The Asset in Failing to be a Master

by Courtney Armstrong

I’m sixteen years old and hiding in a garage in Grand Central Station. There are about fifty of us total, although I’m hiding with only eight at the moment–all wearing Mardi Gras outfits. We’re playing Hide and Go Seek as a way to both celebrate Mardi Gras and kick off the weekend. This isn’t my sole definition of a satisfying Friday night. I’m perfectly fine just talking to my penpal in Canada, or simply sitting in my room listening to the “Top 25 Most played” playlist on my iPod, which probably says more about me than words ever can. There are a few songs of Japanese electronic pop music I can’t understand. There’s Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Eminem, the Foo Fighters, and Within Temptation are also on the list. What movies do I love? The Hangover and Princess Monoke are in my Top 100; I can’t decide on a top ten. After all, any movie amuses me as long as the acting is good and it won’t give me nightmares. Actually, I would probably be a nightmare for those college admissions consultants who see the gold, or say crimson, in applicants who excelled beyond teenage normality in one single passion. Helicopter parents trying to package their prized college applicant/child with a neat and safe profound area of expertise would wish they had given me up for adoption.

It wasn’t a big deal when I was little. If anything, the fact that I had basic knowledge of how to play four different instruments and  knew the rules of seemingly every sport came off as cool to my classmates. However, as I became an adolescent and started high school, my classmates–once so impressed by my versatility– no longer admired my variety. Sure, the bass guitar was my fifth instrument, but what was that worth considering my mediocre talent? Myself excluded, everyone seemed to have something they had mastered that set them apart from everyone else. They settled on a passion or simple hobby.  George was known throughout our school as a professional-level pianist. Kim was one of the most amazing artists. Ellen was the tri-varsity athlete and Cathy made her own clothes.  What did I have? Nothing! Because my interests were spread so widely, I deemed myself as passionless at a time when everyone said the best colleges favored those with a single passion setting them apart from normal teenagers. I did not see my numerous experiences as assets. I saw myself as a girl without definition just blending into the crowd. Who else to blame but my parents? After listening to George play piano one night, I furiously asked myself:  Why did those parents of mine listen to me when I asked to drop piano? I was also mad at myself. Why didn’t I have the vision to see versatility as the destruction of my future? I saw myself as damaged goods, and unable to tie myself down to one thing as a teenager. I was a jack of all trades but a master of none.

Then came an interest that I could not drop: film. I fell in love with film in the middle of my high school career. Inspired by the trailer for comedy sketch group, “Derrick Comedy’s” new movie, “Mystery Team” on Youtube, my good friend DJ and I set out to make a movie of our own. We borrowed cameras and tripods from the school’s computer and technology lab and the rest was in the palm of our hands. Suddenly my variety proved itself to be an advantage. It seemed easier to think outside the box and my way of jumping between ideas saved our first film from monotony. In film, being a jack-of-all-trades did ultimately help me to become a master. No, I have not won an Oscar or even directed a full- length feature film yet. However, when I enter college, I will be able to use film to strongly explore my interest in psychology. Film’s assorted nature also complements my own, which keeps me both constantly excited and motivated.  I’m never bored with film. It is too soon to say whether I have found my permanent passion in making movies. For now, I can wish that my experiences one day demonstrate that there is hope for those who do not discover their defining factor in life before graduating from high school. Perhaps I am also a model for those who do not consider a single hobby as the only way to measure self-worth.


Courtney Armstrong is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a psychology major with a minor in creative writing. She is a 2011 graduate of The Trinity School in New York, NY.

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