FALSTAFF: I will not lend thee a penny.
PISTOL: Why then the world’s mine oyster / Which I with sword will open.from The Merry Wives Of Windsor by William Shakespeare
In other words: “The world is your oyster.”
William Shakespeare sure knew a thing or two about language. Actually, he knew a thing or two about a thing or two. He was a quintessential renaissance person–the original Jack-of-all-trades–perhaps the original multipotentialite. Or, was that Leonardo da Vinci? IDK. I want to stop writing right now and research it, but alas, I won’t. I’m trying to stay focused, and that both saddens me a tiny bit and gouges my soul with an oyster knife. We’ll get to that.
According to Bell English, the phrase was “initially related to wealth, but now means all life’s richness, with the pearl in the oyster signifying this.”
I’m no expert, but “all life’s richness” seems like a lot of pressure to put on a person with way too many oysters to start with.
And how do you open an oyster and get to all life’s richness?
You pry it open with a knife.
It’s sometimes tough and often tedious work. A tad stinky perhaps. A bit uncomfortable and awkward if you’re new at this and don’t quite know what you’re doing. You have to be careful not to slip up and injure yourself, but once you find your groove, you get it done.
If you’re lucky, you end up with a nice pearl you can be proud of. Maybe a few pearls to leave to your children and grandchildren. If you’re incredibly fortunate, you can leave a legacy-sized string of pearls behind.
That’s a lovely concept. Who doesn’t love a pearl necklace? Even I do, and I’m the opposite of the pearl-necklace-type (you know who you are).
To people who have too many oysters, though, “the world is your oyster” can be debilitating. People like me already know the world is our oyster; we knew that when we were three. It’s the knife that’s the problem. Or maybe the grit. Or maybe the frustration with pollution of the oceans. But it’s never, ever the lack of oysters.
My oysters have always come as ideas or jobs. For example, my own job history would read something like this:
- Content Creator
- Director of Operations
- Education Mentor and Facilitator
- CNC Plasma-cutter Operator
- Small Business Owner
- Office Manager
- Legal Assistant
- Administrative Assistant
- Auction Clerk
- Childcare Worker
- Jewelry Store Sales Associate
- Veterinary Technician
- Laboratory Animal Technician (including biohazard)
- Pharmacy Technician
- Home Construction Office Coordinator
- Shoe Store Sales Associate
- Mail Clerk
- Septic Installer Runner
- Restaurant Hostess
- Farm Tour Guide
A couple of patterns jump out, but other than that, I’ve had quite varied experiences, for which I’m now thankful. I have so much to draw upon, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Instead, I had let others–especially well-meaning others like family, teachers, and close friends–convince me that I was just not trying hard enough, not sticking with something long enough, not “applying myself.” All those people had good intentions, but they didn’t understand how a 2e mind works, how my mind works.
I didn’t understand how my mind works, either, and by comparing myself to others’ measures of success, I was gouging my soul with an oyster knife instead of appreciating my own unique experiences, my own unique strengths, my own unique ideas.
What really worked for me was being around others like me, which led to faith in myself. It seems to me now that I was simply sampling life’s menu, and perhaps it took me a little longer than others, like specialists, but it was the right amount of time for me. Yes, it’s atypical, and that’s the point. It’s not wrong, only different, and I know that now.
Though oyster-sheller never made my list of jobs, I will need the same hard work and determination to get to that pearl. If there ends up being no pearl after all my hard work, I’ll try another oyster.
Heck, I may go ahead and try them all. I’ve got plenty, and I’m seeking “all life’s richness,” aren’t I?