I've only read a few chapters of The Unsettling of America, and I've already got some strong reactions...
Heath, thank you so much for informing your readers about this Wendell Berry book. What you've quoted from him in this article follows a line of thinking that I've had for years now.
Also, this thing you said here literally sums up the basis of an essay I already planned to write over the next several months:
"To a specialist, every decision is made in isolation, and the only equation that matters is the simple one right in front of them. For a generalist, every equation is connected. There is no simple math- everything is long division."
You pretty much just spoke the words from my brain here. Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was going to write, and I’ve never even heard of Wendell Berry before now.
My entire life (I’m 35 now) I have striven to be a generalist, simply to be contrary to everyone in my life insisting that I pigeonhole myself and become a "proper" specialist. Eventually I succumbed and worked as an SEO specialist for over a decade, some in office work but much of it freelance. But, during the pandemic, when I assumed my SEO services would be in higher demand than ever, everyone asked what my niche was. These days it seems unless you become hyper focused and build a clique around you on social media and post daily TikToks, you're irrelevant. All of a sudden I was irrelevant because I refused to walk the party line of specialism as identity.
I was fortunate in that I met a fellow creative around that time. We hit it off, and today we are now married. So, outside of various business obligations, for the first time in my life I can work on my personal website and build up a proper newsletter (thanks Substack!) that doesn’t have to revolve around continuing my SEO career (which never paid enough to make ends meet, sadly).
What really makes me sad is that I wonder how many other people fall through the cracks on a daily basis, simply because they are better at being generalists. How many college grads became specialists that are no longer relevant in 2022? I shudder thinking about it... but, yeah, the sooner people realize that being a generalist is actually a good thing, the better.
It's a crime that your writing on Substack gets so few engagements, at least for the time being; I know what that's like, but I always made sales when someone gave me the chance to do SEO for them. Views don’t matter; it’s the connections that you make from your content that matters most!
Nowadays, I just write whatever I want. This coming year, I'm omitting to daily posts about whatever I want as long as it's something that could be useful to someone else. Sure, I write a lot of Pokemon articles these days, but they are a major driver of traffic to my site; they are not my niche, but rather me writing about my hobby. I only will write them as long as they bring me joy knowing people are looking for these types of articles and are enjoying them. As soon as they stop getting views, I’ll move on to something else that I feel will be useful to people.
This is why being a generalist is awesome; you never have to over-commit to something that’s sucking every positive aspect of your soul from you.
I'm thrilled to finally find a blog online that is actually engaging, that's not over-politicized, and that's clearly humanist in nature. This very comment is becoming an essay, so I will close briefly with just a thank you so much for writing these things, and you can expect to read many more essay length comments from me! - Amelia
P.S. I am ordering Unsettling of America right now from Abebooks!