When we were kids, adults used to ask us the question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. Some kids will answer silly things like bubble master, a ninja, or a french fry. And then there are those kids who will acknowledge being a doctor, a teacher, or an astronaut. You might probably answered better claims, but the truth is no one really care about what you say at that age.
Good for me because I was the type of kid who’s never been able to answer that question. It’s not that I don’t have any interest whatsoever, but instead I had too many. Especially during my teenage years – I was in the cheerleading team, I love Asian history, I write poems, I support environmental tourism, I was speaking Spanish, I love watercolor painting, I read a lot about Marie Antoinette, and I was rather interested in 1950s culture and the Baroque period specifically.
So when I graduated highschool, I couldn’t think of a major that I should suppose to pick in college. Eventually, I ended up majoring in Cruise Line Operations in international tourism. But my college major didn’t even matter 2 years after my college graduation.
Nikola Tesla, for example, was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, theoretical and experimental physicist, mathematician, futurist, and humanitarian and can speak 8 languages fluently. Leonardo Da Vinci, for another example, has areas of interest included in drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, and many more. To add more people, there’s Aristotle, Hellen Keller, Benjamin Franklin, Jagdish Jandra Rose, and the list goes on.
Kids don’t hear much about these people. All they hear is the idea or destiny of the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth. And you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it. What I’m really trying to say here is that we tell kids, “you cannot be a ballerina and an English professor at the same time.”
You might feel alone, or you might feel like you don’t have a purpose, or something’s wrong with you. But what if you are someone who isn’t wired this way? What if there are many things you liked to do?
I came across a TED Talk titled Why some of us don’t have one true calling by Emilie Wapnick. Emilie talks about ‘multipotentialite‘, a term for a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. She talks about why multipotentialites have no “one true calling” the way specialists do. She refers to an individual whose interests span multiple fields or areas, rather than being strong in just one.
She also used other terms that usually connote the same idea, such as polymath and a Renaissance person. That actually during the Renaissance period it was considered the ideal to be well-versed in multiple disciplines.
Emilie’s take away is for you to embrace your inner wiring, whatever that may be. If you’re a ‘specialized’ at heart then by all means, specialize. Embrace your many passion, follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes, and explore your intersections.
Leonardo Che Ritrae la Gioconda (Leonardo Painting the Mona Lisa), by Cesare Maccari