This word has been used recently, and it’s bugging the hell out of me. Mostly, it’s bothersome because it shows a distinct lack of observation on the part of the people using it – which is only vaguely understandable in some cases – but I think it bothers me more because it shows a tendency towards judgment, and you know how I feel about that.
Permit me to defend myself this once. I don’t do it often – it’s not normally my business what you think of me – but I’m getting the impression that if I don’t, further misconceptions will proliferate.
I am not directionless – I have many, many directions. I could no more sit down and only ever do one thing than Leonardo Da Vinci could – and if someone had made him focus on just one subject, what kind of world would we live in? He studied (and developed!) aeronautics, anatomy, mathematics, art… invented things and had ideas that have directly shaped our entire society. Can you imagine him in a modern-day college advisor’s office? “Hey, Leo, I get that you’re all into all this stuff, but you’ve gotta pick just one, man. Medicine? Physics? Math? Engineering? Painting and sculpture? You’re not going to graduate until you’re in your eighties!”
<sarcasm>Yeah, and he totally didn’t get anything done with all the “lack of singular direction”… </sarcasm>
I do a lot, it’s true. I get into a lot of things: natural medicine, energy healing, alternative attitudes, neurology, genetics, anthropology, physics, mathematics… I love to draw, ink, tattoo, sculpt, repurpose, write… I work with plastic, eggs, canvas, yarn, fabric, food, clay, latex, electrons and photons… I explore heartbreak and heartache and love and joy and sorrow and grief and forgiveness and silliness and horror and embarrassment and confidence… Sometimes when too many things catch my eye, or when the balancing act of life gets a little lopsided, projects go ignored for a while, but they’re never forgotten.
I did not go to college back in the day for a lot of different reasons, but I’m going now because my majors are perfect for the fact that I will not do only one thing for the rest of my life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Learning more about entrepreneurship and marketing is a great way to make sure that, no matter what my current obsession, it becomes an enriching experience instead of a drain. I still want to build costumes, and I have half a dozen ideas for new screenplays. I will put together my clever resort, and I will no doubt invent something else that’s kind of silly and utterly useful. I will write stories and I will draw on people indelibly and I will paint on weird things and I will take things apart and I will put them back together “wrong”…
And it strikes me that the people who mutter words like “directionless” are the ones that have spent so long stuck in a rut, buying into the idea that staying in one place is the only sign of virtue or strength, that there’s really a core of jealousy to their statement. Yes, you may have lived in the same house for twenty plus years, but how many stories can you tell around a campfire to entertain complete strangers who have no context of you or your life?
How many adventures have you yourself been on?
How many lives have you saved?
How many have you lost?
How many horrible mistakes have you made?
How many times have you saved the world?
How many scars will you bare and tell the tales of?
How deep is your well of sorrow?
How high is your sky of joy?
Mine are enormous, and they get wider every day.
But in the reverse, I do not snort at you in disdain at your “stable” life. Gods, I really wish sometimes that that could have been me, that I was not currently residing at Address #51. (I’m completely not kidding.) And then I come to my senses, not because I think that your lifestyle is terrible but because I recognize that it’s not for me. Stability has to mean something different to me in order to have value – and maybe it’s time for you to think about what creativity is, too, in your life.
“What about the children?” What about them? I’m not pretending I’ve ever been a perfect mom, but my love is true and genuine. I’ve done more, sacrificed more, with clear conscience than most “sentimentalists”. I’ve done what was right, even when it tore me apart. And everything I’ve done – from working jobs I hated to locking myself away for hours to maybe write a best-seller – was for my kids in some way. If I did write a best-seller, think about the time I could spend with them, being able to schedule time only once instead of stealing it away at the end of the day. And what kind of a horrible parent would I be to deny all that I am and pretend to like your version of “stable”, to avoid the creative so that the dishes could get done faster, to pretend at a type of saccharine sentimentality I don’t have? Answer: A bloody terrible one. Because it started to happen.
I will not have a traditional career not because I’m not smart enough or not focused enough but because I don’t really want one. I do not like saying I am an artist or I am a writer or I am a salesperson. I am none of those things, those are just things that I do with what I am.
I am creative, passionate, loving, calculating, emotional, quirky, personable, weird, normal, non-traditional, neuro-atypical, short, slender, grumpy, happy, hurting, smiling…
And if I choose to explore all of these things that I am by doing lots of different things, you have no right to try to put me in your context and judge me as “directionless”, because what you really mean to say is “a waste of potential” or “without purpose” or “too scattered to be useful”. How can a person who is always in motion, who is always exploring, be called “directionless”?
Doesn’t it make more sense to attach “directionless” to the one who doesn’t move at all? Who is moving in no direction?
In this way you foster your child’s joy by example. Never stop the curious & passionate in whichever adventure you find yourself invited to explore.
“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.
– Neil deGrasse Tyson’s response on Reddit when asked “What can you tell a young man looking for motivation in life itself?”
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