My mom calls me a polymath, hence the name of this blog.
I find it bizarre that she would saddle me with a moniker that has the word math in it, as math has never been one of my strong suits. I got decent grades in high school math classes by copying homework and cheating on exams. (I checked, and the statute of limitations is up on this, so I can admit it freely and not have my high school diploma taken away.) I got a D- in my only math class (essentially Math for Poets) in college. Luckily my graduate work was all about qualitative research and not quantitative, so I never had to do statistics. I don’t balance my checkbook. Math and I are not, as they say, BFF. I can do it when I have to, but generally, I leave math to those better suited. I have a good accountant. I have a good financial advisor. I have a good calculator.
I guess the loose definition of polymath is someone who is naturally really good at a lot of different things, so it makes sense that it is the kind of word a loving mother would call her daughter. And were I a shrinking violet of the humble type, I would shrug it off as overenthusiastic maternal pride.
But see the thing is, she’s right. I don’t know if it’s the Gemini thing, enough skills for two people. I don’t know if it’s the gifted thing, high IQ and all that jazz. I just know that in my life, there seem to be a lot of things that I’m just really good at, often without frankly trying very hard, which is a blessing, since one of the things I’m really good at is being lazy.
Here is a list of some of my particular talents:
I have an ear for languages, am fairly fluent in French, and speak excellent menu Italian, Spanish, and Greek, and have enough Swahili to find the bank, the bus and the bathroom, which is all you really need. I used to be a good musician, playing trumpet and flugelhorn. I don’t play much anymore, but in my day, I was better than average. I’m spectacular in bed. I’m told I’m not a bad writer. I’m an exceptional educator, and have former students now tracking me down on Facebook to tell me that I changed their lives, which makes me weep a little, even as my brain says “Well, duh, I was awesome!” I’ve got a decent eye for design and a creative streak with home furnishings and decorating. I’m a fair hand with power tools, and can fix stuff when I choose to, although I am a girl and would prefer not to muss the manicure unless absolutely necessary. I’m a good public speaker, was, in my day, a competent actor, and I’m funny as hell. I’m a problem solver, a critical thinker, and occasional visionary.
But being a polymath doesn’t always work in your favor, and you can’t choose what stuff you are good at. Polymaths may all be smart, but that doesn’t make us not idiots…
I invite you to settle in for the next few weeks to see exactly how one girl with a lot of passion and skill, and not quite enough sense ends up on an exciting roller coaster involving recipe contests, lots of butter, a plague of miniature frogs, and a whole lot of sparkling wine. Its a long story, gentle readers, far more than any of you would want to absorb in one sitting, and the ending is still up to the Gods, so even I don't yet know how it all turns out! About twice a week I will be posting installments, an online serialization, like a little radio play. I won't be offering any secret decoder rings, and you don't have to send in any box tops, but I hope you'll tune in and follow along! (be forewarned, some of the pieces of this story are pretty flipping hilarious, so I don't recommend that you drink anything while reading, as The Polymath cannot be help liable for beverages shooting through your sinuses.)
NEXT TIME: The Polyprocrastinator