I want to be a psychoanalyst. I want to be a journalist. I want to be a researcher. I want to work with refugees. I want to be a traveller.
We only ever allow ourselves to choose one thing, don’t we? And, as I have been so far unable to do this, I have been labelled and boxed into the unequivocally, “lost,” “unsure,” and “finding herself” categories.
These stamps, understandably, have caused me great anxiety on a deeply personal level.
On a daily basis, I find myself asking: Is there something wrong with me? Why can’t I pick one thing and stick at it? Am I afraid of commitment? Am I not really very good at anything? And without this one true calling, this goal, what really is my purpose?
The problem with these questions is that they suggest that we all have one destiny, our one true calling; do one great thing and focus on achieving this, no matter what we would prefer to be doing.
However, Emilie Wapnick has questioned this line of thinking: “Ask yourself where you learnt to assign the meaning of wrong or abnormal to doing many things – I’ll tell you, you learnt it from the culture.”
If like me you have many different interests, desires, ambitions, Emilie has not called you lost or unsure, she refers to you as a “Multi- potentialite.”
In my family, there is a real tendency towards pigeon-holing, labelling each other and placing each other in boxes. Take for example, my brother Jack, “Jack’s the real money-earner, Jack’s the successful one, Jack’s the marketing expert.”
Yes, he is all of these things. But this ignores all the other things I know about my Brother – like that he has a real passion for drum n’ base, that he’s funny, the life and soul of the party and yet although he might not like to admit it, is kind and thoughtful to the point of sending me gifts from Australia during some really tough days. That he once had a teddy mouse called Super mouse, and that when he was 8 years old, his hamster named Ryan Giggs had the biggest funeral a furry animal has ever seen in our back garden. And that he really likes Ethiopian food.
You see, Emilie’s “multi-potentialite” reference shouldn’t just apply to the career we align ourselves with but also with our whole self, our whole being. Jack is not wholly one thing. He’s dynamic, multi-layered with completely apparent opposite interests and passions. He has so many sides to him, and I can see that he is constantly gaining new sides as he travels along through life.
The problem with working towards just one true calling is that it suggests humans are static, unchanging, steady beings. But I know this to be untrue. Just look at the fluidity of each of us – the way our minds shift, the different paths we choose to take, our altering dreams and ambitions.
The most troubling aspect of assigning a human with one true calling is that you deny all that they can be. Unlike Emilie, I don’t believe there are just a select few of us that are multi-potentialites, I believe that each and everyone of us are multi-potentialite’s and we are capable of so much more than the boxes we are placed in.
We need to stop labelling each other, it’s neither healthy nor accurate.
Instead, let’s start inspiring each other to be all that we can be by asking not what our one true calling in life is, but what kind of things we want to do and be within our one life?