If you’re reading Puttylike, there’s a decent chance that whenever you’re asked “so, what are you into?” your default response is a kind of confused brain-crash while you search for an acceptable way to say “EVERYTHING!”
To some degree, the question makes no sense. For each topic you could mention, you want to say, “But also this..!”
Practically, we might tend to dial ourselves down a bit, so we don’t seem too keen or too weird. So maybe your heart says “EVERYTHING” but your mouth actually says “Oh, you know, quite a lot.”
Or perhaps you don’t dial yourself down anymore. Maybe you went through life thinking you were super weird, and then you discovered Emilie’s amazing TED talk, realized you were a multipotentialite, and now you’re happily shouting about how much you’re into everything. This way, the heart and the mouth are more in tune, which is great for inner peace.
But I don’t want to focus purely on how we communicate our desires. Sometimes I wonder if we get distracted by the effort of translating our experience into language others can understand… and in the process we miss interesting nuances in what our hearts actually feel.
You Probably aren’t Actually Interested in “Everything.”
Seriously. I don’t mean to offend you or impugn your honor. I’m sure you mean it when you think and say you’re into everything.
But remember just how big “everything” really is. It contains… well, everything!
Are you equally fascinated with rocks, space, plants, 17th-century Tibetan poetry, cricket, NASCAR, the chemical composition of paint, the use of the gerund in ancient Indo-European languages, and yoga? Probably not.
In fact, there are probably many things even on my tiny list of examples that don’t particularly interest you.
Obviously, this is fine. And I’m sure, to many, it’s even obvious; “I don’t mean literally everything.”
But this does raise some intriguing questions. What do we mean when we say or think, “everything”? Does not being interested in something make us less of a multipotentialite? And which IS the best 17th-century Tibetan poem?!
Something interesting happened a few paragraphs ago as I wrote that list of “things you might not be interested in.” I mixed examples of things I like, such as space, ancient languages, and cricket, with things I’m not interested in, such as Tibetan poetry, NASCAR, rocks, and plants.
But even as I typed the examples of not-interesting things, I found myself thinking, “Hmm… I bet I could get interested in that.” I actually had to resist the urge to google Tibetan poetry instead of continuing with the article.
(Rocks and plants have proved more difficult for me; I really can’t bring myself to care, but I bet, in the right circumstances, I could get hooked by learning about them. I just haven’t found a hook that works for me yet.)
And I think that’s part of what it means to be a multipotentialite. We might not actually be interested in everything. But we feel like we could be.
It’s not so hard to imagine a world in which I’m a massive NASCAR fan. (Current fan level: awareness that it exists.)
For anything, it seems to require only a tiny leap to imagine a world in which I’m a fan. I guess that’s where the “potential” in “multipotentialite” comes from.
Sometimes I feel guilty for not caring about some topics, as if not being as interested in rocks or trees as I am in physics makes me a bad person.
I’ve even found myself spending time learning about topics I don’t care about, just out of a vague feeling that I ought to know about them, whatever that means.
Clearly this isn’t healthy or necessary. We need to allow ourselves to NOT be interested in whatever we’re not interested in. This frees us up to pursue our real passions.
Again, this is straight out of the Big Book of Totally Obvious Life Advice: “Gee, you mean it’s OKAY for me to not be passionate about literally everything? Who’d have thought it?!”
But I hear this sort of multipotentialite guilt often enough that perhaps it isn’t obvious enough. Perhaps it needs occasionally restating: it’s okay not to care.
List “Everything” You Don’t Care About
It can be useful to make a list of things we’re NOT interested in.
Most of the items on the list might be irrelevant, but perhaps one or two are actually in your life. Maybe these are subjects or activities you’ve outgrown or just don’t enjoy. And, unless they’re necessary for some reason, it’s okay to let them go.
You might one day become interested in the things on your list. Until then, stick to what you ARE passionate about. I’m sure you have plenty of those.
What are you NOT interested in? Are any of your non-interests part of your life? If so, why?
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.