How to Start Embracing Your Multitudes

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in Creativity,Happiness,Personal Growth

“I can’t keep up,” she said, her face wearing the blank look that comes when confusion takes up residence.

What’s there to keep up with? I wondered. I had merely told her about a few of the projects I was working on.

Like launching my guide on how to change your livelihood.

Like submitting my latest children’s story to a literary agency for consideration.

Like securing renters for my current home so I could move on to other real estate investments.

Like putting the finishing touches on a consulting project around stakeholder engagement for a local college.

Like writing a series of white papers for a nonprofit.

Like working with a few, select clients to help them tackle specific goals.

“Wouldn’t it be better to find a job? One job?” she ventured.

I could feel the exasperation well-up inside of me. What was so hard to understand about the way I built my life?? How I used my talents and interests to create a life that I liked?

“Not necessarily, Mom.” I took a deep breath. “I like having a multitude of things in play. Jobs are good. Projects are good. I like the variety if I can get it.”

Again, the look.

I’m sure she was wondering how I could possibly be her daughter. I’m pretty certain she still cannot quite understand why or how I have been a lawyer, a realtor, an economic development professional, and a college administrator – with all the variations those roles held.

On the other hand, I cannot imagine how she has worked in the same place for years doing virtually the same thing day in and day out. I admire her for it, but I can’t see myself in that place.

It is not me.

I should have known that I was a bit different the day my fifth grade teacher handed us the results of our occupational preferences test. The test was designed to help us understand what kind of job we might like when we grew up. The results suggested the best jobs for me were as a forest ranger or as a long-haul truck driver.

Curiously, at that time in my young life, both jobs seemed entirely appealing even though I hadn’t spent much time in the woods nor had I ever set foot in a big-rig.

The jobs seemed worth exploring … well, because they sounded like something I might like to try.

Granted, I haven’t become a forest ranger or a long haul truck driver but the game isn’t over yet. And, that’s the point.

When you embrace that you like a lot of different things – and have a multitude of interests – you get to place of knowing. Knowing who you really are. Knowing that you are OK just the way you are. Knowing that you may not be able to do everything all at once but that you just might get to do some of it.

If you try.

Which is a much better place to be in than if you hadn’t tried at all.

But the “trying” seems to be the sticking point for many of us. We yearn to embrace our multitudes. But how is that done, really?

The first step is one that seems obvious, but is perhaps the hardest for many of us, and that is to identify what it is that we like. The kind of work we’d like to do. The kind of life we’d like to live. The kind of money we’d like to earn. The kind of hobbies we’d like to have.

What do you like? Do you really know?

To some extent, we are programmed not to give voice to all the things we might like to do or try. We are urged to find our “one” passion. We are told that being interested in many things means we are flighty or irresponsible so we beat down our “likes” until they all but disappear and we wouldn’t recognize one if it tapped us on the shoulder.

Thankfully, if you don’t really know or have forgotten what it is that you like, finding the answer is simple:  start noticing and start writing. Keep a notebook with you at all times. In the car. Next to your bed. In the bathroom. In your purse. Capture all of your likes – however fleeting.

Talking with someone in line at the grocery store and your interest is sparked when they mention raising chickens? Write it down.

Reading a magazine and see a picture of a refurbished Airstream trailer that makes your heart skip a beat? Write it down.

Surfing through classifieds where you spot a job moderating an online community that seems oh-so-fascinating even though you have no idea what the job actually is? Write it down.

Write it down. Make notes. Make lists. Make drawings. Do whatever it takes to get it down on paper.

This is exactly the method I used after I quit practicing law and had no idea what I really liked anymore. I  had been so focused on getting through college, then law school, then the bar exam, then finding my first job, and then trying to be a good lawyer, that I completely lost track of my likes.

Sometimes what you are writing down won’t even seem to make much sense but after a while, if you do it long enough, clarity emerges.

You start to see themes.

You find your multitudes.

And, that’s a good, good start.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronna June 27, 2011 at

I love this, Andrea! Pure and unadulterated permission to pursue whatever we want – and as many things as we want. Going against the tide of culture that tells us to settle down and stop dreaming. And yes, abiding our mothers’ confused stares.

You ARE doing this – a multitude of things – and inviting me and others right into your lair; into a world of expanse and possibility and life.

Well done. And thank you.

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Andrea June 27, 2011 at

Thank you, my friend! Dreaming and doing … I know you know what I’m talking about.

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Rita June 27, 2011 at

A timely post for me. I have been feeling as if I can’t really admit that a part of me is quite happy about my position being reduced for next year. I’m not sure how I’m going to make the money part work, but the idea of an extra day a week to pursue something else–well, it makes me a little giddy. Not sure what I’ll do with that time. But I feel a bit like I did in high school, as if all things are possible. Only without the paralyzing fear that left me unable to fully explore or dabble or experiment.

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Andrea June 27, 2011 at

Isn’t that the best feeling? Sensing that all things are possible and that we get to choose what it is we would like to explore? I know you are facing uncertain times but I am certain those times bring a gift for you. Thanks, Rita.

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Tess Giles Marshall June 27, 2011 at

Yes! Cheering you on every step of the way. Some great practical advice here. And I notice from skipping to another of your posts that you have already found Barbara Sher’s book Refuse to Choose which I was on the verge of recommending to you. Isn’t if GRAND to be a scanner?? I can’t imagine living any other way. The sense of homecoming for me when I read that book was immense.

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Andrea June 27, 2011 at

Many thanks, Tess! I so appreciate your comments. I had the same reaction reading Barbara’s book. Relief and possibility all mixed into one.

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Garrett June 28, 2011 at

What a gorgeous post, Andrea, and what a rich life you lead being open to and present to and active to so many enterprises and possibilities. Hardly flighty – your examples and what you regularly report show otherwise. Humbling, instructive, and inspirational. You go!

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Andrea Olson June 28, 2011 at

Garrett – What lovely words! You have absolutely made my day. Thank you, as always.

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Garrett June 28, 2011 at

PS And thank you!!!!!!

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Sandra June 30, 2011 at

Whoot! A companion in what I like to term, “Real Living.” How about “dancing the Happy Dance?” ….or even confusing the hell out of mom, the hubby and the children all at once and while gaining crystal clarity. I am embracing the multitudes and multifaceted versions of me! Isn’t it fun?

@Ronna this is really what I term as “up-unsettling” and opposed to settling down. Happy to enter Andrea’s lair any time!

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Andrea Olson July 1, 2011 at

Yes, indeed! We are definitely on the road to real living. Thanks, Sandra!!

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AnnMaria July 1, 2011 at

Sometimes our multitude of things has the same basic core. I have been an engineer, professor, statistical consultant, partner and co-founder of my own company. I’ve worked everywhere from American Indian reservations in North Dakota to Los Angeles. All of those jobs involved programming, research and statistics. All of those involved writing, teaching and discovery. All provided me a chance to work on a variety of projects with a great deal of autonomy. Even though I’ve changed titles and zip codes at a rapid pace, compared to most of my friends, essentially, I’m doing what really interests me, and that hasn’t changed too much.

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Andrea Olson July 1, 2011 at

Thank you for sharing a bit of your story, AnnMaria. I love that you can see the common threads in all that you have done. You are so dialed in to your multitudes!

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