Master of Nothing

I am good at everything and a master of nothing.  It’s nice to know that, with any new endeavor, I’ll excel just enough not to make a fool of myself.  But, oh, how I long to be exceptional at something.

My sister is one of those lucky people who got a little something extra in the genetic lottery.  Music is her gift.  Betsy, who is two years my senior, discovered her voice upon exiting the womb.  She began performing as soon as I was old enough to prop up and sit in as the audience.

When she was four, Santa left a toy drum set under the tree for her.  There is old Super 8 movie film showing her beating out a syncopated rhythm pattern that no preschooler should be able to comprehend, let alone duplicate.  That she could sing and shake her long blonde hair in time made it even more wondrous.  She played the set until it broke.

Not long after, Mom and Dad replaced it with a guitar and arranged for a series of lessons.  Dwarfed by its body and barely able to wrap her hand around its neck, Betsy found her purpose in the steel string beauty.  She was playing classical compositions in no time.

The 6-string model was soon replaced by a 12-string monster.  Mastered.  Then an electric guitar.  Mastered.  Followed by a bass, a recorder and a clarinet.  Mastered, mastered and mastered.  It was clear there was no instrument that Betsy couldn’t dominate.  These were her wonder years.

Betsy continued to play her guitar into her teens and beyond, teaching herself songs from the radio, learning complicated picking patterns and challenging slide techniques, figuring out new arrangements for old favorites and eventually composing her own music.  She played at school.  She performed at church.  She entertained on boardwalks during family vacations.  And, when no one was looking, she played just for fun.

I was proud of my sister.  And though I never envied her ability, I did envy her passion.  You see, I’d explored many and varied pastimes growing up; and while I took pleasure from each diversion, I never had to do any of them the way Betsy had to make music.  I’d stick with something long enough to pick up the basics, grow bored and then look for something new to do.  Tap dancing, paper crafts, basketball, knitting, gymnastics, drawing, quilting, ballet, beading….  You name it, I did it. As I repeated this pattern over and over, I often wondered what it would be like to want to do one thing happily, eagerly and perpetually.

Until a few years ago, I was convinced that I had no true, singular purpose.  Ironically, it was Betsy who contradicted this.  She pointed it out when, hearing about my latest craft project, she admiringly posed the question:  “Is there anything you don’t do?”  Huh.  Not much.  Turns out, my passion is trying it all.  Yep, I’m pretty exceptional at that.

Still, it would be way cool to be able to wail on a guitar like my big sister.


  1. Awwww.
    This is so very sweet.
    I am sure that as soon as Betsy reads this, she will get the warm and fuzzies all over.
    Thanks for sending this my way and making me think of how much I love my own big sister…even if she is just 3 minutes and 30 seconds my senior. 😉

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