A shadowy figure is unloading barrels from a truck. We see the words, “WARNING: WEIRD CHEMICALS” emblazoned on each barrel as it is placed into a deep hole. Finally, the shadowy figure fills the hole and drives away.
The camera pans underground to reveal a leak in one barrel of WEIRD CHEMICALS. We follow the chemical leak through the soil, into the river, into the city, and into the hospital where a newborn baby is being fed.
The WEIRD CHEMICAL-infused water is administered to the baby, who pulls a puzzled face, before taking on a look of pure and passionate determination.
A MULTIPOTENTIALITE has been born.
Meanwhile, in the Real World…
I’m pretty confident that multipotentialites aren’t created by weird chemicals (unless you count DNA, which is totally weird but which is also basically cheating as an answer in this context).
But we’ve hardly discussed what created the multipod in us in the first place.
*Short answer: You probably do qualify. If you have a wide range of interests, and you think you might be a multipod, you probably are one. We’re not an elitist bunch.
Spoiler: I Won’t Have a Definitive Answer to This Question
Just as with most questions about human development, there’s not going to be a satisfying conclusion here. Lots of clever people have studied many aspects of humanity for years without finding a resolution to the nature/nurture debate. And, as far as I’m aware, multipotentiality has hardly been studied at all.
Even if there were some vast archive of multipod experimentation, it would be full of conflicting conclusions and considerable confusion.* Identifying causes of human personality traits is hard.
* Sorry for the alliteration; I couldn’t stop myself.
As far as I can tell, the smart money is usually on any given trait being a result of a combination of genes and environment, and I’m sure multipotentiality is no different.
(Though feel free to stick with the fun belief that multipotentiality is totally a mutant superpower caused by WEIRD CHEMICALS, for your own amusement.)
But even if it’s impossible to be certain about exact causes, we can still learn from sharing our origin stories.
What Were You Like as a Child?
No, wait. Let me guess.
You were curious. You tried out lots of different activities. Perhaps you read a lot or moved from passion to passion easily. Perhaps each of your passions was discarded relatively quickly. Perhaps you left a trail of half-begun hobbies in your wake.
Okay, I’m kind of cheating. I’m just describing stereotypical children in general. Though this does sound like what you’d expect from a multipod. Are we all born multipods? Maybe some of us just resist being forced to specialize more than others do?
That would be tough to prove. And, of course, we’re all different. I expect some of us didn’t conform to this stereotype and grew into multipotentiality later in life.
(This is a pure guess based on the fact that humans are waaaaay complex and that, every time you think you’ve nailed down a pattern, you meet someone who doesn’t fit it. Which keeps the world pleasingly interesting.)
Were the seeds of your multipotentiality already present in your childhood? I bet that, for a large majority of multipods, they were, but I’d love to hear your story.
Forget When… WHERE Did Multipotentiality Come From?
Whether you can see shades of multipotentiality in your life history right back to your birth, or whether you only developed these traits recently, can you tell what caused it?
This is another tough question. Asking what attracted my childhood self to new thing after new thing is like asking what attracts me to the ground when I fall over. Without knowledge of gravity, the only possible answer is “that’s just the way it is (or was).”
But maybe we can guess at the causes. My parents were always trying to get me interested in something new. (Looking back, they did a spectacular job of finding activities to keep me occupied. As a just-about-millennial, I have no idea how they did that without having recourse to the internet. Amazing.)
Did novelty just become a habit, so I naturally kept searching for new interests? Or were my parents responding to an innate drive of curiosity that was built into my brain from the beginning?
If there was a childhood incident that sparked my multipotentiality, I can’t think what it was. For me, it either grew from habit or it was simply innately present.
Why Does This Matter?
Well, partly it’s interesting for its own sake. That’s an argument that should need little justification in a multipotentialite community, right?
Plus self-knowledge is always useful. Many times I’ve recognized patterns in my life only after recognizing when/where they started. (Recently I read a diary entry by my teenage self complaining in much the same way that I complain as an adult. Seems this pattern is deeper ingrained than I thought!)
Maybe this knowledge is just something to be grateful for; it’s pleasant to reflect on a lifetime of exploration.
Maybe the investigation leads us back to an old interest we abandoned and would like to explore once more.
Or maybe it reveals a pattern we want to change. Perhaps we’ve always moved on a little too soon and we’d like to start sticking to passions just a bit longer.
Each of our lives are so different, I couldn’t possibly tell you what lessons to take from your story. But we might be able to learn our own lessons from the stories of others, so please share your origin story in the comments. I’m excited to hear how different/similar we all are.
Can you recognize your multipotentiality in your childhood? How do you think it came about?
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.