, in some contexts. That can block career paths and thwart aspirations. My point it: is it blocking YOU from doing the things YOU want or need to do? I suspect not. If the worst it means is an occasional rebuff or hurtful remark, I say again: Eff em.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeaaaaah – don’t wonder too much about the astrophysicist thing. My last boss – the one who eventually caused my early retirement -was an astrophysicist. His ego was beyond measure and his moral compass was seriously impaired. Quite frankly, he was just an ass.

        Liked by 3 people

      • What makes me laugh are the job adverts in IT that ask for numerous degrees plus specific qualifications AND 5 years experience and usually want someone under the age of 25. No matter that you can do the job, without the paper don’t bother applying.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The experience thing always bugs me. You can’t get the job unless you have experience but you can’t get experience because you can’t get the job. Honestly.
          I’ll admit I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have had some crazy people who gave me jobs when I didn’t have the experience OR the qualification. Just a lot of enthusiasm and bluff. Lots and lots of bluff. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, thank you, thank you. I always wanted an elephant stamp!!! (As long as it is not on my foot). Seriously though H, if someone can’t recognise talent and commitment and enthusiasm and expertise (as in YOU) then stuff them, they don’t deserve your assistance, support, or time. I have oodles of paper certificates and what do they tell you? That I am good at passing tests. That I have determination to reach the finish post. But am I any good in what the bits of paper say? Proof is in the doing. And I think all of us who read your blog know that you are definitely a doer. Hold your head high H, you have nothing to feel bad about. Time that inner you went on a Caribbean cruise I think, might cheer her up a bit. Or what about an African Safari? Where hopefully she’ll get eaten by a lion. (Or stamped on by an elephant).

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Years ago I was squatting down on one of those delightful Parisian public toilets. Panic! No paper…nothing. I used blanc cheques out of my cheque book. I am saying, sometimes paper, any paper, does come in handy.
    Diplomas are generally bigger in size than school rapports or certificates.
    Think about it.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Holy smokes Heather you can do more things better than I could even dream up to try.
    I can relate in the way that I never had a university degree to become a registered nurse. I went to a nursing college. So I don’t have the paper either and there were times in my life when people would say things that intimidated me or hurt me. But really as I have aged I have come to see that these are small pains in a huge life. Being a nurse has been such a gift and to be honest the people I have took care of never once asked if I had a degree. I’m hoping you have found that the people you truly care about, who you do the great work for, don’t care about pieces of paper either. Sending hugs my superstar friend. I honestly believe you can do anything. You’re amazing. xo

    Liked by 3 people

    • You make a good point in regard to whether those on the receiving end of your expertise need to see your qualification. I was fortunate to only get grilled once when I started casual teaching (mind you, it was on my first day). Everyone else was patient while I learnt the ropes. I’m grateful for that opportunity.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sometimes life experience far outweighs a piece of paper. Now when it comes to something like open heart surgery, I do think that degree comes in handy, but in many areas of work, a degree or piece of paper doesnโ€™t necessarily equate to being good at what you do. Keep on mastering my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I feel you. I dabble in so many creative processes but am obsessed with only one-photography, and yet not obsessed enough to drop everything else. I often wondered if I was really afraid to succeed after all. In light of recent times I know I would never want to be famous. Do what you love and love what you do. It always shows.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: A Master of What? — ะ‘ะปะพะณ

  15. I think there are those who take great pride in mastering things. I also think there are those who get bored when they feel they have mastered something, or even are trending in that general direction.


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