I worked with a girl once who was in the process of losing an extraordinary amount of weight. A whole person’s worth. She was our office manager/admin/front desk person. She ended up leaving, spending more time at the gym, working on a certification here or there and is now a personal trainer. By all accounts she appears to have been made for it. She turned her personal journey and determination into a career, she found her niche and restructured her entire life around this pursuit. She looks healthy and happy and awesomely pleased in her new gig.
My mother is surround by over 25 pairs of small, grabby, sometimes-dirty hands all day. She teaches these little hordes how to read and write and negotiate the world. She’s met every spectrum of parents and taught kids, mostly your typical little kids and others who by all accounts were complete psychopaths and future serial killers. She’s been doing it for decades. She still calls each new group of little maniacs her “kids”.
I have a friend from high school who had an energy level that was unparalleled. He also seemed to have inherent talent for 99% of the things he tried. Skateboarding, drawing, and then suddenly cooking. His enthusiasm was so infectious I remember, early on when he just started the first of multiple culinary schools, we talked animatedly about mushrooms… for half an hour. He’s the “chef de cuisine” at an award winning restaurant downtown.
I could easily pen another dozen examples of family, close friends, and acquaintance who all share this sort of quality. They have a professional niche. They found their passion, their skill, their calling and they’re doing it. By pointing this out I’m not attempting to reduce the sum of their lives to their professional pursuits, or to suggest that each of these people wouldn’t excel at something else, but they’ve all found some level of satisfaction in a singular activity. In compliment I’m sure I could also compile an overlapping list of people who, perhaps not professionally, but personally, have found a variant of this passion. Maybe it’s too obscure or impractical to make a living at, but they’ve found a way to become an accomplished… gardener, baker, seamstress, wood worker, etc…Basically the common thread is that each of these people has found their “thing”. A defining skill that drives them, more so than all others.
I… do not feel like I am one of these people.
To clarify, from a professional standpoint, I am good at my job. Like most motivated empathetic souls I like being good at what I do, helping people, and being seen as both competent and valuable. I’ve never been fired. The vast majority of my colleagues have always remarked that my presence and contributions were both positive and useful.
But I have no specific niche. Or there is none so strong that I maintain that space indefinitely. Like human plinko, bouncing from one peg to the other until I find the end of the board. I don’t do “bored”. Save for the times where I’m trapped in an office with nothing to do, I’m a restless soul restricted only be resources and time. (Read that: money and time not spent at work).
I have made soap and attempted to learn to sew and partially mastered half of knitting and hope to return to that. I’ve taken photographs since junior high, it’s one of the only reasons I have a smart phone. I’ve lifted kettlebells and played dozens of seasons of soccer. I’ve helped apply zombie makeup to a group of 50 people for a music video. I know a lot more than your average citizen about insulin production in the human body and the latest on dietary science. I make jewelry and more recently started pottery again for the third time in my life. I blogged through my entire bankruptcy filing nearly 10 years ago, through my step-father’s alcoholism, through a really broken relationship with a decent person but I still can’t figure out how to write fiction.
People have told me I’d make a great: lawyer, advice columnist, nutritionist, personal trainer, professor, paleo-chef, and that I would pen a great work of literature.
The truth is I don’t like any of those things enough to want to make them the sole focus of my life.
If I won the lottery I imagine I’d live a bit like Anthony Bordain. Travel, food, family, recreation, writing. And until then I try not to beat myself up because I can’t ever seem to simmer down enough to focus on a singular thing.
I take care of myself, my people, and my mind in whatever ways seem plausible, or necessary, or keeps me sane. Sometimes the fact that I don’t have one shining characteristic or pursuit that I am awesome at makes me feel somehow as if I am missing a particular accomplishment, but mainly, I realize that’s insane. And I will go about my life with the dial cranked to 11 and fit in as much as I can.