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Consider the Celesta

When thinking about writing as analogous to musical expression, rich, nuanced, multi-tonal instruments like the piano and the narrative voice of the guitar come to mind. Each of us has a litany of memories connected to those sounds, and just like potent writing can call us to righteous action or turn us into emotional, bumbling dolts, each of us can tap into reservoir of powerful feeling associated perhaps with the the piano or guitar.

However, let me take this opportunity to appeal to the piano’s weirder, higher, smaller (but just as expressive) cousin: the celesta. The tinkering, ethereal noise created by its keys striking internal steel plates (as opposed to piano’s suppler and more resonant strings) is one most probably immediately associate with Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” The composer was among the first few to use the instrument. Céleste means “heavenly” in French.



While the rich, operatic scale of the piano with its full seven octaves and three pedals for added expressivity calls to mind the masterful writers of the Western cannon, brooding exquisitely and pondering existential questions, scooping up Pulitzer Prizes and thrilling English majors world-wide, my own writing process is clearly on much less of a grand and portentous (as well as dignified) scale.

The celesta has just four octaves, and written music for it sounds a full octave higher when it is played. This smaller range and tinnier sound seems more metaphorically apt for discussing my own voice as a writer. However, far from being relegated exclusively to the realm of the precious and spritely, the celesta makes odd appearances to create the most disparate of moods:

Through Buddy Holly, its optimism and sunniness reach the pop sublime:

It can then switch back to eerily tranquil, foreboding and world-weary in the hands of the Velvet Underground:

It’s even played by Iggy Pop himself on Raw Power’s “Penetration,” which is about as far as you can get from another classic celesta sound: the opening bars to “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” from Mr. Rogers.

The celesta can also be moody, sullen, and introspective (another area where my own writing process is particularly similar), as it is on Gustav Holst’s “Neptune” from his Planet Series:

It can even become expansive and goosebump-inducing-ly operatic in the hands of Ennio Morricone:

Perhaps this is what I’d like to think is most parallel between my own writing and the celesta (what is the point of making a comparison about yourself if not for an ultimately flattering reflection): it has singularity of voice. In a world so besotted with pianos, all vying for bravado, importance, and grandeur, the celesta offers humor and wit along with its variety, which is really the best I can aim for as a writer myself.

Forget the Piano, I Make Music with My Computer Keys

To the question, “If you could play any instrument, what would it be,” I would say

I could say the drums, the guitar, or even the violin but the ability to play just one of these instruments would leave me unfulfilled. The beauty of these instruments is the magic they create when they interact in just the right way. Music has many layers, and as each is stripped away, a new gem appears whether it be the hum of the bass or the steady tick of the drums.

Writing functions in much the same way, and I often measure the success of my work by the quality of its rhythm and flow. Reading aloud is essential for me, for it allows me to hear how harmonious the sentences are with one another and how seamless the transitions are from one paragraph to the next. More importantly, reading aloud allows me to detect the imperfections of my writing; a word that sounds not quite right is like an instrument that hits the wrong note. It disrupts, bringing the progression of the piece to an abrupt halt. When the right word is found, however, the euphony of the writing is restored.

As with music, writing has many moving parts, some of which shine brighter than the rest. These may be a clever use of alliteration, a unique turn of phrase, or a concluding sentence that packs a punch. Whatever it is, it leaves an impression; it affects the reader, prompting them to return to the work again and again just as they would listen to their favorite song on repeat. This is the mark of great writing. This is what distinguishes a writer from a Writer. And the latter is what I hope to be.




Drummer (n): crazy; one who beats things with sticks to make music

“I love to see people laugh and I love it more if I can make them laugh.” – Keith Moon

I could easily say that the instrument that represents me most as a writer is the guitar, because of its versatility. Because it’s a Fender Strat and it’s cherry red and I love it and it sings the blues and some other weird stuff that involves violin strings or finger picking or sliding down the neck seductively. But obviously I’m getting off topic here. Though I would love to say guitar, my response will be the drums. And not just because I love the drums, and want to learn to play them, though that’s part of it. There’s a lesson there about writing, and it basically is that even though I like to drum on my desk, dashboard, lap, and any suitable surface, and feel like I’m pretty good at keeping a beat, there’s always more to learn. We alternate between just keeping the backbeat and doing insane, sweaty drum solos. There are technical drummers and drummers that beat the ever loving crap out of their kits. If I could compare myself to a specific drummer as a writer, it would be Keith Moon of the Who. This guy, the inspiration for “Animal” on The Muppets:



Keith Moon was a crazy man. A crazy, eccentric, often self-destructive, very talented man. He could start quietly with a smirk that did not indicate what was coming, or open with some utterly reckless beats with total disregard for his hi hats or keeping time for the band.  He had fast hands and bug eyes, and liked to play practical jokes on his bandmates like filling his bass drum with dynamite and exploding it on national television after finishing a song, or driving his Rolls Royce into a hotel pool. This is also how I liked to finish my papers, and how I often finish my poems. I like explosions and splashes in writing and songs (sometimes controlled, sometimes not). I like both sneaky planning and reckless disregard, and the hi hats are too boring because who wants to keep time, and who can keep track of those quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes? (Disclaimer: I don’t have many of these qualities or things, including a Rolls Royce or a pool. Think metaphors, brah.)

I like natural. Raw expression. Fluid wrists and mind. Sometimes double or triple-stroke rolls and sometimes you need to bring out the tom-toms because your sticks just aren’t cutting it. Hoping that my hands move as fast as my mental processes often do. Seemingly random, but a method behind all of the madness, even if it’s chaotically methodical. Not all that flashy in the back, but I’m there and loud and won’t be ignored. Sometimes so excited you twirl your sticks in the air, and sometimes you’re so excited you miss a beat. That’s okay, so much of drumming and writing is improvisation. Intense bursts that fill the silence. At the end you dissolve like your drum roll, seeking another song to support, another story to tell with the primal roar that we’ve known since we can bang crap together and make some noise. Language is the same: noise made coherent, made whole.

What’s a Cap & Gown Got to do with it?

I’ve done the literal graduations… college, grad school, and what not. But the question with which I am presented is “what area in life have [I] not graduated from yet?”

I thought about this carefully, pondering my accomplishments. My answer… well, it depends on perception. If I were to ask my mother what else I should “graduate from,” she would advise me to pursue a traditional family life, which includes grandkids for her. This lifestyle is not undesirable for most, but I believe people should also just value being happy in life, no matter what that looks like. The best symbolic graduation includes achieving happiness and being a whole person.

Happiness is a great achievement! And if that’s true, I’m graduating now… I’m content at the moment and there’s nothing major I am pursuing or seeking to graduate from in the near future. At the same time, I’m always at the beginning of a new curriculum. My inner teacher tells me that learning never ends and, therefore, one should never stop trying to graduate from something.

If I ever reach a day when I can say that I have nothing left to do and nothing left to learn, then I have failed. So, for me, graduations mark accomplishments, but they need not be traditional or even measurable, per se. It’s great to have specific goals such as college, career, mortgage, and family; however, regardless of one’s path, people should never stop seeking graduations!

Life has taught me that we’re never “all set.” Life is beautifully unpredictable and, like one of my favorite quotes states, “not all who wander are lost” (Tolkien). So, please, go out and wander and follow your unique paths to the many types of symbolic graduations you can find!

Creative Voicing

At a very young age, I acquired a passion for creating music. Around three, I started singing in the church choir, and I eventually picked up the violin in elementary school and then the flute in middle school. I was quite good at the flute and even became section leader and second chair in band. I also dabbled briefly with the guitar and piano. However, the one instrument that has stood the test of time is, well… me—my voice! So, if I could be a musical instrument, I would be vocals/the human voice. I find this pairs well with my passion for writing. After all, what is writing without a voice?

The reason for my choice is simple and relies on deductive reasoning: The singing voice was the first instrument I ever “played” (when I was three), and it is the only musical instrument I still use on a regular basis. It’s been years since my competitive high-school choir days; however, I frequent the karaoke scene consistently. Arguably, there is no comparison between singing (usually impromptu) karaoke in a bar and a well-rehearsed jubilee of the classics. Nevertheless, both provide an opportunity for beautiful music to be created (and sometimes not-so-beautiful music to be created… ever hear the joke that karaoke means “tone deaf” in Japanese?… at least I think it’s a joke).

Even if the music being created during karaoke is sometimes considered sub par by music elites, it still offers a creative outlet for the singer and entertainment for the audience. This art is not so different from writing something… let’s say, a blog! The blog I am currently writing is a creative expression of my thoughts right now at this moment. I’m intentionally ignoring certain grammar rules; for instance, I’m writing in fragments and not punctuating entirely correctly. I’m not necessarily following the rules of standard-academic English. I’m doing this because sometimes the best writing is freeform, fragmented and requires a certain cadence to convey tone (that, and us English majors think we can get away with anything). Perhaps I’m preaching to the choir on that one (pun intended).

So, if I could be a musical instrument, it would be the human voice, because it’s just like creative writing… free, beautiful, and open to both imagination and criticism. It improves with wisdom yet can be a delightful symphony even when coming from a child or a novice. There’s no right way to sing just as there’s no right way to write, and that makes the voice my instrument of choice!

Digital, Digital Get Down. Just What We Need.

I am a product of the digital age. By the age of five, I was versed in Microsoft Paint, the mouse my brush as I crafted landscapes of bright, yellow suns and pixelated green grass. By the age of ten, I was the moderator of numerous Yahoo! Groups that spotlighted my favorite TV shows, musicians, and books. By the age of fifteen, I was penning LiveJournal entries as “marvelouslywise,” a play on the line “You shall do marvelous wisely, good Reynaldo” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By the age of twenty, I was the curator of my Tumblr filled with “Pretty Pictures and Tall Brunettes.” And by the age of twenty-five, I was capturing my thoughts in 140 characters and two-second gifs.

As you can see, the digital age has spanned my lifetime; it is has become a second language and a way of life. Some dismiss it is as lazy, distracting, or, my favorite, a detriment to society. And it is all of those things and worse. Yet it is also fun, creative, and unifying. Through Twitter, I have interacted with people from all over the globe. Together we have bonded over our favorite actors, cheered and jeered throughout the World Cup, and lamented over tragedies that have shaken us to the core. Through websites like WattPad and, I have been introduced to the tremendous writing talents of pre-Med students, stay-at-home moms, and retired teachers, who construct worlds and characters that draw me in and take me away from my own stresses for an hour or two each night. And through Vine, I have come to find in six seconds that I have much more in common with the rest of the world than I originally thought.

The digital age has produced its fair share of problems; however, it has also provided a space in which people feel connected to someone or something. “Plugged in” has become a pejorative phrase but I believe that it means more than just a dependency on smartphones and other electronics; it means that we are a part of something larger than ourselves, which is a luxury we have not always been afforded.

Things that happen when you’re done writing a thesis.

I finished my thesis mid-April. It was 91 pages. I’m feeling pretty damn accomplished but like, I also don’t want to talk about it anymore.

So what happens after each semester (and this one is no different) is that I have a creativity explosion. All of the academic writing leads me to a place where my creative self is piiiiissed and breaking down the door. This time, after writing the 91 page thesis-that-I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-for-awhile-please, it manifested in a bunch of charcoal drawings, the usual loud music and dancing, some really good meals I cooked while drinking a fair amount of Riesling, buying some books I’ve wanted to buy for a long time that I’ll eventually read, a pile o’ poems, and some short stories, which was cool because I haven’t written a short story in probably fifteen years because I thought that it was difficult and because I thought that the ones I wrote were kinda sorta sucky. It’s funny how such creativity explosions eradicate those fears and allow you to just not give a damn. My muses are back and I’m all like, haaaayyyy.

The topic for March (I know, I’m so behind, I know, but I was thesising, mkay?), was information in the digital age, and I might have something to say about that later, but for now, here is a short story, courtesy of my (until recently) latent creative self. This is based on a dream I had. I have weird but awesome dreams. Bear with creative Meg, she’s a weirdo, but I love her, and I’m glad she’s back.


“Are you bringing the ocean?” she asked, “can I borrow it?”

“I can’t lend it simply because you love it so; I won’t bring it because it pleases you to swim.”

She built a boat of balsa wood, held together with the spittle of Blue Herons and the wax of white prayer candles. She built another made of pieces of discarded plastic bottles and useless devices, held together with old typed pages, obsidian ink and fiber, proof of wisdom. The last was made of flesh, held together with bone and muscle and sewn with the thread of an overactive imagination. It was anyone’s guess which would be rejected by the sea. Perhaps all of them.

After many months of toil, the boats rested on the sand, tilted to the left right and left, unbalanced and unsure. In the rain, she covered them with a large piece of washed up canvas, large enough to drape each vessel completely. A solitary gift from the sea.

She built a fire every night and looked over the ocean. She watched the precious moon go from new to full and back again. She heeded its call when she felt its pull, but her boats never left shore.

Her skin turned a deep golden color. Her hair and eyes lightened. The soles of her feet were burned and calloused from walking the beach in search of hermit crabs and sea glass, things living and dead and transformed by years of brutal punishment into something lovely but opaque. It should be said that during this time, he, the sea, alternated between quiet and fierce, dangerous and placid. She could not predict it, only fear it in some instinctual way, like the dark, fierce animals whose eyes she thought she spied in the night. She knew she was stronger, and probably had nothing to be afraid of, but…still. She could not be still.

One such night, she dreamt of three objects, given to her in the dream as a test of her wisdom. If she could determine the true value of each object, she could possess them. There was one object meant to accompany each boat she had built: a key of sorts to each boat’s journey and purpose.

The dream was long and lucid. It was arduous but also effortless. The first object was really three… Three tarot cards: the Empress, the Lovers, and the Four of Staves. The cards were small and worn, and fit in the palm of her hand. There was a small yellowed instruction card explaining their meanings that she crumpled and threw away. She did not need it, for she already knew the meanings. Could it be this easy? She thought, but looked at the cards once again and felt a deeper recollection–more than superficial–as she remembered their full meaning. Three choices and more confusion. It always comes in threes. Her knees weakened and shook, but she passed the first test. It was all that mattered for now.

A deep breath, a real pause in a deep, distant dream.

The next object materialized on her path.  It was sitting among the kind of junk you might find in a shoddy thrift shop, but she knew better than to view it that way. She picked it up. It was lighter than she expected. It looked like a large, child’s toy top. It was made of various kinds of wood from oak to mahogany inlaid in tiny geometric shapes. The top half slid open sideways with a gentle pull and revealed intricate machinery that unfolded like a pop-up book, but working and moving: wooden gears the size of a ladybug to the size of her palm turned and ticked in chaotic order. The entire device looked like one of DaVinci’s drawings come to life. It was a time-keeping device. Before she picked it up, many had grabbed it and put it down, thinking it a worthless object. But it was ancient and powerful, and despite its lightness it held the heaviness of ages and mistakes. She intuited this, the combined fragility and strength, but not its purpose. But again, the simple knowledge she possessed helped her pass this test, and in some way, she felt, also helped to save her.

The final object was the most perplexing. She was drawn to a foot high, hand carved, brightly painted figure of a giraffe. She turned it round and round in her hands seeking some sort of hidden message she could not immediately infer. But she found nothing. She only felt: earth, rain, scorched clay, the beginning of man and creature and an evolution rooted in rock and riverbeds. She took comfort in the fact that she had determined the true value, if not the purpose, of the final object. She had passed each trial and would possess each item. But is possession the same as power?

She woke up from the dream slowly, shortly after dawn, feeling a force both terrible and magnificent, but she wiped the sleep and salt from her eyes and stretched wide, her hips and wrists cracking loudly.

It was high tide and the sea was kissing her toes. It had extinguished her fire and was threatening to steal the boats she had crafted, behaving more greedily and urgently now, with the threat of being caught.

How, she wondered, could something so majestic and soothing also be so callous, only concerned with its own intentions and able to so easily destroy what was so carefully built?

Nature behaves that way if not nurtured, she decided, then laughed to herself –

As if nature gave a shit about her nurturing, and as if her nurturing could ever hope to do a damn thing to tame it. The audacity. The naiveté.

She pulled her knees to her chest, cool in the morning air. But she had to move quickly if she didn’t want her boats to float away. She stood up slowly, her legs aching from the cold, and walked to the nearest tree, where her frayed sweater was hanging and waving like a surrender flag. She put it over her head, put her arms through the sleeves, and loosely tied her damp, tangled hair at the nape of her neck.

She ran toward the boats, each tied to a tree trunk nearby with a thick piece of rope. She tested the knot in each rope first, then took a closer look at each vessel, the water lapping at her goosebumped calves. The balsa, plastic, and flesh were floating gently, not matching the expression on her troubled, anxious face. The flesh boat was waterlogged and was beginning to wrinkle and quiver and slump.

She saw something poking up from inside the piecemeal plastic ship. She jumped, startled in her still sleepy state by what she found. The carved, painted giraffe faced her, its painted eyes staring beyond her shoulder. Breathing heavier, she moved to the balsa boat. Tucked in the back corner, she saw the timekeeping top. She found three small cards, damp and curling, scratching the flesh. She walked behind the boats and watched them sway. She got a chill and, after a time, realized her face was wet from tears, though the ocean air made it difficult to distinguish, hiding this display of emotion with its own brackish display, as if it were comforting, or perhaps competing, or preparing to strike. She could not tell which.

She still did not know if it was time. She continued to contemplate as she walked over to the three trees where the ropes were tied. Three choices within three choices. The cards, the objects, the boats, herself: she looked at all four–she miscounted, once again forgot to count herself, damn it–and felt the wet sand sinking beneath her as the sun rose in the sky, oblivious and beautiful.

My (Im)Pending Life

There’s nothing quite like Limbo…

No, the other Limbo…

…Getting warmer…

…ahem. Close enough.

What I wanted to say is that there’s nothing quite like that perfect chemical mixture of excitement and anxiety when life events leave you hanging. We’ll call it “anxitement,” or maybe “exciety.” Either way, the slight euphoria behind the eyes and pangs of spiritual indigestion radiating from the sternum are unique to the experience of having high hopes but not quite knowing.

Or maybe I’m just over caffeinated and ACTUALLY have indigestion. But let’s stay the philosophical course and leave the body behind for now…

Ok. This is awkward. I can’t believe you actually did it. Put your body back on. Now. Hurryhurryhurry.




Like I said. We have bodies and they’re in Limbo and it feels kinda weird. Exciety.

And it is in this state that concepts like “the present” and our own fixedness on the train tracks of time become a little more tangible.

Yeah. Time! I can totally feel it! (Good thing we brought our bodies.)

But like so many sci-fi movies tell us,

time travel is possible.

Ok maybe not in the sense of leaping to a specific moment, but in the sense that the possibilities (or probabilities)  are infinite(Shout out to Douglas Adams!). Outcomes are not fixed until the very moment they happen. They are likely more changeable than we can sometimes anticipate

Like that time at the restaurant you forgot to ask them to hold the mayo but you ask the server to see if they can do it anyway but everybody knows it’s too late but then it turns out your ticket order caught on fire and this was only possible because of the proximity of the ticket orders to the grill and the fact that this restaurant doesn’t use those digital ordering kiosks and so you CAN still hold the mayo and you suddenly feel like you have total control of your life…

No you can’t change the past or the inevitable forward movement of time. But you can certainly shift the destination all over the damn place. So maybe time is more like a Bumper Car than a train. A Bumper Car that can’t go in reverse. You get it, right?!?! There are moments in which you take aim and step on the gas. There are moments that take you by surprise. There are even moments that you can see coming but you swerve too late or you simply await the collision.

Vague car metaphors. Dig it.

The point is (and this is my best guess) that we are constantly in a state of (im)pending life, of hoping but not knowing. But we tune that out with the noise of our routines as a way of moderating the exciety (it’s basically a Wiktionary entry at this point); or we diffuse (im)pending life as a vicarious and shared (visharious) experience (probably through Netflix binge watching). Either way, we sometimes soothe ourselves into forgetting the triumph and freedom of shifting possibilities, or we celebrate it only when it’s someone else. The risk is that the list of things that are inevitable seems to rapidly expand, and the amount of control we appear to have over our lives seems to rapidly shrink…like that kinetic sculpture in the lobby of the Liberty Science Center. Youtube it.

This post is both an intentionally tenuous and meandering explanation of dealing with life changes and an unintentionally accurate rendition of my head space as I deal with life changes. Please excuse the mess. I’m in the process of moving all over the damn place, and it feels…well…like life.

Sounds of (Im)Pending Life, A Companion Playlist


Commencement Address

Esteemed President. Distinguished Board of Trustees. Revered faculty members. Graduating students. Good morning, everyone.

I am honored to be your commencement speaker today. As to my topic, several temptations assail me. One is to repeat some of the advice that I have heard on these occasions; for example, “Don’t be afraid to take a chance!” “Cherish these surroundings—you will never live anywhere so beautiful again!” “Choose your rut carefully—you will be in it for the next twenty years!”

To avoid these traps, I turn for guidance to a favorite writer, Rose Macaulay; the quotation appears at the end of her novel, The Towers of Trebizond:

“After all, life, for all its agonies of despair and loss and guilt, is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing, full of liking and of love, at times a poem and a high adventure, at times noble and at times very gay, and whatever (if anything) is to come after it, we shall not have this life again.”

These lines make me weep every time I read them. I love them because they tell you, better than I can, to treasure every minute of your life, even the bad times, which, I assure you, will be yours, as well as the good ones.

Treasure your life. Don’t waste time on frivolous matters. Work hard. Think deeply. Respect your teachers and your parents. Take time to do generous deeds. Remember that others may be struggling. Be polite. Smile. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. Do another good deed. Study harder. Fall in love. Tell the truth, especially to yourself.

Once upon a time, I would have said to you, as Tennyson wrote about Ulysses, that your goal should be “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Now I say to you, be compassionate and empathetic. Put down your cell phone and engage the other person:  We are in this life together.

Goodbye, good luck, and, no matter what happens, appreciate your life. Smile.

Sometimes, it’s good to be the Jack

It was pretty common for teenage boys to want to play guitar when I was in high school. From the looks of things, that still holds true. The phenomenon has even breached the gender barriers. For me, however, music was not a super relevant part of my life until a few years after high school, so my teenage interest in the guitar was more motivated by family ties. My father was a pretty accomplished guitarist, albeit as the result of a lifelong hobby and not through a drive to “make it big.” So my interest started as a way to connect with him as I grew into manhood (however I was defining it at the time). But he was kind of an aloof and distant individual, and he seemed to guard his hobbies (carpentry, surfing, guitar playing) pretty fiercely.

Jesus + Patrick Swayze in Point Break + James Taylor = my dad.


So, because of his guardedness, my teenage dreams of father-son musical bonding tapered off. But a few years later, the itch to learn came back. At that age, I had been more severely exposed to an array of rock music through various friends, and record stores were still a thing, and making entire albums was still a thing. People cared, man! But my point is mostly that I had started to feel that music was now an integral part of my personal development. So much so that I (apparently) needed to make some of my own. So come my twentieth birthday, I embarked on what would be an epic, twenty minute journey to the local music shop. I walked in, saw a “starter kit” that I could afford, and bought it. Like I said. Epic.


serving suggestion

My hands shook with giddiness as I unpackaged my first guitar: picks, tuner, gig bag (for all of my upcoming gigs), beginner lesson book, beginner lesson CD (too fancy), and the first and only acoustic guitar I have ever owned. I bought myself a low-end Fender and never looked back. And while I did not play it ‘til my fingers bled nor was it the Summer of ’69, I did get blisters after about thirty minutes of playing “Frere Jacques.”


The guitar is something I won’t master in my lifetime, but I have since played with my father a handful of times. It didn’t forge an inseparable bond between us, but it did give me a rewarding hobby that I am more than happy to share with anyone. It also gave me a different way of interpreting the world. And because this is a writing blog after all, I begin my seamless, almost imperceptible shift toward the writing process.


I think too often, we are good at convincing ourselves not to pursue things that will not fulfill a specific goal or immediate need. We are also possibly deterred by virtuosity; meaning someone else’s mastery of a skill can often be intimidating. I don’t LOVE essay writing, but I absolutely appreciate the writing skillset it packages in neat little bundles. The argumentation, the organization, the analysis. Those are all elements that can translate, at least cognitively, across media. Analysis helps me understand which chords/notes/melodies convey a certain kind of “tone” or “voice.” Organization helps give my song form and movement. A few good verses of lyrics can create an argument (a main point, or even just a gripe).


I don’t get into every hobby or any new skill thinking I will master it or even that it will precipitate some necessary life change. I do go in looking for connections and looking to adapt my old skills and lessons to the new. The full label for us is “Jack of All Trades, Master of None,” and I don’t find it to be insulting. For me, there is something liberating about being versatile or nimble with my skills. Some areas are more developed than others, but they tend to inform each other rather well. And that tends to diminish my fears of virtuosity, which helps me feel good about new endeavors. Writing, music, life, etc.