During one of my calls with my life coach, after countless hours of working together and bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t find one specific thing I wanted to do, she said something that struck me…
“You’re multi-passionate,” she said, matter-of-factly.
Multi-passionate? At first, it just sounded like some life coach BS that was a nicer way of saying I was an overachiever. My entire life I had been called an overachiever, and I now have the late-onset anxiety to prove it. After years of recognizing my tendency to push myself too hard and keep myself incredibly busy, hearing my personality reframed as “multi-passionate” took me aback.
I chewed on that word some more. I let it settle into my mind and soul. Was I just a multi-passionate person? I’ve always hated pigeonholing myself and loved learning new and different things. Even though my schedule was always full, I wouldn’t say that I kept busy out of guilt, but because I enjoyed doing things and being busy. I would even go so far as to say that the times I felt most myself were the times when I was my busiest.
In elementary and middle school, when I was most confident, I participated in every club, every play, and every sport. In college, when I was growing into my personality and discovering myself, I had two majors and a minor and held down several jobs. In my post-college life, when I was exploring my sexuality, I had several committed partners and multiple side jobs along with my 9-to-5. I thrive in busyness and variety.
And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that having multiple projects at once lends itself well to my small-bursts-of-energy workstyle. Bored of one project? No big deal! Onto the next one for a bit. When you’re an overachiever who feels guilty not being productive, having multiple projects works great. Productive procrastination, anyone?
The fall semester of my junior year is the busiest that I ever remember being. It was also the time in my life where I felt most myself and grew the most. I woke up and left my apartment before the sun came up, often dressed for the Zumba class I was teaching 12 hours later because I knew I wouldn’t have time to come back and change. I was overloading on classes and was working four jobs. But I didn’t consider any of those things to be a chore or a burden. I didn’t do them because I had to, but because I wanted to.
As a Zumba instructor, I got to dance and get some exercise all while getting paid. Working in orientation, I learned how to lead and create programs for college campuses. When I worked in the bookstore and package pickup, well, those jobs were just for fun! It was like a break from schoolwork where I got to interact with other students and staff. For a multi-passionate extrovert who hates her addiction to being productive, that’s about as good as it gets.
When I went abroad in the spring of my junior year, one of the other students in my program said that she and her friend called me “the absolutely girl,” because whenever they came to package pickup to get a package, I’d say, “absolutely!” and saunter off to get their packages. That’s how annoyingly chipper I was to be at work.
The one passion that I’ve always had throughout all of my life experiences is people. I love to interact with people or encourage people or make people laugh. My reason for doing almost anything in my life is to affect people, and I knew that no matter what I did, I needed to be making a difference in people’s lives.
So when I started working in logistics after I graduated from college, I knew that it wouldn’t be forever. I didn’t feel like I was affecting change sitting behind my desk routing trucks. It was made even worse by the fact that all of my teammates were so passionate about their work. I was so jealous. I wanted that, too!
I searched for a job for 5 long years. I was desperate to find something that would feel more fulfilling, but nothing ever seemed right. I have always loved writing, so I knew that I wanted my future career to incorporate that skillset. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around having a 9-to-5 content editing job where all I did was write.
I waffled between feeling like I would never find what I wanted and applying to anything I was remotely qualified for and feeling so hopeless that I just wanted to stay at my same comfortable job.
Once COVID hit and we started working from home, I gained momentum. I got my coaching certification and I started changing my approach to the job search. Instead of looking at job titles and skill sets, I focused on missions and cultures. Was the company affecting the same changes I wanted to make in the world? Were they also multi-passionate people? This search turned out to be much more fruitful. My priority was no longer one specific role that I might enjoy, but working with startups and small businesses who might need more of a generalist to jump into several different roles. I switched from my logistics job to a creative job with a small startup where I could try a lot of new things. I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that learning new and different tasks was the best part of my weeks.
Being multi-passionate in a world that tries to pigeonhole you into one thing (and even asks what you want to be when you grow up when you’re like five) is challenging. I recently found this TED talk by Emilie Wapnick (and afterwards immediately bought her book) about the value of being what she calls a “Multipotentialite” and preferring to do several different things as opposed to having “one true calling.” She talks a bit about the culture that forces us to choose only one passion and asks us to decide our career path, once again, when we’re five. If anything I’ve said here resonates with you (or even if it doesn’t), I highly recommend checking out the 12-minute talk.
Now, as I’m faced with a full-time job hunt, I’m prioritizing variety right off the bat. I’ve gone into every interview saying that “the one thing I fear most is doing the same thing for 8 hours a day.” I love having the opportunity to be creative, but even then, I need to be doing different things.
Hell, I texted my best friend the other week and said, “All I want is responsibility and to do 40 different tasks a day…damn, that’s business ownership, isn’t it?” But alas, with a complete lack of ideas for a product or service, I will be helping others with their business ownership for now, and that’s alright, too. As long as my days are full of new and exciting tasks, I’m happy.