Being Multi In A Mono World

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Roman, what do you want to be when you grow up? That’s what they asked me. I recall frowning quizzically, giving thought to this most important of questions. As a five year-old, ten year-old, fifteen year-old. Even into young adulthood I recall asking this question internally. Then long after all of this, once I’d entered into many alternate forays of careership and adventure, I began to rethink the way I’d been programmed.

Yes, programmed. I, just like you, had been programmed. Subtley. Quietly. Subliminally. But I’d been programmed nonetheless. All my life I’d been asked what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, as though I could only be one of these things — as though my entering into one area of interest somehow functioned to exclude the remainder.

We know of course that this is not true. But we do not behave as such. We behave as though we must genuflect before a single path. We are complex beings regularly watered down by parents, teachers, peers, and colleagues. We aren’t encouraged to discover our complexity. We aren’t encouraged to be diverse — not truly. We’re labeled. We’re labeled because it’s easier to deduce and understand someone when they’re made to seem simple. If we recognized young people for the vastly prolific and unique potentials that comprise them we’d speak to them differently.

So we wind up taking our little slugger and labeling him an athlete. Our little violinist, we call a musician. Our little wordsmith we call a writer. He or she will become a fireman or an artist. This makes it much easier for us to explain them. If we acknowledged that they might actually want to be a fireman and an artist we would probably scratch our heads. Our inclined response would be one rooted in economics. But Roman, you can’t be both. Why not? Maybe I’ll be three or four or five them.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that I have a vast many interests. At first I thought I was just different. Maybe I was too unfocused, perhaps I was just taken by too many ancillary interests. As I’ve reflected I’ve come to believe that I am not that different. I think I might be a little more liberated. I’ve liberated myself from feeling that there is any kind of true limit to the things I can be interested in, the paths I can walk, or the passions I can pursue. I am an amalgam of my interests, tastes, and passions, and I am free to pursue them all in any capacity I choose.

The thing with life interests is that they abound for all of us in various capacities. To simplify, let’s think of everything on the planet you could potentially be interested on a scale of 0–100. When it comes to crocheting, you might be a 0, when it comes to hiking you might be a 23, when it comes to football, you might be an 83. When it comes to table staining, you might be a 54. But being 83% interested in football doesn’t exclude you from being 23% interested in hiking, or 54% interested in table staining. Obviously there are tradeoffs associated to life because we have limited time in life. But there is no ultimate limit to passion or the number of things you can be interested in, yet for some reason we operate that way.

The world doesn’t want you to be complex because complex is hard to explain. Complex is hard to categorize. Complex makes people uncomfortable. There is a quote from one of my favorite films, WITHOUT LIMITS, where Steve Prefontaine aptly characterizes passion: 

“All I know, is when you really believe in something you tend to make people very uncomfortable.” 

~ Steve Prefontaine

So true, Steve. The same goes when you approach life in a way that is uncommon.

Let us take an uncommon approach toward life today. Let us acknowledge the full spectrum of who we are. Let us ne’er write off the parts of ourselves that seem less economical, less interesting to others, or more marginalized by society. Embrace all of you and I’ll embrace all of me. 

sincerely,
Roman Newell


Graphic Composition:
by: Darlene Carroll

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