“Follow your bliss.” ~ Joseph Campbell
The other day my sister-in-law introduced me as “one of those self-taught people who like to research and learn how to do new things.”
It’s true. I crave learning and growing creatively—I attend photography workshops, art and yoga retreats, cooking classes and long distance races every year. Currently, I am learning how to challenge myself to make my private passions public by submitting my creative work to contests, exhibits, and online apprenticeships.
Conventional wisdom tells us to find our one true passion, our niche, and our bliss. We are told we should eliminate all other interests but one. I have always felt at odds with this advice because my authentic voice is curious. I do not have just one passion and I cannot imagine not devoting time each week to photography, writing, painting, fabric/needle work, yoga, running and cooking. When I don’t, I become restless.
I am not someone who wrote my first story or received my first camera when I was eight and knew immediately that I wanted to be a writer or photographer. Rather, both of these passions grew out of my life’s love of trying new and different things and my belief that there is always something new to learn.
When I was young, my parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. All of the potential possibilities were exciting to me, but how could I choose just one when I didn’t even know what all the possibilities were yet?
In an increasingly specialized world, I have doubted my curiosity, my creative voice and my adventurous spirit. I have wondered whether I am the only one who feels scattered and unfocused, ashamed that I can’t seem to choose just one passion. I feel like a fraud when I call myself an artist or even a photographer, since I do not devote myself to it as a full time paying job. I am a person without a title to describe myself upon meeting new people. But I have to ask myself, is that title for them or for me? How do I describe what I do in one sentence? What should I say? Where do I start? And even more important, where do I stop?
Everyone else seems to have it all figured out. They are passionate about their one passion. They have one plan and always have. I envy those people. I have no idea how to explain what I do most with my time because it varies, sometimes from day to day.
As a former marketing professional, I understand the importance of finding your niche in order to fill a specific need and distinguish your brand in a competitive world. But I’m not personally wired that way and I begin to wonder if maybe there is something wrong with me…do I have adult ADD?
After a little research I discover that there really is such a thing as a multipassionate person. According to Ronald H. Fredrickson, a multipotenial person is “able to adapt themselves and develop the necessary specific skills to perform well in a variety of occupations.” Their interest span multiple areas and they don’t want to settle in one field for good.
If you thrive on variety as enthusiastically as I do, know you are not alone. Actually, we are in good company with extremely talented people like Leonardo di Vinci and Benjamin Franklin. This new information has increased my self-confidence!
With this newfound positive energy, I realized it is time to make a few changes in how I think about my passions and myself.
Remember passion is found in the process of actually doing something and getting lost in it. I have to choose to show up and work at my photography and art every day and not be afraid of failing. By exploring ways to overlap and mash-up different passions, I am open to seeing and allowing opportunities to present themselves. This process will allow me the freedom to learn, change direction and make my own choices. I like that freedom to chose.
Having a separate professional identity is best for me. Having a job that is in line with what I am passionate about allows me to better appreciate and value the time needed to develop my skills. I need to stop thinking my passions have to lead to a career, a full-time job or a means of earning money. I should not compromise what I love to do since I am doing it for me and it is an expression of who I am. This will also decrease my chances of burnout or killing my passion all together by putting a monetary value on it right now. Who knows that may change with time (see #1 above).
Overcoming negative self talk, as well as society’s expectations and labels will be necessary for me to stop fighting who I am and start recognizing my uniqueness. It is okay to be different and continuously evolving. Having multiple passions is not a bad thing. It is actually pretty awesome. There is only one me who loves the assortment of things that I love and can mix them all together with my story and my perspective. That’s what makes each of us unique, authentic, interesting and worthy of being heard.
Writing this and making these subtle mental attitude changes helped me identify and release some anxiety surrounding what I love to do and gave me a more focused view of my life’s passions. Ask someone close to you to describe what you do; you may be surprised with their clear perspective of you. I was and I have decided that I do not need a title after all.
I am a creative. It is that simple.
I passionately seek beauty all around me. I capture it with photography, reproduce it as art and share it, while encouraging others to do the same thing. I believe we should all be passionate about what moves us. Then grow those passions, all of them.
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~ Ronald Dahl
Author: Tammy Novak
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Author’s own