There are times in my life where I have heavily criticized myself for not being able to clearly envision my next step. With consistent self-talk not to compare my journey to any others, the pressure to conform to one-journey still keeps me up some nights. While the source is societal, or not, I’ve always felt the need to choose one path for my career, academics, or life.
As someone who identifies in formal and informal settings as a multi-interested person, the idea of a five-year plan for my life mirrors that scene from Men in Black III when Griffin envisions a multitude of outcomes that are dependent on Agent J’s next step. Now, I’ll save you the time of more obscure movie references to let you know that I have not developed a panacea for those who face the same plight as myself. All I’ve worked to do over the past few months is shift how I approach my multi-interested nature.
Last year, I made the decision to go to graduate school full-time and to work part-time. Over the past months, I have had to manage the load of masters-level courses and expectations of my employer. In terms of my multi-interested nature, I was living the dream. I was able to pursue two of my interests and progress in them simultaneously. One would add value to the other, yet I was also tugging at pursuing another interest that would link my graduate focus (risk) to my undergraduate focus (political science). When that inkling rose, I felt that I was being ungrateful towards my current situation. I wanted to be content.
So, what did I do? I really challenged myself to map out a traditional 10-year plan without sacrificing my interests. Long story short, it exceeded 10 years, it was confusing, and it involved me graduating around the same time I want to retire (60). While it didn’t help frame things in a realistic manner, it did comfort me. Seeing it on paper allowed me to see how some of my timelines intersected and it finally clicked that there are other variables at play (i.e. God’s will for my life, personal finances, job market, family, etc.). I can’t predict the future, just like I would not have predicted my current situation.
By being multi-interested, there are a number of paths that I can see bringing fulfillment and a sense of purpose to my life. Rather than assigning ungratefulness, I now chose to appreciate the season, write down that idea or inkling, and work toward contentment. If an opportunity arises and it intersects a multitude of interests, I’ll find the reasons why to do it rather than why not. An oddly traditional process, assisted in shifting my perspective on my multi-interested nature shifted from a burden to a blessing.
My advice here today to another multi-interested person is rooted in the classic Wayne Dyer quote, “change the way you see a thing and the thing you see will change.” No, I’m not sure what my five-year plan is, however, I know that I’ll learn something along the way.