Breakdown of an Emotional Breakthrough (and a hoop!)

Let’s do the hoop first, because everyone loves to look at the pretties:

This was a custom order, delivered last night. Very well received. :) Many thanks to my friend Lissa for helping me out to make sure the hoop got delivered on time!

ONTO THE BUSINESS PART OF THIS POST: I haven’t been blogging much the past week or so, and I wanted to explain why. It’s not for a lack of ideas, I’ve got ideas for posts scribbled on random scraps of paper, saved for when I would sit down at the keyboard again. But I felt I needed to make this particular post first, before making any of the others.

You see, I had an enormous emotional breakthrough this week. I mean, with giant, sopping globs of tears and snot and bawling at myself in the mirror while I mentally told myself (and believed) how wonderful I really am.

It happens.

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw some of this breakthrough occurring in real time.

It started with a blog post by Sarah Wilson. The title was “Possibly the most reassuring life advice I’ve been given”, and I clicked on it, figuring some good advice couldn’t hurt.

I didn’t realize I was clicking on a post that would lay out my greatest insecurity, the one I keep under the table and very rarely even admit to myself, in mind-numbing clarity. Nor did I expect it to tell me that the very personality traits that cause this insecurity are to be celebrated, not admonished. And I certainly didn’t expect the post to hand me the title of a guidebook for finally making peace with said insecurity.

The Personality Traits: I find something interesting, I get very excited about it, I commit to it and dive into it headfirst. I do everything I can to try to form a career, a living, off of this new thing I love. But the thrill always wears off and it always become something I do and enjoy, while the sparks of passion grow fewer and far between. And I leave a cloud of frustrated friends and family in my wake, who thought I was really going to do something this time, wondering why I stopped when I was doing so well.

The Insecurity: I’m then left wondering why I’m never happy with the idea of just getting a regular job like everyone else. Why I have to keep searching for something that truly fills me up, rather than just something to pay the bills. Wondering if my failure to be motivated by the paycheck is going to get me in serious trouble one of these days. Wondering if I really am lazy, a flake, a letdown. Thinking that there must be something wrong with me, because I can’t seem to find that one thing that makes me want to get up in the morning. Instead, I jump from thing to thing to thing.

I’ve grown to accept that might just be how I am, that I may never be interested in just one thing, that my passions will change and I’m just along for the ride. But then where does that leave me, as far as making a living goes? How do I do what I love, when what I love is never consistent?

Let’s get back to that blog post. It turns out that I am not the only person with this “problem”. And it turns out that it is not a problem at all. An amazing woman named Barbara Sher has labelled us “Scanners”, and she wrote a book about what it’s like to be a Scanner and how to deal with it, embrace it, and find work that won’t kill you. It’s called Refuse to Choose, and I was able to wait exactly one day before I caved and ran to the closest Barnes & Noble to get my own copy.

I devoured it. And I cried more than once reading it.

Here’s what’s up: Scanners love learning, and they learn very quickly. They tend to get what they want out of something simply by learning as much as they can, then moving on. Bosses tend to be impressed with how quickly these people pick up on their jobs, and want them to stay. But once a Scanner has learned the job, the “fun” part is essentially over, so the job becomes boring. And boredom is like death to a Scanner.

In addition, Scanners are hesitant to commit to any long term career, because they fear that they might be missing out on something else they’d really want to do or learn.

This explains, clearly and succinctly, my entire work history thus far. I find a simple, non-committal job because I want the flexibility of free time and a malleable schedule. I go through the training process quickly, learn the ins and outs of the job entirely, and have a blast doing it. Then the boredom sets in.

Or I’ll get a job because I love the idea of having a job like it: I wanted to work in an office with my own cubicle because I’d never done it before. I wanted to work at a yarn store. I wanted to work for an independent business owner. I don’t really want the job for the sake of having it forever and ever. What I want is the experience of having a job like it. And the pattern is the same: I love the job at first, I soak up every new thing like a sponge, I learn it quickly and make myself almost invaluable. But by then, I’ve had the experience. I now know what it’s like to work at X place doing X job, and I’m done. But I’m still there.

And so I quit. And I feel great relief while friends and family lament. And hearing their laments causes me to second guess myself, am I a failure? A commitment-phobe? Doomed to be a bum stuck in crummy high-school summer jobs for the rest of my life? And my self-esteem plummets, without me even realizing it.

But what Barbara Sher’s book made me realize, what brought me to tears in a fit of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love, is this: I am NOT a failure, a commitment-phobe, or a loser.

My brain is too hungry to specialize, to curious to settle down.

My gorgeous, beautiful, astonishing brain will never want to stop learning, and why should it? Why should I force it? Why not celebrate it, let it play with its own ideas, let it relish life and all it has to offer?

As for what I should do job-wise, the book was very helpful. I don’t feel like I need to find something and settle on it forever anymore. I have some ideas, but the most powerful came when I read the section on a particular breed of Scanner, the “Serial Master”.

These Scanners love the challenge of learning and mastering a new skill from the ground up. Once they’ve grown competent, however, they’ve gotten their reward out of the process and begin to scan the horizon for something new.

This is me to the letter. I love a good challenge. The reason I’ve got so many finished rough drafts lying around came from the challenge of NaNoWriMo, to write a novel in 30 days (and then, friends who saw how fast I could write and challenged me to complete even greater word counts in even shorter lengths of time). The reason I ran a 5K came from the challenge of interval training myself up to it with Couch to 5K.

I realized reading this section that the same drive for mastery is what pushed my manic, addictive practice sessions with hoop dance, knitting, even Dance Dance Revolution (oh yes, I’m AWESOME at DDR, you should play me one day). With these skills, I saw what mastery looked like, decided I wanted it, and set out to get it.

What happens, though, is that eventually, I reach a point of diminishing return. Once I get good enough, improvements are smaller and more gradual. While some people are content to spend the rest of their lives honing their skills increment by increment, I reach this point and crave the process of learning something new all over again. I realized that I subconsciously set a goal for myself when I start out, an “I want to be good enough to do blah” sort of thing. Typically what happens when I reach this goal is my enthusiasm for practice begins to wane, because I’ve gotten to where I wanted to go. I’ve gotten what Barbara Sher refers to as my “reward”.

When I read the book and realized that all of this is not only okay, but the way I am supposed to operate by my very nature, it unleashed a torrent of emotions and self-doubt that I knew I’d been supressing somewhere but could never identify clearly enough to work on fixing them. It’s amazing how just giving a name to your fears and insecurities can help the process of healing.

Oh, and Barbara had a very specific career suggestion for the Serial Master breed of Scanner: Motivational Speaker. My jaw literally dropped reading that, because it seemed so obvious while being something I might have never given myself permission to think about seriously. But given the amount of people that have come up to me telling me how much they love my blog, and how inspired they’ve been by the posts, and the amazing and unexpected way the How I Didn’t Lose Weight Hooping article has taken off, I think she might be on to something. It’s given me renewed joy to work on this blog, and to look into what small, first steps I might take to trying out some public speaking.

Maybe on the Open Stage?

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