I spend far more of my time than I would wish trying to flesh out acronyms and so I am sitting here laughing at myself as I title a post with one. I first ran across 'joat' in Heinlein's stories, I think, and loved the word. It means 'jack-of-all trades' and he used it to describe someone who could turn his hand to anything as needed. But I have always thought of it as the perfect description of a housewife and mother (or, to be politically correct, a house-husband and SAH father too.) Chief cook and bottle washer, laundress, chauffeur, chief procurement officer ( of food, silly), safety inspector, chambermaid, librarian, early childhood educator, gardener, handyman, dog walker, book-keeper, gate-keeper, practical nurse and practically everything else. With a lot of us working outside the home as well. Not to overlook the amount of energy it takes to make the personal part of marriage work. It doesn't surprise me at all that vitamins sell so well.
There are a lot of joatish aspects to running a home even after the kids have left it for good -- and even after they have, you're still a mother, there at need, and eventually a grandma.
As for me, I am a quintessential joat and have been all my life. I'm the kind of person who can turn my hand to a lot of things, from being the body on the other end of the cross-cut saw as an eight year old to the person who could think up skits and draw or make decorations for school dances, chair an obstreperous meeting, make costumes for the gymnastics team, run a parents' lobby group, read and correct a PhD thesis, work puppets (and make them), design posters or look after an evaporator. As I write this list, I realize that I could make it longer: good for a person's ego to look back and think about things that have been accomplished.
There's an underside to this rock, however. Or there is for me. In the course of doing a bit of everything, I have never spent the time and energy to do one thing well. I've been reading The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is an analysis of why some people do amazingly well at what they do - Bill Gates is one of his examples as are star hockey players - and he postulates that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to learn to do something exceptionally well. Putting in that amount of time is not something that a joat will do, being too busy doing an adequate job for ten hours at a thousand things. After I put the book down, with a sigh, I thought a bit about that ten thousand hours. And I realized that I have, indeed, put that amount of time in at something. Reading. I have known how to read for 62 years. That's 22,630 days. And I have probably read something for at least an hour on more than half of those days. I'm eligible to be an elite reader. Woot.
Somehow, this thought is not as comforting as all that. It would be nice, she whispered, to be really, really good at something that other people recognise as amazing. Even nicer if that thing generated income, but, for me, the important thing would be to have some confidence that the thing I did (whatever that would be) would turn out superlatively well. I wonder, though, if the kings (and queens) of their kind really feel the kind of confidence that I long to possess. Did Gretzky take the ice knowing he could and would score or did he start every shift in terror that this time it wouldn't happen? Or the Beatles wake up in fear that they wouldn't come up with anything new that day? Strangely enough, I can launch into an activity that I am 'good enough' at with some confidence and make adjustments on the fly to make it work.
But when it comes to something that I would really like to be an ace at, like writing in this blog, there are a lot of false starts, erasures and angst. (Wait, should angst be a plural noun to keep the cadence? Is there a plural of it? If so, what is it? Mmm. Better pick another word.) But when it comes to something I really want to do well, such as writing this post, I make a lot of false starts and erasures and suffer a lot of anxiety.
Every once and a while, though, the words will fly and I will fly with them, higher, faster, stronger, and what ends up on the page is all I wanted it to be. And some day, maybe, I will have written my ten thousandth post and it will all come together. Until that day I jog along, a happy-enough joat, using my highly honed reading skills to admire the work of my friends. And life is good.