I have come to the conclusion that I am a Renaissance juggler.
“Renaissance man” is a phrase coined to describe someone who has a depth of knowledge spanning a diverse range of interests. A juggler is someone who has many balls in the air at the same time. I am someone with a diverse set of passions who can and does indulge in several of them simultaneously. I’ve never felt an overwhelming, life-long pull toward any one of these interests for very long. Interests come and go only to return again years later, borne back to me on some unseen tide. At intervals during my life, I’ve had keen, intense interest in writing, performing, photography, organic gardening, Disney, sea shells, psychology and all manner of IT geekery. That last interest currently manifests itself via a fascination with consumer electronics and social media.
I don’t believe I’ve ever been focused on only one or even two of these things at a time. I can remember a time when I was working long hours in IT and using the train commute to either memorize an operatic role in another language or else to study with the goal of acing my next psychology exam, all the while also attending classes and rehearsals at night, roto-tilling, pulling weeds, perfecting the art of the smoldering compost pile and performing on the weekends. Simply looking back at that time is exhausting and causes me to question my own sanity. Yet I was productive and active and happy.
[pullquote] because I’ve never felt committed to just ONE thing that impassioned me the most, I ended up in a survival-based career.[/pullquote]I think it takes a lot of diverse intellectual activity to keep me from becoming bored. Here’s the problem with that; because I’ve never felt committed to just ONE thing that impassioned me the most, I ended up in a survival-based career. That’s where you do what you do because you don’t hate the work and you like the money. It’s the exact opposite of the passion-based career – doing what you do because you want to, because it’s your life’s work.
I have no idea what my life’s work is, or was supposed to be.
It has never surprised me to find out how many of my colleagues at The Firm are coulda-shoulda-woulda-been musicians, actors and other assorted artistic types who “fell into” careers in IT during the 90s dot com boom. Like me, they were all just looking for their cushy little day job with medical benefits whilst running about auditioning, until someone figured out they had brains and promoted them. You get to an age where being a starving artist doesn’t hold as much romatic appeal as it once did, and the money you’re making doing something else is certainly seductive.
It’s nice to not have to limit dinner to popcorn every night – with butter on it as an extra treat on Sundays. It’s nice being able to pay down your credit card debt, purchase a car that was made in THIS decade and go away for vacations. Thus, when faced with the realization that making a living as an artist is going to be a life-long uphill struggle, the survival-based career not only looks attractive, it seems more logical, more sensible, more likely to get your family off your back. I think a surprising lot of people are doing survival-based careers with their lives and that’s why work seems like… well, work. That is why “everybody’s working for the weekend…”. It’s because people don’t wanna work; they just wanna “bang the drum all day”.
Early last month, I was in Downtown Disney at the big World Of Disney store. The jumbo TV in the center of the store began to show a scene from Mary Poppins – “A Spoonful Of Sugar”. I was half-listening and humming along while pawing through a rack of t-shirts when the scene suddenly grabbed my attention. Mary was singing. In harmony. With herself. The words, “in harmony with HERSELF” swam to the forefront of my consciousness, and I watched transfixed as she went from joyous to annoyed with… well again, it was with herself. Mirror Mary kept singing a mile a minute even after Real Mary had stopped. What’s more, Real Mary was peeved that Mirror Mary was grabbing all the attention for herself. “Cheeky!” is Real Mary’s tart retort. Off she goes in a stern huff to tend to the children. Mirror Mary only smiles.
(I could go off on a tangent here about Disney and the relationship between work and play, but I’ll spare you!)
[pullquote]Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could always be in harmony with ourselves, and still be able to pay the mortgage, buy some toys and have a little fun? Some people live like that, I hear…[/pullquote] And so it can happen. If any of the fun aspects of a Renaissance juggler’s life start to race exuberantly ahead, consuming more than the permitted allocation of personal bandwidth, then the part that works for a living to support your fun habits can become peevishly resentful. It’s always the survival-based career, the thing you are sort of “meh!” about, that sternly proclaims you’re “cheeky” for studying something fascinating, for tripping the light fantastic upon the wicked stage, for devoting time and brain power to figuring out how to grow tomatoes without using pesticides (hint: “companion planting”. With a heavy dose of self-discipline, that dreaded of all activities known as “taking care of business” commences, and the fun stuff takes a back seat.
Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could always be in harmony with ourselves, and still be able to pay the mortgage, buy some toys and have a little fun? Some people live like that, I hear. I haven’t figured out yet how to make that happen, but there’s one thing I’m doing consciously now to try and find the answer.
The thought of abandoning the survival-based path, the good ol’ reliable method of obtaining a steady paycheck, instead trying to make a living doing what gives me joy is both intoxicating and frightening. It would be so much easier if I didn’t have so many interests from which to choose. It would be so much easier had I done this earlier on, so much easier if it wasn’t just me bringing a paycheck into this house. This is the downside of single ridership. I find myself with a serious case of SAHM-envy. OK, you’re right, not the “M” part… But I don’t have the luxury of travel back in time or of a mighty breadwinner to see me through this. Therefore, the draw toward the most pragmatic choice is strong. And yet, I cannot help but see that guillotine looming in the near future as my liberator, permission to veer off in a different direction
I do realize that I have not been in harmony with myself, and that a lack of active unhappiness does not equate to living with active joy. I do realize that living a little more deliberately, a little more consciously, would make me more actively joyful. The more I send this understanding and acknowledgment into the Universe, the more the Universe has reflected it back at me.
I’ve been having more and more of these moments of synchronous epiphany leap into focus, like the one in the World of Disney store. These moments started last summer, slowly at first. In the beginning, small synchronicities presented themselves, things that, considered singly and out of context, could be passed off as mere coincidence. But as I began to suspect and then fully recognize that they weren’t a coincidence, and even began to look for them, they began happening with more regularity. Some days, they happen so rapidly I barely have time to record them. It could happen online, in text or an image. It could happen while having a conversation with your best friend or with the grocery store clerk. It could happen when you walk into a restaurant and see a piece of artwork on the wall, or while browsing a rack in a shop – something will practically leap off the display and jump up and down crying, “Me, me, me! Look at ME!”. Something that gives me pause, makes me think, connects a few of the sea of dots before me.
Maybe it’s happened to you, too; maybe you know what I’m talking about. Each time it happens, it’s as though the world shifts a little, the movement barely discernible but nevertheless a bit of a shock. There’s a focus, a click of vision and soul, and then you know – you’ve been receiving Memos from the Universe.
I’ll be sharing more about this, very soon. Promise!
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