Recently, over brunch with my old friend from high school, Caitlyn, I found myself blathering on about my love for the show The X-Files. It had been a favorite of mine as a teen when it first aired, and I’d just started re-watching it, obsessively, during a week-long “stay-cation”. I had other plans for my time off: writing the next great American memoir, finally breaking a ten minute mile on my morning run. I wrote nothing, and am still chugging along at a twelve minute pace, but I am most certainly the world’s best expert on the first three seasons of a 90’s television show about the existence of space aliens.
Just as I was wrapping up my monologue to Caitlyn about the show’s FBI agent protagonists, Mulder and Scully, and their will-they won’t-they love affair, the “defining romantic relationship of our time,” as I put it, she cocked her head to the side, and announced, “It’s always been this way. When you love something, you really love it—for a while at least.”
We both laughed. It was true. I have been blowing hot and cold on interests, hobbies, and passions my whole life. I’m incapable of casually liking or participating in anything. If I like a food, it is the only thing I will eat for weeks, until I eventually burn out and move on to the next treasured dish. In the month of August, I estimate I ate at least thirty peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (always with raspberry preserves and on seven grain wheat bread). I have since moved on to Tuna Melts (cheddar, not American, on rye). If it weren’t for a daily multi-vitamin, I would be deeply concerned for my health.
My amusement at Caitlyn’s observation turned to a nagging nugget of self-doubt. One hobby I doubt I’ll ever go cold on is my evening ritual re-play of past moments of embarrassment. Lying in bed, desperately trying to nod off to the land of dreams, I attempt to put into practice my therapist’s instruction to just “let the thoughts float away, like a balloon.” Then, I become sidetracked, remembering the time my mother bought me a bright pink balloon at the fair and I let it go, bursting into tears at the loss. Her look of contempt, the pain where she twisted my arm and hissed at me not to make a scene, the looks of pity the other mothers shot my way. My face flushes hot again, as if I am right there, five years old, crying over a balloon, crying twenty-six years later when I should be getting some sleep so I can wake up refreshed and finally make that ten minute mile.
The night after our brunch, I found my insomnia brain stuck on an offhand comment the ringleader of the pretentious group of artists I had worshipped during college had made, introducing me to his favorite writing professor. “This is Joanna, who knows what she’s studying, she’s a bit of a dilettante.” I had to look dilettante up in the dictionary, and I was mortified when I discovered I had been described as a dabbler, someone with superficial interests and a lack of commitment to any of them. When it came to my academic career, I have to concede his point; I floated around from major to major, completing almost four years’ worth of credits before walking away empty-handed without a degree.
This Rosh Hashanah, I will make the one visit I will make all year to Synagogue, despite my annual fervent declarations of newfound devotion to my Jewish roots. As I sit pretending to understand the Hebrew (I dropped out of Sunday school two weeks in, and never made my Bat Mitzvah), I’ll mull over my new year’s resolutions. This year, I’m going to take a stand. Instead of resolving to write my book, run a marathon, and become a pious Jew, I’m resolving not to resolve. To embrace my passions regardless of their life-spans. While my interest holds, there has never been a sandwich as delicious as a tuna melt, never an endorphin high as good as the one from that morning’s run, never a word more beautifully written than the one I have just laid down. And there has most definitely, without a doubt, never been a love story told as great as the one between Mulder and Scully.