Like Gretchen Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood this is something I’ve only really learnt recently. Even now I have to remind myself of this. I have writen in the past about being a “scanner” and the main tenet of this is a constant desire to try new things. Activities I have tried in the past include: ballet (I lasted one class), belly dancing, ice skating (last time I went I ended up with a black eye after breaking a fall with my face), book group (I started my own at university), knitting (I’m a terrible knitter but it did lead to me the wonder that is crochet), Zumba (and more recently Aqua Zumba), roller derby, and, of course, blogging.
Very few of these activities have had enduring appeal for me. For a long time I just assumed I lacked commitment and tenacity. I feared I was never going to be good at anything unless I could see it through. Some of these activities I get very passionate about and want to continue my interest. I have looked into becoming a yoga teacher, a breast feeding counsellor. For a few years I wanted to become an interpreter but then a got a C in my Spanish A level (in my defence I completed it in just one year). My blog name kind of gives the game away on this.
Reading Barbara Sher’s What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything? opened my eyes to the possibility that I just crave novelty. I definitely think that is one aspect, and it helps me to be ok with my choices. But the other part is that I generally have life envy. I want to do things because other people are doing them. The whole way though university when people told me what course they were doing I’d think “That’s great, why didn’t I chose Linguistics and Croatian instead of boring psychology?”
I sometimes wonder why I am not spending my time rock climbing, silversmithing or watching film noir. Then I have to remind myself it’s because I don’t want to. I don’t have to share every interest of everyone I know. Yes, I still try new things, but I am more careful about what I take on, and do things that interest me rather than things I feel I should be interested in. That means I will be running crochet classes in a couple of weeks, but I won’t be taking on an allotment again.
What about you? Does your hobby cup runeth over? Or are you in a leisure pursuit prairie land?
It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.
As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.
The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. “Climb in!” shouted a man in the boat. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.
The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.
The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.
Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. “Heavenly Father,” he said, “I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?” God gave him a puzzled look, and replied “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”
I first heard this on the West Wing. A priest is counselling the President on the possible commutation of a death sentence, which the President eventually doesn’t follow through. Bartlett laments how he prayed for support but none came, and the priest points out that various wise people came to the President that day, what more did he want, what was he waiting for.
It’s a really interesting parable, and one that is quite salient to me. I’m having somewhat of an early midlife crisis with regards to my career and passions and am not sure where to go. I am considering embarking on a Master’s degree, but it is an enormous financial and time commitment at a time when both money and time are scarce. I keep trying to figure out whether it is what I really want to do. Doesn’t help that being outside the academic and psychology arena I don’t really know what the realities of the course and career prospect are.
In desperation I picked up a book in town last week, called Coach Yourself. But before I talk about that book I want to briefly mention another book that I have been reading, called Screw Work, Let’s Play, by John Williams. Now Mr Williams doesn’t seem to have any formal psychology background, but I bought his book because he is a keen follower of Barbara Sher, who I mentioned before: she coined the term ‘scanner’ to describe people who try and do lots of different things. The main premise of Mr William’s book is that you shouldn’t be languishing in a job you don’t enjoy, work should be fun, and there is a niche out there for everyone, such as the woman who started up a mobile chocolate van. The book encourages you to go out and follow your dream, everyone should be in a job that they love. He isn’t the only one championing this. Only last month there was an article in Psychologies magazine about portfolio careers. In this agile world with technology at our fingertips we can be a gardener by day and an artisan chocolate maker by night. And it is true that the internet has opened worlds, markets and audiences previously unavailable to the common person. We can start up businesses with just a laptop in our front room, and we should, we owe it to ourselves. Apparently.
The problem is with these books and articles is their lack of realism. I imagine most of the case studies who give up the shackles of the Big Corporation to become a therapeutic gardener or life coach have a small nest egg to cushion them from destitution. They are probably not living at the edges of their overdrafts and credit card limits. There is also the small matter of the fact that not everyone can give up their day job to follow their passion, even if they have the money to, unless their passion is for clearing up vomit in a police cell, serving lukewarm breakfasts in a service station or keeping the sewers clear. Tough jobs but someone’s got to do them. On a thread on Mumsnet that I started on the topic someone said it was a “horribly middle class idea of wanting to play” and to some extent she was right. It’s a modern problem of wanting the world to be exactly how we like it. It wasn’t that long ago people had to work just to live, now we want to live to work.
Anyway, back to the most recent book, Coach Yourself. This is written by a couple of Actual Psychologists. Now that’s more like it. I like my self help with a dash of evidence based theory. I haven’t actually finished the book, but I am three quarters of the way, and it is the most realistic book have read on the subject. I will probably go into more details in later posts, but the salient points that I have taken from this book so far are: Ambivalence is normal, and there is always a cost to making changes. All these other books and articles go on about following your dreams, as if you know what your dreams are, and it’s so easy, you just need to get off your arse and do it. Seriously, there is one called Get off your “but”. If it was that easy we’d all be doing our dreams jobs, we’d all be thin and healthy. The book I have been reading acknowledges that it’s not that easy, there are costs, and you should be prepared for them. The costs may be to your time, to your energy, to other parts of your life. And we may always wonder if we made the right decision, that is a fact of life. It’s ok to have mixed feelings about change. It says “You don’t have to be 100% committed. 51% is enough.”
My head nearly exploded at this revelation. It’s so contrary to anything else I have read with regards to personal development. And it’s right. If you wait to be 100% committed to anything as daunting as a big life change you will never do it. And it takes me back to my original story. I’m not expecting a sign from God, and even if I was, what would that sign look like? How would I know? How do I know if I am making the right decision? The answer is I don’t, and I may never know. But I’m feeling more ok with that fact.
Now, don’t take this to mean that I have made my decision yet. I haven’t, that would be too convenient wouldn’t it? But, I’m no longer waiting for an unknown sign. I don’t expect a communique from the Universe. I’m just looking into the pragmatics of doing the course and seeing if I feel like it is kind of the right thing. I’m not at 51% yet, but if I hit it, and I can carve out the time and money, I’ll do it. But I won’t be screwing work just yet, someone has to pay the bills.
Recently I have been having somewhat of a career crisis. My job is fairly respectable, but I just don’t love it. I like the idea of it more than I like doing it. It is actually the job I wanted to do before I left university, but the reality wasn’t quite all it is cracked up to be. I was always very career oriented and felt like I was destined for big things. Having children tempered that somewhat, but the biggest factor has been a loss of confidence in my abilities. I did really well at school and university. I’ve got a Masters degree you know, and I got a distinction. I don’t get to say that very often, much though I often want to when at work I am having to grapple with a task like trying to get 10 people in a meeting together.
I studied psychology at university, but by the end decided I didn’t want to be a psychologist. After 5 years I didn’t to want to spend any longer at university or in training, I wanted to be getting on with my career. Hmmm. That worked well didn’t it? It turns out actually maybe I do want to be a psychologist. Or a writer. Or a professional crafter. Therein lies my problem. I want to do so many things, I’m afraid to commit.
A few years ago I found a fantastic book in a charity shop. It was pure fate that I found this book, someone had obviously given it away because they didn’t rate it but for me it was like a window into my soul. One man’s trash and all that. The book was What Do I Do When I Want to Do Everything? The basic premise of the book is that some people just flit from one activity to another, never sticking long enough to go deep; never really feeling like they have achieved anything. The author, Barbara Sher, calls these people ‘scanners’, and lists several different reasons why these people behave like this such as fear of commitment, looking for their niche, or simply just a need for novelty. Scanners are sometimes derided as dilettantes (hello, have you seen the name of my blog?) but often they are their own harshest critics, feeling like they are failing or not achieving anything. To read this was amazing, the book described me to a tee and Barbara goes to great lengths to reassure scanners that they way they are is perfectly normal, and can be harnessed. One of the suggestions is to try and combine your passions which is what I have attempted to do.
I mentioned that I might actually want to be a psychologist. Well I am considering doing another MSc, this time in Occupational Psychology. I could do it part time and through distance learning, but even so, with two young children and a job I couldn’t do it for at least another year. I also want to give myself time to figure out whether it is what I really want to do.
In the meantime I am spending my time crafting (God, that is such a wanky word, I cringe every time I use it!). But much as I love making stuff, I don’t find it intellectually stimulating. Now before all you other crafters lynch me, I’m not saying its not difficult, there are some amazingly talented people out there. Crafting can be technically and physically challenging, but trying to understand a pattern isn’t the same as trying to understand why someone behaves in a certain way. So I’ve tried to put some psychology into my crafting, I’m combining my passions to create Psychraftology. Craftology. Psychcraftisvism. Psychocraft. I can work on the name.
I have three items to showcase for you as part of my new genre. The first is based on the Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory, or the MBTI. You may have heard or it and even taken it. The results come in the format of 4 letters, E or I, N or S, T or F, and J or P. If want more info about what these letters mean check out this website. The MBTI is a licensed test which can only be administered by licensed practitioners, but this website has an example if you want to find out you personality type. For the even keener reader I recommend the book Please Understand Me II, which is slightly different from the MBTI but maps directly onto it. For the record I am an ENFP, which incidentally is quite commons for scanners.
These are going to be badges, but for now they are just buttons. They are cross stitched MBTI types so you can wear your type with pride! The are cross stitched on 22 count aida which is used to cover self-cover buttons. You can remove the button bit, which I have done, and super glue a badge backing onto the button, which I haven’t done yet.
Exhibit number two my cross stitched interpretation of a Rorschach ink blot. “Why?” you might ask. Well, why the hell not.
The Rorschach ink blot is traditional projection test used to assess personality characteristics and emotional function. Tell me what you see in mine and I will tell you if you are crazy or not.
The piece de resistance in my show and tell today is an embroidered diagram of the brain, showing labelled lobes and some well known areas of the brain. Broca’s area is involved in the production of speech, and Wenicke’s area in the understanding of it. The visual cortex is where we start to process the images that come from our retinas. They travel along the optic nerves to the back of our brain, the parietal lobe. The brain is a marvellous thing, and we should nurture it, look after it, and not take it for granted. There is an excellent documentary on BBC iPlayer about the brain. It’s available for about another week so watch it while you can.
For me, this embroidery is about using a craft that is more often used to depict twee little birds and flowers and fluffy things, and creating something with a little more depth. If you like this you might also like a brain colouring book. It certainly helped while away those hours studying neuropsychology at university.
So, these are the projects that I have been working on for the past couple of months. I’d really appreciate any comments you have. You are probably going to see more and more psychology related stuff, not just crafting, on here. Does that put you off? The main thrust of this blog has been crafting, and it is certainly easier to market a niche blog. I’m debating whether I should branch out into a new blog, but as someone pointed out, the USP for my blog has always been about doing lots of different things. Any comments will be welcomed.