in conversation last week, a friend bemoaned the fact that he was recognized in the community as an exceptional physician and educator. he felt narrowed, constricted, by this validation from society.

I, in turn, bemoaned the fact that I was likely seen as more scattered: business school graduate and retailer, small business owner, writer, social worker a dozen years ago and now again, mom of three college students. at this stage in my life, I told him, I wanted to be a master of something, not simply someone who was quite good at a number of things, who had spent time here and there, done this and that.

my friend was envious of what I saw as a shortcoming. he wanted to be known as someone with more depth and variety in his experiences, gifts, and desires.

I wanted to be queen of something.

and then I remembered my skate skiing boots.

last winter I took up skate skiing. this same friend gave me a pair of his old skis, and I bought new bindings, poles, and boots. I took lessons. I eventually learned to stay upright (most of the time), to ski up and down gentle hills, even to glide gracefully for moments at a time. after just a few sessions, I looked at my shiny new boots with an extraordinary sense of pride and validation. I had learned to alpine ski as a child, and didn’t completely stop until shortly after having my second child. then came a dearth of ski days–almost 20 years of them–up until last winter. those skate skiing lessons helped me reclaim a long lost aspect of myself. I could once again consider myself a skier.

those boots are a symbol of just how complex and varied a person I am. which, as I reconsidered our laments, is exactly how my friend wished the world would see him.

few of us wish to be pigeon-holed, forced into narrow descriptors of our capacities. I don’t truly want to be labeled and categorized, yet I am pulled into that desire by society’s tendency to focus on what one does instead of who one is.

my friend is multi-faceted, curious, engaged with life, a thinker, a philosopher, a fisherman, cyclist, skier, runner. who happens to practice and teach medicine.

and I, well, I am multi-faceted too, a queen of many small things, a person who is validated by reminders of how richly diverse her life is. who may not have yet reached mastery of anything, but is a life-long apprentice of many things she loves. and those ski boots remind me, each time I see them, of potentials and possibilities and the fact that I am not yet done creating myself.