A factotum as defined by the dictionary is “a person or official having many different responsibilities.” We as a people do not suit this definition. We are good at some things but find ourselves lacking in greatness at many. We will go to our job performing many different tasks all the while hoping something in the end will become our career, never actually learning anything along the way. Because of this I have begun to question the very parables that we as a society have grown to accept.
We grow up being told that we should advance ourselves as much as possible: go to college to get an education and then maybe we will go out into the workforce prepared to tackle a career. But once we believe we can no longer learn anything new, we have given up on advancing ourselves. We work here and we work there, if we are lucky, all the while believing something will come along to truly suit us and we can get out of the rut we are in. The historian Henry Adams once wrote, “Nothing is so astonishing in education as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.” We believe it to be fact that the education we received is enough to land us everything we have ever wanted. We are overconfident and arrogant without reason, and we need to properly appreciate our own insignificance.
We need to question everything in our lives and everything around us. We need a greater understanding of the world and the work force against which we are competing. We can no longer go on being inadequately attentive. We need to change our lives and once we begin that journey we can finally start to live. How do we do this? How do we change the thing we have spent our early years building to become? The answers could be found in books, but it could also be found in accepting your temporary place and simply saving your money so you can travel.
The radical stance of going out and living abroad isn’t that new, but it will yield that happiness we so long for. Become a factotum traveling from city to city and working here and there. Try everything, and sooner or later you will realize what actually suits you instead of assuming you know what you are good at. Stop living in fear that something you do will hurt your advancement in the current company you work for. Go out and learn new languages and read books and see movies you never would have done before. Open your mind to the possibility that what is comfortable is wrong for you. Begin your education of life and quit avoiding serious self-engagement.
No longer can we as a people assume that there is one true religion, that English is the only real language, or that living in fear of constant threats from some unforeseen terrorist is the norm. We must go out and question everything we were raised on and learn everything we can, especially that which we would have just brushed aside as time consuming. A study found that in the year 2020 there will be 125 million jobs available for skilled workers but there will only be 52 million Americans capable of filling those jobs. Become a factotum, and once you have learned something continue to learn something else, and become skilled at everything, all the while never accepting something for what it is perceived to be without diving head first into it. To paraphrase Jimmy V: if at the end of each day you can say you have laughed, thought about something profound, and cried then you have truly lived. Stop conforming and start living the life you never thought you could.