Defying Definitions – Part 2

Patchwork - tie dyed

Photo Credit:

Last post, I shared how I’ve had it “up to here” (“here” being the tip-tops of my pheasant-feathered steampunk hat!) with this business of personal branding. Life, especially for an eclectic generalist like me, cannot be reduced to a single sentence or a title on a business card.

But after bidding specialization adieu, where do I go from here?

The last few years have been a journey into answering those questions.

As I mentioned previously, that journey included recognizing myself as high-functioning autistic and discovering that the world is full of other generalists who (autistic or not) leverage diverse skill sets as their primary strength. I also dove into Maker culture and its vintage cousin, steampunk. I began to appreciate learning as my chief strength, while discovering that I am a systems thinker … which explains why I have trouble defining myself by one career, hobby, or skill. (To me, they’re all interconnected!)

And that’s when a funny thing happened.

I started to notice that in the last year or two, doors of opportunity weren’t opening in spite of my crazy resumé. They were opening because of it.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve come to realize that breadth can be leveraged over depth. Labels are not the end-all-be-all of life. There is hope for a purpose outside of specialization: and with it, a life full of joy and surprise.

I’m calling it “the patchwork life.” And as you can see, it’s the new theme of my blog.

Patchwork Pincushion

Like much else on this blog, the patchwork life concept is inspired by a beautiful old-fashioned art—the patchwork quilt—that continues to inspire me in our post-tangible, digital age.

The genius of patchwork is that it is not one thing, but many. The warmth, strength, flexibility and beauty of the resulting quilt arise not from a single bolt of cloth, but from the leftovers of many bolts.

In bygone eras these quilts were sometimes called “story quilts.” Each fabric was a remnant of some prior project. When family members ran their fingers from square to colorful square, they could recite various shared stories triggered by each pattern.

As it goes in quilting, so it goes in life.

For those of us whose personal identities and vocations defy categorization, the patchwork quilt is a beautiful picture of what makes us strong. We are not one thing, but many. Our lives sew together our many-colored experiences into a stunning design that is as unique as it is beautiful. In turn, we have the opportunity to share that beauty with the world.

Living the patchwork life is by no means easy or safe, or course. You’ll find yourself constantly juggling time and expectations, not to mention combatting people’s notion that you’re somehow misguided, undisciplined, or downright addled. (Human beings have an inherent need for boxes, it seems, and a corresponding discomfort for anything that does not fit inside them.)

But if you’re a true patchworker at heart like me, embracing your breadth of passions isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

This is how we unleash our best selves.

And that’s what this blog will be about in 2014-15: the art of storymaking, yes. The fun of steampunk, absolutely. (I’m more committed to this than ever!)

But more than simply a blog of art, we’ll explore and celebrate the eclectic lifestyle as an art all its own. The art that holds all the others together.

Because in a world that promotes monochromatic classification, an old-fashioned patchwork still stands out.

On this quilt, there’s always room for one more square.

What do you think?

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