What I am about to say is controversial. My 20-year old self would have bristled to hear it. She would NOT have agreed. She was a formidable hothead prone to jumping into arguments with 100% passion (and significantly less information), and she would have done so in this case with the fury of a Valkyrie. No shade intended, but with no knowledge of our future, she simply didn’t have all the information.
She was a poet, an artist, a non-conformist. She was the ultimate creative bohemian. She was always working on a zine under the fluorescent lights of a corporate print shop on the midnight shift, self-publishing a new book of poetry on parchment with fancy colored ink, or sending a mail art project to the next contributor in some small town. There was always a photo shoot planned and a collaborative art project in the works. All art, all the time.
Art was her raison d’être, and she could imagine nothing more important. She identified completely with the title Artist. It was her. She was it. End of story.
It wasn’t until many years later, after she’d achieved her goals of traveling the world, creating a huge body of work spanning any media you can imagine, had art shows, and sold work that she realized that making art wasn’t as fulfilling as it had once been. It wasn’t all there was. She still wanted to make art, but she wanted to do it without the burden of the lofty label Artist.
Life kept up its forward motion (moves back and forth across the U.S. and to other countries, a divorce) and that wonderful spitfire knew that art wasn’t the only thing she cared about anymore (not to mention, all that artwork was expensive to house as she moved around the country). She wanted more. To do and to be more. The title that once meant everything was no longer sufficient to contain all of her aspirations.
It was much more dramatic than this, of course. Our heroine had a major identity crisis when she released the title. It led to a long, gloomy, winter of overall laziness, binging The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars and very long walks. Who was she if she wasn’t an artist? There didn’t seem to be another title that fit. So was she … nothing?
I know what you’re going to say.
“You don’t ever stop being an artist” or “you can be more than one thing.” Those statements are true. You never really stop making art or having creative approaches to problem-solving, and you can do more than one thing.
Still, I’d like you to consider, instead of these arguments, another possibility. One with the power to eliminate your potential future identity crises and remove self-limiting labels from the equation (mostly).
Maybe labels and titles hold us back more than they boost us up.
I still use a title here or there to help other people understand some aspect of my multi-passionate repertoire. You’ll always find situations where this is necessary, but recognize that these labels are optional, useful tools for communicating information. They are not containers. I have learned that simply being, with no further definition is better than being any one thing or ten things.
If you are interested an all kinds of things (multipotentialite) like me, it’s too hard to list all the things that are meaningful in an introduction. You’ll inevitably forget one of the key bullet points and kick yourself later. Instead of choosing, why not leave the possibilities wide open?
These days, I think of “I am…” as limitless possibility (including the possibility that I might outgrow something I’m massively passionate about today). Being label-less is like rubbing the genie’s lamp and wishing for unlimited additional wishes.