A co-worker and I were chatting near the water cooler about what we’d done over the weekend.
Me: Then I looked out my apartment window and saw a kestrel perched on a building across the courtyard. Did you know these birds can hover over their prey in mid-air? (Visual: me making strange motions, using my arms as wings.) Amazing!
Co-worker: Cool. How did you know it was a…what kind of bird?
Me: A kestrel. I’ve been learning a lot about birds. I bought a bird field guide and I’ve signed up to volunteer at a wild bird refuge. So many fascinating species. Have you ever heard of a bower bird?
I was about to launch into a description of how a male bower bird attracts females by decorating his patch of land with objet d’art when my co-worker raised a hand.
Co-worker: Now it’s birds? Weren’t you just telling me about some constellations?
Me: Well, yes. There’s a night sky festival in September. But I’m not sure what that has to do with birds.
Co-worker: Exactly. And a while ago you were interested in painting?
Me, suddenly seeing where this conversation was headed: Painting is fun, but well…I’d still like to take a class someday.
Co-worker: And before that you were into…oh, what was it? Find something and stick with it. You know what they say: jack of all trades; master of none.
I slinked away from the conversation feeling like a huge flake. Here I thought I was being a “well-rounded person.” If something catches my attention, I dive into it and see how deep the core of my attention goes. Sometimes I find that I don’t enjoy an activity as much as I thought I would. And sometimes I do enjoy it, but the expense and/or difficulty in pursuing it pushes it beyond feasibility. (Tennis in NYC!) Besides, it seems like a good idea for a writer to have a wide variety of experiences and interests.
Or maybe these are excuses. Maybe this is just a way to avoid the commitment and dedication required to devote myself to one thing. Even this blog is representative of that—me flitting from idea to idea without a specific niche, which all the gurus tell you is a big no-no.
Speaking of gurus, it’s hard to open a web page or a magazine without being told to Follow Your Passion, a phrase my grandparents wouldn’t have uttered. I think that it’s important to do things that make you feel alive, things that captivate you. But how do you know what those things are unless you try different options? I guess some people are lucky: they know from a very early age that the horn or surfing or drawing is it for them. And some people seem to have no hobbies or interests, which, in my opinion, is the much scarier option. For the rest of us, I think all we can do is stoke our curiosity.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ~Joseph Campbell
What do you think? Is it better to stick with one or two interests? Or taste different interests like desserts?
Have a great weekend, everyone!