What do want to be when you grow up?
That was a question posed often when I was a child and even throughout my life. Back then, I had no clue. For a girl growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, career paths were limited to teacher, nurse, secretary, oh and of course, mother. Rare was the woman who broke the mold.
When I was in elementary school, my mother had a series of jobs ranging from Avon Representative (bonus for my sister and me, since it netted us babysitting jobs with her customers), to gate guard at our local swimming pool, from sewing doll clothes, to writing a column in our local newspaper. When my sister and I were old enough to be latchkey kids (I was 12 or so), she worked as a switchboard operator. My father had two major jobs when I was growing up, as a milkman and then a bus driver and a few other things sprinkled in when he was laid off or his union was on strike. Those included: cab driver, car salesman and gas station attendant.
I don’t recall any specific form of guidance beyond that they wanted us to be able to support ourselves, doing what we enjoyed. My sister’s career path took her from working in a casino to retail. Mine was aimed at psychology and I was the only one in the family who pursued higher education. When I consider the ways in which I have earned income, I shake my head in amusement. Mine have included, lifeguard, ice cream scooper, waitress, artists’ model, GTA (Gynecological Teaching Associate) who guided medical students in women’s health care, massage practitioner, therapist, journalist, PR and marketing person, interfaith minister, radio host, coach, author and editor.
When I contemplate the vast array of careers my family and friends embody, I am astounded. They include: a high diver, who has performed around the world, teachers, nurses, doctors, managers, servers, flight attendants, scientists, artists, dancers, writers, coaches, clergy, insurance brokers, real estate agents, entertainers, business owners, secretaries, candy makers, café owners, yoga teachers, physical therapists and acupuncturists.
What amazes me is that even at 58, my resume is three pages and growing and I am not anywhere near complete with what I could do. My goals include being a TED Talk speaker, as well as writing for Oprah and other mainstream publications.
I am what is referred to as a multipotentialite who has a variety of interests even as I sometimes feel like I am in the process of mastering or at least attempting to master what draws my attention. Since I have such diverse callings I wonder if I will ever settle for any one. Glad that I don’t need to.
According to Barbara Kerr, in Career Planning for Gifted and Talented Youth. ERIC Digest #E492. “Multipotentiality is the ability to select and develop any number of career options because of a wide variety of interests, aptitudes, and abilities (Frederickson & Rothney, 1972). The broad range of opportunities available tends to increase the complexity of decision making and goal setting, and it may actually delay career selection. Multipotentiality is most commonly a concern of students with moderately high IQs (120-140), those who are academically talented, and those who have two or more outstanding but very different abilities such as violin virtuosity and mathematics precocity.
What delights me about having so much inspiration flitting about is that I am never bored. I can move gracefully from one task to another as I become increasingly adept at all of them. I learn by doing from those who have achieved a level of mastery.
As I am writing this article, I am sitting on the porch of what I call my office away from home which is a local coffee shop. I had taken a break in between seeing therapy clients to sit in the early spring breezy day, watching people walk by. Three of them are friends who I hadn’t seen in a while who stopped to chat. One of the benefits of having a flexible schedule.
Shifting gears momentarily to head back to my office that has a door and four walls into which clients will come to commune with this multipotentialite who has trained for decades to provide quality care for them.