Embracing My “Enthusiasm”

Here’s a piece of advice:  When faced with a large pile of laundry to fold, flip open your laptop, go to TED.com, and watch a few Ted talks.  Not only will you get your laundry folded, but you will be filled with inspiration, and admiration.

The other day, as I sat down on my bed to tackle a Mount Everest of laundry, I decided to listen to the Ted talk given by Monica Lewinsky.  Within minutes I was in tears. The shame she has experienced over the years, and the shaming she continues to be victim to, seem impossible to be endured.  But here she was, standing proud, talking openly about it, using it as a vehicle to advocate for a safer and more compassionate media. I was blown away by her story and her bravery. 

Whew! What a ride that was.  But still, so much laundry to fold…

Next up, I decided to watch a talk called “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” by Emilie Wapnick.  The title really spoke to me, and as I was watching it I had to stop folding, hit the pause button, and grab a pencil and paper to take some notes, because she was saying exactly what I needed to hear.

As you know, I have been on a mid-life mission to find my calling. For the past three years I’ve been doing web development/design, fabric design/silk-screening/pillow making, blogging, bookkeeping for a while, dabbling in other hobbies, and spending more time with my kids. And it’s been a happy journey. But I often worry that I’m too scattered. That I’ll blow it if I don’t choose just one thing, spending most of my time becoming an expert at that one thing.

I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up.Because If I don’t chose one thing to specialize in, won’t I just be mediocre at everything? Or will I be stuck on the slow boat to success-ville?  Is my inability to chose just one thing some sort of character flaw?  Shouldn’t I be able to answer the question “What do you do?” more succinctly?

A while ago I bought a book called “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” which is about determining and working with your personality type.  After taking the quiz at the beginning of the book, I discovered that I’m a Type Seven, or “The Enthusiast.”  A Seven is “The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Acquisitive, and Scattered.”  (Um, yep.) Described as ‘the quintessential Renaissance person” Sevens seem to have a lot of great qualities (curious, optimistic, adventurous,) but the book also says “On a very deep level, Sevens do not feel that they can find what they really want in life.  They therefore tend to try everything – and ultimately may even resort to anything as a substituent for what they are really looking for.” (Uh oh. Am I doing that?)

The Wisdom of the Enneagram - The Enthusiast

But since I’ve watched the TED talk “Why some of us don’t have one true calling,” I feel better.  I’m embracing my Sevenness.  Because let’s face it, I am an enthusiastic person.  It’s just who I am.

In her talk, Emilie Wapnick blames our culture for making people like me feel anxious about their seemingly scattered pursuits.  From a very young age, we are all asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as if there’s one great thing we’re meant to do. We need to choose a major. We need to chose a career.

But she argues that there’s nothing wrong with people like me who have many creative pursuits. In fact, she says that they have some really desirable qualities.  Like idea synthesis, which is combining fields to create something new – and that innovation comes from these intersections.  And rapid learning – which comes from being good at being beginners and not afraid of trying new things. And adaptability.  She claims that the ability to adapt easily to customers’ needs is especially important in the 21st century.  She says:

It’s never a wast of time to pursue something you’re drawn to even if you end up quitting.  You may apply that knowledge in another field in a way you couldn’t have anticipated.

And that makes me feel better.  Because it’s hard to change who you are.  Especially at my age. So I’m gong to take her advice:  “Embrace your inner wiring, whatever that may be, because it will lead to a happier more authentic life.”

The thing is, regardless if I’m a ‘Seven’, or an ‘Enthusiast’, or a ‘Renaissance gal’, I believe that my mixture of endeavors isn’t so much about being successful as it is about being sane.  I’ve been in the hi-tech industry my whole career, so it makes sense that I do web development. But sometimes dealing with a lot of code makes my brain hurt, so there’s nothing better to counterbalance all of that headiness than by working with my hands, and creating something tactile. That’s where the pillows come in. The blogging is like a cross between the two – I’m on the computer, using WordPress, but I get to be creative, while synthesizing thoughts and ideas with words. The bookkeeping I did for Todd’s business, well I hated that, so I quit, but I’m glad I exposed myself to it, and learned a lot about Quickbooks, accounting, and taxes. (Bleck.)

I think having a traditional salaried job is hard for a Seven like me. Especially as a parent. So being a freelancing web developer/pillow entrepreneur/blogger/mom/enthusiast is really what I need to be right now. I need to be a hybrid. It’s who I am, and I’m feeling pretty lucky that I get to be one.

If you ask my daughter Nadine what she’s going to be when she grows up, she’ll say, “an interior designer.”  My son Miles will answer, “a basketball player, a stand-up comedian, and I want to save endangered animals.” Both are great answers. Both suit their personalities. And both are completely feasible. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Whatever kind of person you are, here’s my advice for you, or, as my dad would say, “If I could make a suggestion…” If something excites you – like a job or a craft or a sport or a hobby – don’t ignore it. Make some time for it. Try it out. Even if you quit, you’ll still have gained something, discovered something new about yourself, and maybe even found a new passion.

And if you’re interested in taking the Enneagram test and find out your type, click here.

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