Written by: Grant Stewart
I was a nerdy kid growing up, to say the least. My personal heroes included Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones and the red Power Ranger. However, one of my all-time favorites remains to be Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Aragorn had a lot going for him. He was a wild ranger who was friends with elves and eventually made his way to becoming this awesome king. How cool is that?
As I would discover later in life, Aragorn had something that really made me admire him. Aragorn was an amazing leader and warrior, but he was also a healer, tracker, poet, singer and master of all things outdoors who had extensive knowledge of history and many other subjects. Aragorn is what we would call a renaissance man. If someone were to take his skills down a notch, he would be known as a jack-of-all-trades, which is someone who is good at many things but not necessarily a master of one thing.
This was particularly relevant to me because I used to believe that I was a jack-of-all-trades. I could hold my own in sports, though I was by no means great at any of them. I was a good student, though I was by no means on top in any of my classes. And the list goes on. It was not until I fell in love with writing that I began to really hone my skills toward a specialty. That’s not to say that I left my other hobbies behind, but I finally found the thing I was the best at.
While I do believe everyone has something they do best and should work at that skill with all of their hearts, I also believe that allowing time to pursue multiple fields is a good thing too. Recently, I began researching how to identify different trees and birds. I know this does not sound particularly interesting, but I could never tell an oak from a spruce. I guess I had never been particularly interested enough to find out much about it until now. However, this is so far out of my usual research topics, such as “trends in modern Southern literature” or “methods of investigative journalism” that it comes as a breath of fresh air, and I love it. I always try to learn at least one new thing outside of my particular field of interest per day. I try to read articles or books about great leaders or fascinating historical figures before I go to bed. Occasionally, I try to substitute the biographies with books on economics or science, which, unfortunately, works as an excellent sedative for me.
Today, it seems like we are drifting slowly toward a specialized world. We stick to studying and pursuing a field that correlates with our majors while giving minimal effort toward our liberal arts credits along the way. Outside of this, though, we are pretty busy. We have social lives on top of all these hours of classes and homework, and this makes it hard to pursue other interests. I encourage everyone to pursue these other passions, but don’t stop at learning just enough to be a “jack” at it. Become a renaissance man or woman. Find something that has nothing to do with your major and learn about it, master it, then find something new.
I believe that if we stop learning, we become stagnant. In order to stay sharp and connect with people you may have never had the chance to meet in the first place, try learning something new. If you are an engineering major, maybe try to take a class or join a club focused on writing short stories. If you are a theatre major, try learning more about amphibian biology. In short, don’t be afraid to try new things. Just because learning something new will not necessarily help your GPA (unless you take a class), it is still important to learn. Like my man Aragorn said, “Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”