Sunday, September 23, 2012

Designing a life

Last week I sat down to write a 5-year-plan, which sounds very impressive and grown-up, doesn't it? But like I said in the Facebook discussion that day, it's just a glorified to-do list, which I'm giving myself five years to complete. It's also something recommended by Barbara Sher in her book Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreamswhich I've mentioned here before. Although, I think she actually recommends a 6-year-plan for Scanners (the term she's coined to describe people who have many seemingly unrelated interests).

And after jotting down some ideas, it really did make me feel calmer. Scanners typically have so many interests that they have no idea which to pursue first and, therefore, end up doing nothing and feeling deflated about it. Making a plan means that when you get wound up about how you'll ever get everything done you can look at your plan and think: it's okay, I can do that in two years, just relax ok? And you can focus on the task at hand with a clear mind and a sense of peace that you will achieve all you desire, just not all at once.

The other thing that Scanners often do is wonder how they'll ever make any money out of what they love. How will they make a career out of their interests? It'll never work, they think, forget it. But what this book says is that you don't have to make everything you love into a career. You can just do things for the pure enjoyment of doing them. It can be a very simple, uncomplicated pleasure to work on something out of love and genuine interest without worrying about how you are going to use it to pay the mortgage. You can always take a 'good enough' job for paying the bills. (The book explains more about that concept, but I think you get the idea.)

My career goals have to do with my own personal trifecta of writing, art and teaching. If I can cobble together a working life out of a combination those three pursuits, I'll be more than content. But there are so many other things I'm interested in doing that I have no desire to turn into money-making ventures. And in the past I've pushed them aside thinking: why do you want to do that? It'll never go anywhere. But after reading Refuse to Choose I now know it doesn't have to go anywhere. Some things are just fun.

So in case you're curious, the kinds of things I'd love to learn at some point in my life are: to play the guitar, fashion illustration, book binding, letterpress, and typography design theory. And that's just what I can think of from the top of my head. I reckon I develop at least one new interest a week (it's exhausting) but now I'm going to keep a list of them and then when the opportunity arises I can pursue that skill or line of inquiry until I'm done. I want to be an active participant in designing my life. I want to do all these things, and more.

Seems like a fun way to live, don't you think?

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