Originally, I wanted to use this quote for a piece of fiction, but then I thought, who am I kidding? What piece of fiction would do the real-world relevance of this quote any justice?
For a bit of background, this quote comes from an uncomfortable novella called ‘Alexander’s Bridge’, written by Willa Cather. I thought it was uncomfortable because it was a little clunky and slightly underdeveloped. Also it left a morbid terror in my heart. It is short, and a good read, if anybody is interested. You can even read it for free online on this website, if you desire.
You have decided to leave some birds in the bushes. You used to want them all.
I want all the birds in the bushes. I want to be the nicest, kindest, prettiest, most skilled, most revered person about. It is a secret, but I do. I want my husband to think I am the most beautiful woman he ever saw, the most interesting, funny, intelligent, valuable. I want myself to think it, and be it, and not care so much if he or anybody else thinks it either. I want to be relevant, but indifferent to my relevance. Ugh, that sounds whiny.
I want to be the most successful, do the best, speak the most interesting and outrageous words, make an impact that will make people look up and pay attention. Maybe even influence their thought processes. Maybe create a ripple through time, affecting future generations.
But I also realise this about myself; I am lazy, I don’t think hard enough, I don’t apply my thoughts, I waste a ridiculous amount of time, I procrastinate and lie about, I don’t tie ends together, I trail thoughts in the sand until they are unrecognisable mounds to be discarded.
In short, I am not a ‘great’.
I stumble, mumble, and am naive.
It is the truth.
I have a myriad of interests, but hone none of my skills. I am only slightly good at multiple things.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
I want everything. And because I want everything, I have nothing.
I need to pick a skill, see, or a couple of skills (hah, doing it again), and master it. Then I will achieve what I want to. There is not enough time in life to master everything. And if you want to master something, like I do, then you have to make a decision.
My mother says it’s our generation. Apparently we all want to be famous and rich and successful. But that isn’t what I want. I don’t want to be famous, or even rich. I just want to know I have mastered something, that I have something to offer, that I have something I can say I worked hard for and achieved, that I made a difference that is positive. That I was intelligent and applied my intelligence correctly, that people learned something important from me.
Do you want all the birds in the bushes? Or have you plucked a couple and left the rest for other people?