I have always cherished multiple passions. As a young person, this was a benefit. I could participate in varying degrees of enthusiasm in literature class, Spanish, science, history, and band. I could stretch to math. I spent the entirety of my public schooling basking in the variety and ever-shifting world of education and activities that meant I could simultaneously pursue my multiple passions and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the world.
It turns out this doesn’t always segue neatly into the ‘real world.’
I think this is a frequent problem with passionate over-achievers, particularly amongst the Millennial generation. It’s not exactly a lack of discipline. Nor is it a resistance to structure. It’s a deep and abiding love of that constant variety and the ability to be serially impassioned and engaged. This doesn’t translate well into a world that requires you to introduce yourself in the singular: “I am a ________.”
My business cards state that I’m a writer and content creator. This is accurate. This is the job description that most accurately fits what I’ve enjoyed most in my student and professional career: the pursuit of understanding and construction of narrative—helping the people around me tell their stories and create a message that the world can hear and appreciate.
What it doesn’t really cover is the range of interests this applies to. And maybe that’s no one’s business but my own. But I’ve shaped a portfolio that reads as a little here-there-and-everywhere among more streamlined colleagues and competitors. I have a hard time positioning myself with a single website or twitter feed. Who out there cares about the same jumble of things that inspire such a deep and inspired response within me? If I ‘shout’ about all these seemingly-disconnected things, will anyone even be able to understand?
I know I’m not alone in this. I know that one of the major challenges for my contemporaries is that of narrowing options, not finding opportunities in the first place. To say “I am a ____” is to admit you’ve (at least temporarily) given up on all the other potential endings to that sentence. And while no one expects someone to care only about one topic or industry, it’s a little much to ask the people around you (or on your social media followers list) to engage with you on the long list of your interests.
What ties it together for me is the passion for narrative and for understanding, for hearing the truths that people tell of themselves. As a business person building a client base, that means hearing and finding equal joy in the goals and vision of a just-starting-out chiropractor, an about-to-be-Grammy-nominated pop band, and a fellow citizen returning from a long prison stay. It means that I can pursue the stories, and can communicate them when sometimes people’s own ways of articulating their goals fall short.
And so maybe this diversity of interests makes sense. Maybe our lists don’t have to overlap to share value.