Liberated By a Label
Originally written July 2016
How is it exactly that the question"what do you want to be when you grow up?" can morph from the thing that sparks your imagination to the thing that keeps you up at night?
The secret to happiness? FIND YOUR PURPOSE! Know your passion your purpose. Follow it, dream it, live it, be it.
Every day we are inundated with constant messages of self improvement on a quest for happiness. Tips for how to be our best selves and how to live our most authentic lives flood our social media feeds. We are told that we're special, that we have a unique passion, a special interest, a skill, a talent, a gift. Were told that happiness comes from learning to live in the space where all those points intersect.
This message has even reached our education system. Teachers are pushed to find the "genius" that exists in their students and to ignite that fire, to set free the one true reason for being.
This is all fantastic. Unless you are like me.
What if you can't seem to pick a life calling, a passion or the ONE TRUE THING that will set you free? Or if you can, but you seem to think you can't? What if you aren't sure? What if when you begin to think of all the things that set your mind, your heart and your soul on fire you end up with a list of 30+ seemingly semi related, some related and many unrelated items? What if you can't choose that 1 true thing? And even more importantly, what if you actually don't want to?
A while ago I was sitting in an educational "motivational" speaking session about how each and everyone has within us that "one special skill that will bring us joy and happiness" and it is our duty to help ourselves and our students hone in on that so that we can have an authentic life filled with intrigue, excitement, integrity and happiness. Well, ensue inner melt down. This wasn't even teacher guilt that was washing over me, but instead was a sense of complete and utter self failure that I was drowning in. Imagine a full blown level 10 anxiety ridden, panic attack symptom inducing internal "what the hell is wrong with me?!?" Feedback Loop From Hell session.
How could I even begin to help my students if I didn't know what I wanted to "do" with my life? Sure, I have hobbies, interests and things that set my brain and heart on fire but they were ALWAYS changing. Like, I'm talking changing every 2 years, 2 months, or hell even sometimes every two minutes (bless my friends and family who constantly put with my rapidly cycling conversation topics). How is it possibly that I was 34 years old and had no idea who I wanted to be when I grew up when conventional wisdom told me that I was considered "grown?"
In my life I have wanted to be/dive into: graphic arts, animation, forensics, primary school education, photography (first macro then portraits, then weddings, then food, then commercial and now travel), holistic nutrition, abnormal psychology, café ownership, naturopathy, advertising / marketing, copy writing, videography, food blogging, antique store ownership, special education, travel writing, podcasting and baking to name a few.
Why the hell was it that everyone around me seemed to know who they were, what they wanted and here I was spinning my wheels, jumping from idea to idea to the next, never truly being able to settle into one? Was I really that jack of all trades, master of none tragedy? Did Isuffer from serious commitment issues? Or even worse, maybe I wasn't actually good at anything and that was the issue?
I went home. I felt like crap.
About a week later I had fallen head first into one of those digital wormholes where hours pass unnoticed as you surf the internet mindlessly when somehow I stumbled onto a TEDTalk by Emile Wapnick in which she asked, "What if some of us don't have one true calling?"
It was the creepiest experience of my life. It was like watching some unknown stranger explain my brain, my thoughts, my likes and dislikes, my strengths and perceived weaknesses.
I watched in silence. And really listened. Like really really listened like a proper grown up. No multi tasking, no browsing social media while it ran in the background. Just full on undivided attention. I listened. I reflected and I questioned. And then came the tears. So many tears. Not tears of sadness but of huge relief that there was a name for this. That being a Multipotentialite was actually a good thing, to be celebrated. The hours and days of self attack and chastising I had subjected myself to was pretty unnecessary. For you see, the problem isn't that we don’t have any real interests or skills, its that we have too many. And that its not actually a problem. Whether or not you are like me, or if you know someone like me this isdefinitely worth a watch:
I still fall down the rabbit hole at times. Usually when I am thinking about something I loved and used to bury myself in and have high goals for but haven’t been super excited or motivated about recently. I try to remind myself that my superpower and enjoyment lies in the process of acquiring a skill, a hobby, a passion and that it’s ok to dabble in new adventures and shelf an old one temporarily. I've recently been feeling a bit burnt out and uninspired by photography lately which is a hard pill to swallow when you've spent so many hours dedicated to learning the craft and drawing up business plans. So where has my brain headed instead? Towards writing, storytelling and podcasting, along with food science, baking and learning it seems, Many of these things I have a high interest for a while yet it is currently paired with zero skills and experience.
Update, July 2017:
I feel less overwhelmed with my spiderweb of interests, goals and ambitions. My goal now? To keep allowing myself the freedom to dabble in all of this and to just see where it goes. Often in the past I wouldn't go down a path of exploration and instead brushed it off as not being "on brand" with the rest of my work. Its interesting to see how sometimes we can rationalize ourselves out of experiences when who knows what they might bring. Now I try to just take on new things with my gut reaction of yes, no based on whether it's interesting and if it brings me joy. So far its lead to a lot of neat things, taking some new classes, meeting new people and recently buying a 1000 page book on food science.
I'm interested to hear if you find yourself identifying as a multipotentialite or are you one those who has had a direct line of vision to your purpose and calling since you were a child? From both sides of the fence I would love to hear from you about how its helped or hindered you, and what you've taken from it, so please drop some comments in the box below!