On Being a Master of None

Can you believe The Used Life celebrated her third anniversary on April 27? Neither can I….

When I started this blog three years ago, I felt instinctively (and immediately, as I recall) that the tagline, Experiments in the Art of Mastering None, captured the essence of my project. Indeed, I first conceived of The Used Life as a space of self-discovery, or rediscovery, as it may be. To reconnect with and develop to the best of my ability those talents and interests that I had, over the course of many years, either abandoned or forgotten. I felt I owed it to myself. And so I embarked on a quest to use the life within me to beget a more creative life. But equally as important was (and is) the desire to create something greater than myself. To reach out. To carve out a space where other creatives—especially those who, like me, had either forsaken their talents for other, far less gratifying ambitions or who were still in the process of manifesting their gifts—could talk about their experience. 

To be a master of none to me, at that time, was to stop living a one-dimensional life. To embrace my creativity and acknowledge my own desires for growth and dynamism. Which often meant moving in many directions at once. To stop subscribing to the worn out notion that I should live to be the best at something, that one career, one vocation, or even a singular artistic or intellectual pursuit could define my life or give it meaning. That to lead a successful life means to grow in only one direction. Being a master of none was also a shirking of values and expectations.

And as I set out on my quest for authenticity and self-discovery, I consulted what I considered to be some of the best and most respected minds in psychology. C. G. Jung, Otto Rank, A. H. Maslow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and others. I learned a great deal. And I wrote a large number of reflective posts on the material I was reading. I also loved that I had the opportunity to discuss those ideas with all of you. Being co-creators, in a sense. I firmly believe that part of achieving my purpose, of really being myself and exercising my talents in the world, lies in having discussions just like those. But I digress. 

I began noticing that my conception of the blog was changing. That my ideas about what it means to be a master of none were also changing. I started focusing my energies on perception, on the extraordinary value of sensory experience, of living a vibrant, sensual, erotic life. Of the depth rather than breadth of experience. Of encountering the sacred in everyday life and what it means to me, as a woman, to honor my animal nature.

good morning and flying girl with a cup of coffee

I began writing poetry and exploring aesthetics, surrealism and psychedelia. I became a poet, by my own admission, a real broadening of my conception of self. I had regained and begun developing my ability to write creatively, which I’d abandoned more than 20 years prior. Even published my first poetry chapbook. 

I changed my About page more often than I care to calculate in an attempt to continually give voice to a series of ever-changing inner experiences, experiments in life as in art. Led by my intuition, as well as a powerful desire to continue becoming a master of none, I pressed on. I focused less on psychology and turned all of my energies to art. Poetry and now collage art. I am a “newbie collage artist.” The most recent update to my About page. And another change in self-definition. 

Those changes, I find, are the most exhilarating. A moment of actualizing one’s potential. And of having the pride and courage to proclaim it. Now, to me, the essence of what it means to be a master of none. 

When the individual has, in his process of change incorporated the quality of motion, of flow, of changingness, into every aspect of his psychological life. He lives in his feelings, knowingly, and with basic trust in them and acceptance of them. He values exactness in differentiation of his feelings and of the personal meanings of his experiences. His internal communication between various aspects of himself is free and unblocked. He communicates himself freely in relationships with others. Indeed, he feels a fully responsible relationship to his life in all its fluid aspects. – Carl R. Rogers

A way of being that requires no effort at all. The permission to be whomever and whatever I am moved to be. Quite possibly the greatest gift I can give myself. To expand. To live as if in a state of flow. Moving from one aspect of myself to another without care. Without anxiety. Without the incessant need to understand why. To simply experience the joys of doing, of being, of creating. And for the first time, I am filled with an inexplicable sense of my own possibility. This is what it means to be a whole person. To be a master of none.

17 thoughts on “On Being a Master of None

    1. Thank you very much. I agree with you about the importance of depth in our current situation. It’s more important than ever to be able to make “magic” of the moment, be creative with the stuff of everyday life. Our individual wellbeing largely depends on it now.

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  1. Sometimes, our blogs started out, as we began, and yet, as we get deeper, in touch, with our selves, our writings, became, something foreign to us, and, as we reread some of the things we put on paper, it seemed like, someone else had, written those things, that just shows, how far we’d come, from who we were, when we, first, started…

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    1. Very true. It’s amazing to watch our projects morph and evaluate how we change with them over time. I have also had the experience of looking back at old writings and feeling as if someone else had written them. Usually with a mix of embarrassment and disbelief. But I think it was Maslow who said that if we don’t look back on our old selves with just a tinge of embarrassment, then we aren’t evolving enough. Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

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  2. Everything you say here resonates so deeply with me, I am overjoyed to be able to experience your thoughts and journey. This idea of living a life which is free to flow outward, inward, up and downward in any and all directions as we desire, to live a life which is non-linear, so to speak, feels radical and most true. Against the grain of a frightened, rigid culture which seeks to define us, cut us off, put us in boxes, pin us down. Obsessed with production and achievement rather than depth of experience. I also love the idea of not wasting energy explaining our desires, our choices, to anyone. A woman quite secure and confident in her expression of what she wants for herself. Thank you for all you have awakened by sharing your journey. I wish you a very happy anniversary! 🙂

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    1. Thank you for the beautiful comment, Allison! It makes me happy to know you are able to identify with these experiences. It’s true that to be ourselves is an act of defiance–and one that’s necessary for growth, health, and wellbeing. I also think women probably approach the process of “becoming” differently than men do. That our objectives are different, that the probing of identity, the expansion of self-awareness–what it means to really feel “at home in ourselves”–all have unique qualities and shouldn’t be measured in the same way as men’s experience. Thank you again for the well wishes and the wonderful comment!

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      1. Ah, the pleasure is mine! And I am so taken with how you say this, that our experience “shouldn’t be measured in the same way as men’s experience.” What a shimmer of light that casts in my mind, such a much more prismatic way of thinking about the unique ways in which a woman explores and expands herself. It is not a comparison. It is something else entirely. You give me much to contemplate! Thank you ever so.

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