“You are all possibilities you can see,” says David Whyte in his poem Mameen.
My problem has never been the lack of possibilities. I have always seen so many possibilities, and they all look interesting, intriguing, inviting. I want them all! I’ve always had trouble choosing because to choose one means to un-choose another.
My first semester at college, knowing I was in a program that just didn’t fit, I followed my mother’s advice and picked three areas I was interested in, made appointments with the deans, and went to learn more about possibilities. This was only after first going to the counseling center, taking an interest inventory survey, and being told my results gave little guidance. Across the board I was interested in everything, even mortician.
My first interview was with the music dean. I had grown up with music, loved all kinds of music from classical to rock, had taken violin lessons and piano, briefly. Sang in choirs and ensembles and musical productions. Music was a natural choice, and the dean made me feel I had found the answer. He was young, enthusiastic, welcoming, confident, leaned towards me, inviting me to become part of an exciting and fun experience. I almost cancelled my next appointment. But being one who follows rules, I dutifully went to see the journalism dean just to check off that box.
The journalism dean was far from enthusiastic. More like staid, calm, matter-of-fact. Tall, lanky, had been around the block. Approachable, but not what I’d call warm and fuzzy. Hardly a salesman for his program, he leaned back in his chair as I leaned more and more towards marching back across campus and joining the music team. But then he said one thing that sent the metronome crashing to the floor.
“We require our students to take a variety of courses because you never know what you’re going to cover.”
BINGO! Sign me up!
It was the perfect choice, the perfect fit. I did learn a little about a lot, and a lot about writing and editing and publications and photography – interests I already had but hadn’t put together as a career possibility. Why not? Good question. I don’t know. Focus can be a difficult thing when every new topic, place, adventure is a shiny bauble to examine.
In journalism I had my structure. It allowed me, even enabled me to feed my insatiable interest in just about everything.
Well, not mortician. I never did interview a mortician. A boot-legger, an 80-year-old glider pilot, the man who wrote “Home on the Range,” an MIT professor in artificial intelligence. Doctors, social workers, a Native American potter. But never a mortician.
I find I need some sort of structure even today. I am still plagued/blessed with an interest to do it all, learn it all, go anywhere where beautiful pictures can be taken. Curiosity, however, CAN kill the cat from exhaustion. Busyness can change all the good choices into mere to-do lists. Experiences can be lost with the lack of reflection time. Been there more than once.
I take on project after project after project. Some get finished, some don’t. My son once called me the Queen of Unfinished Projects. I’ve gotten better. Now I’m only a Princess. Some might look at my unfinished projects and see unfinished projects. Some might say lack of commitment, flighty, lack of follow-through, easily distracted, easily bored, attention deficit disorder. My internal judge throws those words at me sometimes. But I’ve learned there are many ways to tell a story, many different perspectives. Yes, some might see unfinished projects, but others might see adventure, trial and error, an insatiable interest in trying new things. I prefer that slant on my approach to life.
I am a hands-on learner. I don’t fully understand anything unless I get my hands dirty. I don’t know how deep an interest might become unless I jump in with my whole body. I’ve tried many things only to learn they’re: a) not a good fit, b) not what I thought, c) I’m not prepared, or d) I’ve learned as much as I need to know to write a good story. I’ve learned something I wouldn’t have known unless I had the experience. It’s always been that way. It’s who I am.
It’s the learning and the experiences I crave. So, I end up with a kiln I need to get rid of, canvases spilling out of closets, a giant tub of beads, collections of rocks and shells and gnomes, and books and books and books and books and not enough bookshelves because, well, my collections have to go somewhere. (I forgot to mention pottery. I love pottery of all kinds.)
A couple of asides:
- My will includes a letter of apology to my children who will have to clean up my mess when I’m gone. I’m sorry. I just don’t have time. There are too many things left to learn and experience, and only so much daylight in a day. “You are all possibilities you can see,” and my eyesight is still pretty darn good.
- I disagree with this whole simplicity movement. Messes are part of creativity. When I’m gone, take my stuff, make a big bonfire, toast marshmallows, and make s’mores! Laugh and say she gave it her all. (But you might want to keep the pottery and the wall quilts.)
It is experiences and adventures and learning I crave. “We require our students to take a variety of courses because you never know what you’re going to have to cover.”
Sign me up! Still today, sign me up!