Exams were over.
I’d graduated with a first class degree in Nothing Really and I’d a cushy job offer at a tech firm in London.
It was all Yellow. At least, it was on the radio at my temp job: I was matching, batching and coding invoices at Virgin Media HQ, where Coldplay held sway.
Returning from micronapping off a weeknight hangover (reckless!) in the loo, I’d have to pretend to my line manager that I was keen on working my way up the accounts payable ladder.
Except I wasn’t. I liked the job; it was fun. Coldplay played. There was banter.
But did I want to do that when I grew up?
I wanted to have a cushy tech job riffing C++ in London Town.
Except, I didn’t. So I went to France. I wanted to manage a ski resort.
Except, I didn’t. So I went to New Zealand. I wanted to…
be a software tester
an office girl for a winery
a lab technician
a features writer
a fitness teacher
Except, I didn’t. Even when I did five of those things at once (and I did, and I was pooped.)
I went to Spain with my baby daughter and husband, who worked long shifts making wine. Suddenly, surrounded by people whose language I didn’t understand, I was stripped of all my ‘I ams.’
I was alone, and the only ‘I am’ I had during long days was ‘mum’ to my daughter. And she was too little to chat.
I felt like the bottom had fallen out of the earth. I was in grief.
You see, I kept on trying to define myself by what I did.
And if you’re multipassionate, like me, that’s exhausting. Not just to you, but to those around you who just think you’re flaky and shallow.
My daughter is eight now. And it’s taken me all these years to work out something that seemed obvious when I was that age.
When I was eight, I wanted to be a potter-artist-writer-actress-mermaid.
Why? Because it would be fun. Those were all the things I liked to do.
Because you get to go underwater and see things like the bottom of boats from funny angles. Because you get to play with squishy things that feel nice. Because you get to make up stories and make beautiful things from colours. Because sometimes you create things you weren’t expecting. Because you get to make something look like another thing and it’s strange and people laugh.
Do you get where I’m going with this?
Multipassionate minestrone souls like me freak out when we have to put ourselves into convenient little pigeonholes and define ourselves with whats.
But you know what? Those people who are drawn to you, who are out there, just over the horizon, waiting to fall in love with your work?
They don’t fall in love with your job title.
They fall in love with how you do things. They fall in love with the unique, brilliant, kooky, refreshing, polarised lens through which you offer them a shared glimpse of the world.
If I’d asked my inner potter-artist-writer-actress-mermaid how her life should feel when she grew up, she might have said this:
‘I don’t understand the question.’
Because exploration, play, whole-sense interaction, invention, unexpectedness, fun—all of these things came naturally. She wouldn’t have thought to define them.
Which is why it’s so important to do so now.
If you’re multipassionate and you’re scared of fizzling out, losing interest, getting distracted and straying off-course, try this:
Go and make the most beautiful cup of tea you possibly can today.
Linger over the pot. Obsess over the boiling kettle. Sniff the tealeaves, the lemon balm, mint or Tetley teabag. Finger the cup handle. Pour all of yourself into this task.
Notice how you do it. Notice what makes you feel alive. Notice, if you were to make this cup of tea for someone dear, how you’d want them to feel.
And, while you’re savouring it, write down a few of those observations for us.
How you do one thing? It’s how you do everything.
Put all of your passion into all that you do, and life starts feeling like a series of glorious, forgiving experiments, agile and sparkling and easy.
That’s got to be better than a life and business held back by fear of getting it wrong.