Generalism

By Mary Kate Dodge on March 13, 2017.

You know when you’re anticipating something in the future that seems so far away? And then you step away for a second and suddenly that far away thing is happening tomorrow? My AmeriCorps service term at MountainTrue has been full of those moments, moments when I turn around and wonder how something so big could’ve crept up on me so quickly!

I’ve been guilty of wishing my life away more than I’d like to admit. Not that I do it on purpose, but I just find it’s so easy to get excited about the next best thing coming! Whether it be a new position, a big trip, a hike you’ve wanted to do for a while, or even trying that new restaurant for brunch next weekend, I find there’s always something I have my eyes set on, ready to experience. I consistently set these new goals or experiences up for myself to ensure I always have something brand new to do standing in my future, waiting for me to catch up. But because of this goal to essentially try as much as possible, I’ve never quite dedicated myself to one hobby or topic. Instead, I have defined myself as a generalist. I find that I like trying new things far too often to ever focus on one thing for very long. I’ve spent years viewing this as a flaw of mine. I used to berate myself for not picking a sport or an area of academic interest to put my whole being into and see just how far I could go. Because once, that was how I defined success - I thought success was being the very best you can at one thing. But the more I experience, the more I understand that my generalist, “try everything” attitude is more of a strength than a flaw.  In the world of conservation in Western North Carolina, I have been so impressed with all of the specialists around me, and there’s been plenty moments when I’ve thought to myself how I’ll never be able to know so much about the issue of conservation as they demonstrate. But, the more I experience in my service position, the more I realize just what strengths come with being a generalist. I know some about a lot of different things, but I definitely don’t know everything about anything. I’ll probably never be a specialist of any kind, and that’s finally okay with me. 

As much as I’ve enjoyed my service position as the Outings & Education Coordinator at MountainTrue and thoroughly enjoyed the people I work with (seriously, they’re amazing), this AmeriCorps term has been 6 months full of introspection and personal learning. I have benefitted so much from the advice of my supervisor and other staff at MountainTrue, I’ve had incredible conversations with fellow AmeriCorps members about just what it means to be in a service position, and I’ve had ample time to experience enough to make me excited for what’s up next. As I solidify graduate school plans for the fall of 2017, I now challenge myself (and you, too!) to something a little different: instead of looking into the future beyond these last 5 months of my service term, I’ll enjoy the present work here in Asheville- I’ll enjoy the mountains and rivers of Western North Carolina, the hard conversations that come with meaningful work, and the dedication to the environment I’m surrounded and inspired by.