Did You Have Sporadic Obsessions Growing Up?
Photo courtesy of Jen.

Did You Have Sporadic Obsessions Growing Up?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

When I was a teenager I was OBSESSED, with certain bands and television shows. The biggest culprits were shows like My So-Called Life and Felicity (don’t judge, the writing was excellent). These shows were more than entertainment for me, they both reflected and inspired my life. And as an angsty, confused teenager, they comforted me to no end.

They were also what sparked my interest in television writing, specifically the coming-of-age genre. I wanted to move others in the way that I had been moved.

These shows made me more creative. There was the “evil Felicity” Halloween costume I created. And then there was the video I made for MTV’s FANatic…

(Thank god that thing never aired… Though perhaps it lay the groundwork for film school?)

I’ve always had these mini obsessions. It’s just that up until I saw Alex Noriega’s post last week, I hadn’t equated the obsessiveness itself with being a multipotentialite. But now I see that they’re completely related!

I loved Alex’ cartoon so much that I asked him if I could share with the Puttylike community. He kindly agreed.


A big thanks to Alex for letting me share this with you.

Your Turn

Did you have sporadic obsessions growing up too? Did they make you more creative and help you develop new skills?


Don’t forget, the Renaissance Business Christmas Sale ends at 11:59 PDT on Friday. Use discount code PUTTYCHEER to save 30% on the book.


  1. Janet says:

    Great comic – thanks for sharing it with us (and thanks Alex for letting you :). I bounced from one obsession to another growing up – still do! But Alex’ comic resonates with me as I gave up teaching because of the tight structure of our educational system. Give kids the chance, they will learn – it may not be according to ‘plan’, but every child is curious and, before being squashed, loves to discover new things.

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, it really is difficult fitting into the system and still staying true to your multipotentialite nature. Thankfully there are some programs that are at least a bit more progressive. I found a couple along the way. But you do invariably come up against resistance at times. I’m a fan of “self-learning” to say the least. :)

    • Erin ok says:

      That’s why I didn’t become a teacher, despite being drawn to it. . . And why I won’t put my son in public school! This comic definitely describes me and my husband and we will be encouraging our son to learn what he needs to learn by following his passions.

  2. jennifer says:

    TOTALLY!! What a great comic and it really hit home. I had TONS of obsessions as a kid. I was always jumping around from wanting to create video games to writing to arts and crafts to grunge rock to drawing, etc. I could literally go on forever with that list. But now that I know I’m a Multipotentialite it makes much more sense to me. And I feel like what’s really meant to be part of my life has stuck with me and the rest of the obsessions have faded into the background. But I agree–all the hobbies, obsessions and jumping around have made me a more rounded person with interesting ideas, point of views and things to talk about. Plus my skill sets are wide-ranging and that’s always helpful too!

    • Emilie says:

      Nicely put, Jen. I’ve found the same thing, that certain passions have “stuck” while others have faded. But even the passing interests strengthened my “main” interests in some way. For instance, all those painting classes I took in college definitely made me a better web designer.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Kylie says:

    Um, yes. I, too, loved Felicity. And RENT. And Loveline (remember that show?!). And making weird crafts, like postage stamp magnets and decoupaged light switch covers. Now that I think of it, I think I really enjoy that feeling of getting completely obsessed with something and trying to find out everything there is to know about it. I’m always fascinated by people who have strong interests in seemingly incongruent things, so hopefully there are people who see me that way, too.

    • Emilie says:

      Ouu I’ve never seen Loveline. Sounds enticing. And I’d certainly love to pick your brain sometime, Kylie. :) I too love hearing all about multipotentialites’ various obsessions. Maybe that’s why I love what I do so much.

  4. Pamela says:

    I was lucky enough to have a mother who encouraged my art as a child – I was totally obsessed with making small things out of paper and painting. There were no formal art teachers in our area and I wonder what my life would be like today had there been the vast information of the internet available. Children need to be encouraged to explore and do what they love – not only encouraged but supported. I was a high school art teacher for several years and rarely did we follow a curriculum – that wasn’t what art was about – at least for me. Luckily, the administration was generous in allowing me to have a pretty loosely structured classroom…

    • Emilie says:

      That’s wonderful, Pamela. My parents were really encouraging growing up too. I remember painting with water colours in the kitchen and making “clay” out of flour and water. So much fun.

      Your “curriculum” sounds great! Wish I could drop in. Heh.

  5. Susan says:

    Until I read the title of your post, I hadn’t really thought about it. But I totally did have those obsessions. They just make more sense to me now that I know I’m a multipotentialite! I’m starting to look at those random obsessions as less of a character flaw and more like something that made me a well-rounded person, as Jennifer says.

    And I loved the cartoon!

    • Emilie says:

      Absolutely. I used to think I was weird for being so obsessive too, but I think that that obsessiveness is precisely what drives us to work so hard on our projects. It’s like a process of harnessing that obsessive energy and using it as fuel to create. Great feeling.

  6. Sarah says:

    WOW. The obsession thing is part of multipotentialism too?! It has always been sort of a running joke with me that I get really obsessive about things, and then I move on to the next. When I was a kid, I had so many different collections, and I would save my allowance each week to buy the another piece for the collection until a new interest came along. It was fun but I wish someone had taught me to save that money. I have a lot of not-worth-much beanie babies, pogs, Mary’s Moo Moos, American girl doll stuff, Magic the Gathering cards and who knows what else. I also get obsessively interested in activities too. I started doing yoga recently and was immediately ready to journey to India and become a yoga teacher. That one wore off before I got my plane ticket, happily.

  7. Been there, done that, just don’t have the T-shirt. That would make a crazy T-shirt with all those sporadic obsessions on it! :-)

  8. Josh says:

    Okay, I guess I gotta dig deep. I made a comic book (inspired by Elfquest graphic novels) about me and my friends as knights in a fantasy. I have no idea what that taught me except to exercise my imagination. It’s probably good that I took up music instead of art. lol
    However hearing my dad’s folk records growing up got me started on music, which I still continue now. Hope you guys don’t mind putting up with my “specialist” tendencies in music, but they are partly inspired by multi.

    • Emilie says:

      No need to apologize, Josh. In a way, I think that when we get really deep into one of our interests, we sort of shift into “specialists.” At least temporarily. There’s no one right way to be a multipotentialite. And yeah, I would wager that your comic book adventures taught you something about executing an idea and dreaming big.

  9. Jason says:

    yes! I was a very obsessive kid… My wife would probably tell you I still am. Growing up it was baseball cards, tv shows like the a-team, macgyver, dukes of hazard. Later it became music, audio systems, cars and girls. Then it healthily evolved into business ambition. Obsessions can be a great source of joy and a way to charge up an introverts battery. Just remember to make your spouse, kids, family or close loved ones to be one of your obsessions too… ;)

    • Emilie says:

      So true. I’ve realized that “human connection” is one of the things I value most in life. It’s a huge priority for me now. :)

      And like you mentioned, I too have found that the obsessiveness has helped me tremendously in business. It’s like, you can’t rely on anyone but you to make it happen, so you had better tap into that “obsessiveness” and WORK. Great stuff.

  10. Tim says:

    I definitely had obsessions growing up… and I’m finding that many of them randomly come back. Guess I’m a cyclical scanner.

    • Emilie says:

      lol.. I deleted your other comments for you, Tim. :)

      But yes, I’ve found myself to be somewhat cyclical too. Often they come back in slightly different forms, but there’s definitely some pattern going on there.

      Nice to hear from you. I’ve been thinking a lot about community building/plans for the future lately. I’ll get in touch soon. Hope you’re doing well!

      • Tim says:

        Haha, thanks.

        Yeah, I’m finding the same thing. And also, even if in the same form, I find that I’m more realistic about them the second time around. When I first become obsessed with something I’m all like “I’m going to mater this within a year!”. I then proceed to spend every waking moment devouring related content… until I get completely tired of it and switch to another interest.

        But, when an old interest comes back again, I seem to be able to take things a lot more slowly and create more realistic goals (or none at all, just allowing myself to progress naturally).

        Awesome, looking forward to hearing from ya. I am!

  11. Melayahm says:

    I guess I did. I can’t say I researched things as such, but I remember going to the library for soft toy making books and eventually designing ny own patterns, and painting tee shirts, and making models with plasticine, and exploring paper sculpture, and others. Always making stuff. And I was a tv nut, but I usually translated my favourite characters into imaginary friends and talked to them on loooong walks, making up stories with them, and me in the leading role, lol! I remember one of my early favourites was an anime, even though it was called Japanimation at the time, Marine Boy. Loved it madly, but having seen it now on Youtube, it was painfully slow, hehe! But I think it laid the foundations for later.

  12. Sandy says:

    hey Emilie!
    BIG time Felicity fan here, too! In fact, a few years ago I went and bought the entire dvd set and rewatched it (still as good). I didn’t think I was I wasn’t an obsessive kid growing up but looking back now I can see how my interests did jump around (there was this one year it was knitting because I joined a knitting club in school and *all* I did was knit pieces of this sweater..lol) and continued into adult-hood (software developer, part-time yoga teacher..). Who says we can’t have it all ;)

    • Emilie says:

      Oh man, I pull out those DVDs waaaay too often! Even now. Haha.

      And you’re right, we can totally have it all. Don’t listen to anyone who tells ya otherwise. :)

  13. Eliza says:

    I wanted to do everything when I was a kid! That’s how I ended up in theatre class with you Em ;) I remember deciding I was going to be writer, an illustrator, the first woman in the baseball hall of fame (clearly, that is one dream I was born a few years too late to achieve…) an actress, play the violin, trumpet and piano… make movies and design things. I’ve since realized that when it all boils down to. Ahem, I mean, what my over-arching theme is… is that I love telling stories that move people! And this passion has most certainly helped me develop new skills over the years. In fact, as is the case with most puttypeep I would think, it’s still helping me gain new skills! I’ve recently gotten really into interaction design actually so we’ll see where that takes me!

    • Emilie says:

      Aww that’s awesome! I really like your “overarching theme” too. I think I’ve realized that OTs are actually our personal motivations– the thing that drives us from interest to interest.

      You know it’s funny. I’d actually forgotten that we met in acting class. I just remembered the resulting friendship. OH I do recall an X-Files obsession though… Did I imagine that, or am I right? :)

      by the way, are you in Montreal right now? I’ll be around till Jan 6 and would love to grab tea, if you’re around. Let me know. xo.

      • Eliza says:

        It’s funny because only in writing it here did I actually realize what my OT was ha! yay :) Now I just have to figure out how to stream line it into a business. I’m going to have to do some brainstorming…

        But yea we did a piece from little women together I think! Allison was also in our class if I remember correctly. And yes you’re totally right, there was definitely an X-files obsession! Good memory :)

        I’ll be arriving in Montreal on friday the 23rd! I’d love to grab tea it’s been wayyy to long! I’ll be there till the 4th so we definitely have time. I’m stoked! xx

  14. Denise says:

    Yes!! I sooo resonated with this post! I had several growing up and I still have those sporadic obsessions…

    A few months ago at the beginning stages of my blog, I became obsessed with learning code – which was weird, because normally anything technical like that would freak me out, but I was pretty fascinated with it.

    I took a break from the ‘obsession’ because I didn’t want to keep trying to figure it out on my own. I’m hoping to return to learning that with help from online classes.

  15. Nicole says:

    Wow…and I thought I was the only one. My family has always picked on me for being so obsessed and passionate about “what interests me at the moment,” that I’ve often felt misunderstood. It took me sooo long to write a paper for one of my MBA classes because I was so intensely curious about the topic I was writing about. I had a hard time committing to a single topic – under the umbrella them we were assigned – because my obsession with the topic led me in so many different directions.

  16. Annie Andre says:

    Wow, i feel so deprived. I had to suppress my multi passions as a child. I wanted to make my parents proud and in doing so i was so bored and depressed a lot.
    But as an adult, i found i was jumping jobs like they were going out of style and i constantly had this need to learn new subjects. I guess i was making up for lost time.

  17. frankd says:

    Cool as a person who dabbled in so many things I have really gotten into astrology. This story really reflects the ideals of how to transcend human life as we know it through technology. The internet has been my best teacher for the last ten years and everyday I learn something new.

    In astrology Neptune represents the spiritual in contrast to Saturn which represents the material. Right smack in the middle of both is Aquarius. As we are now in the Age of Aquarius it is clear that technology will help human transcend and evolve.

  18. Colleen says:

    That is an absolutely amazing comic – and like others, much of my childhood.

    Oh, who am I kidding? That’s still me!

  19. Piritta says:

    Yes! That comic is great and so spot on! That was me and that still is me, and I love it and my what the comic so well describes “vivid curiosity”. The internet really has made it all possible, as sometimes I wonder what I would do without Google since that’s where all my quests for knowledge start.

  20. Wow, it’s great! I totally relate to this cartoon. And the 25 pesetas coin brought me suddenly back to my childhood in Spain.

  21. Arne Tietz says:

    OMG, it’s so much me what I read here.
    I’m in the 40s and have done a lot of “hobbies” aka obsessions: Sports (waterski, squash, motorcycling, martial arts, dancing, …), music, singing, and a lot more. I was in the IT long ago (’till ’93) and switched to psychology and am a trainer for argentine-tango, too …mmmm… and learning Drupal (a CMS) and am a coach and …
    All that I’ve done I’ve done it completely with passion and was good at it, advanced faster than others. And than I switched, again and again. Almost every 2 years.
    “It’s lonely at the top” said a friend of mine. For me it means I’m good in too many things, and sometimes I scare others being better in a short time. I tried to motivate others in doing like I did, but they can’t, as I figured out two years ago: I have a high IQ and now I know that I’m “puttylike”, what makes me smile, “I’m not alone anymore, there are others like me”.
    But it doesn’t feel like wanne-switch anymore. Though I haven’t found my “niche” yet. “Psychology, coaching, dancing, drupal, writing,… what might be the best mix?”, that’s what I’m pondering at the moment.

    Is it multipotentialite-burnout, or is it the inner urge finding another obsession ;-)
    Hm, haven’t found one lately. Wondering why.

    I’m curious about your other articles. It’s feels good having found you.

  22. Kristen says:

    Definitely! Some of the family friends actually commented at times on how weirdly obsessive I was — I think my parents just got used to it.

    When I was a kid, I really liked cross-stitching. Then, from around 4th grade to 9th grade, it became reading. I read constantly — after school in bed, in the car, at dinner, even in restaurants! I’d go through a book a day without even pushing myself. Then in high school I didn’t have as much free time, so it became art (I had the advantage of going to an art-focused school). When I was 14 I spent HOURS doing this brush and ink painting of a bobcat that most people can’t tell isn’t a photograph. I picked up spinning and knitting, and was obsessed with those for a while. I started learning Japanese, and taught myself both writing systems before my mom finally found me a private tutor. Basically, anything that involved making things was fair game. (weirdly enough, I actually consider foreign languages to be an artistic medium, so they fit…)

    So in short, yeah, I was constantly obsessing over something new. Fortunately, my parents were pretty supportive — my mom did get me a Japanese tutor and a spinning wheel, after all :).

  23. Jamie says:

    I just discovered your website this morning and I feel “home!” I have bookmarked several articles to come back to and started making a list of things I’m passionate about in order to find the themes behind them (I think mine is having to do with “discovery” – I love love love thrifting and the thrill of the hunt and learning about the world via public radio, etc but I also love events and weddings – I love executing someone’s plan and troubleshooting in the moment).

    I was a completely obsessive kid and still am! I definitely go through phases, but my obsessions also sometimes make me really impulsive (I get an idea and have to do it NOW).

    I think a lot of my obsessions helped me find community and fit in, now that I look back at it. A commenter above mentioned Rent. I saw Rent about 25 times in high school and was very involved in the online community and always knew people when I waited in line for rush tickets before the show. I traveled all over the midwest as a high schooler to see the show.

    I also became obsessed with The Little Mermaid in college when a group of us decided we were each one of the Disney princesses – I took it the furthest out of all of them and started obsessively collecting Little Mermaid stuff as a 21 year old (strange!) but I suppose it helped me feel like I belonged to a group. I’m still close with those friends even though we’ve left our Disney identities behind. :)

    Now that I think about it, the internet has really really really helped fuel my obsessions and find like-minded people and community. Now, I’m the general manager of a niche music website that helps spread the word about new releases and music. It’s not my total passion, but I can definitely see how my past has led me here and how this job was basically created for me. I’m excited to learn more about myself and my multipotentiality through your prompts and articles!

    • Emilie says:

      Awesome, Jamie. Thanks for swinging by.

      I definitely had a My Little Mermaid thing when I was a kid too. Also My Little Pony and Care Bears. I had a VHS tape with the MLP and CB movies back to back and I wore that thing DOWN! Heh.

      I really like your website by the way. Great to meet you.

  24. Chris says:

    Hi Emilie

    I heard about your blog from the podcast of Internet business mastery, when you started explaining about Multipotentialites, you caught my attention and started reading your blog. This post resonates to my personality. I thought that my curiosity for knowing a lot of things at the same time makes me feel unsatisfied with a lot of things. Having many talents, and skills makes me unsure of what I want. Your blog open my eyes on things and ideas and I can truly relate on the topics that you discuss. Thanks for sharing the information and being an inspiration.

  25. April says:

    I know this is an old article but I’ve just discovered this website and started reading the ‘start here’ articles, and felt the irresistible urge to share after reading some of the other comments.
    I have always obsessed about my hobbies but without pursuing anything single-mindedly. Josh’s comic book about his friends as knights reminds me of my invention in junior school (age 7-11) of not an imaginary friend, but an imaginary planet ruled by a queen who rode a big cat and had great adventures (think She-ra meets Thundercats). This lasted a couple of years, and I had all sorts of obscure backstory filled in as well as the main adventures, not bad for a 10 year old. Later obsessions included violin, choir, indoor rifle shooting(!), JRR Tolkien (before the movies), more choir, fencing, flamenco dancing, yet more choir (always a different one), homegrown veg, church committees, yoga, etc etc. I thought I had never managed to grow out of ‘growing out’ of hobbies but now I know better! Looking forward to reading more puttylike articles!

  26. Niki says:

    I am still like this. I get obsessed abut a topic and then just devour everything I could find and then it wanes. Sometimes it comes back with a vengeance, then it wanes again. I’m not sure if obsessing over a topic is the same as being a multipotentialite since reading about something is not the same as picking up a skill, being good at it, then moving on. Right now my brain’s very busy, like I’m processing too much information because I’m reading too many things and listening to too many audiobooks and podcasts. Is it possible I’m just an info junkie and not really a multipotentialite?

    • Corrine says:

      I totally agree Niki – I am the same – an info junkie. I start heaps of fascinating books, listen to podcasts, read blogs, try many different artistic mediums, but I get distracted really easily (the internet is so full of interesting and fascinating things to read!). Perhaps I am the same, an info junkie and not a multipod?

  27. Keith Kehrer says:

    ironic. I am a web developer and don’t have a web site.

    Um… Yes, I am still like that. My daughter just shakes her head and my wife is incredulous. Now you want to be a DJ? You are 55. Sheesh. I think ADD has been a medical term for being the way I am. I had so many obsessions as a kid. mostly musical, but even in my own chosen field, I can’t stick to things and get bored.

    Thanks for giving a name to what I am and giving me hope that it is not a failing on my part but an opportunity.

    Keith Kehrer
    Musician, voice actor, vocalist, actor, script writer …

  28. Jessica says:

    I had gone through wanting “to be” all of the typical professions that “Professional Roller Skater” was something I was die-hard passionate about (for all of a few months). I declared every new passion with even more vigor, attempting to express to those around me, that THIS would be it!!!
    Still my life.

  29. MrGroknRoll says:

    So true.

    I think I was never happier than in school and while studying technical writing at uni – both allowed me to dive into a lot of different topics: math, physics, biology, sociology, language in school; computer science, didactics, psychology, visual communication, translation at uni.

    Plus my private interestes in science fiction, fantasy, comics and later theatre.
    (I just realized that SF continues to be an obsession because it’s by definition a genre that re-invents itself constantly.)

  30. Maryske says:

    That comic is so recognizable… LOL Oh yeah, I recall several TV shows from my childhood and after, ranging from a musical fairy-tale through Hogan’s Heroes to Star Trek. Most of these obsessions last for a few years, then they are taken over by others. But usually they do come back cyclically. At the moment, I’m in my third Star Trek cycle :-)
    And then there is reading of course. A lifelong obsession in itself, but *what* I read has some clearly definable obsessions in topic and style. At the moment I’m very much into espionage and thrillers – a new area for me. From the past few years alone, I recall reading obsessions about post-war occupied Germany, the gifted and talented, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and consequently Botswana, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen and her time, women in history… to name a few ;-) I love it – always learning something new!
    But yeah, there have been very clear others that have obsessed me for only a period of time. Sports (mainly soccer and speedskating, occasionally spiced up with tennis), listening so intensively to recorded children’s choirs that I could tell them apart not by the song, but by their technical singing, song writing (still in that), amateur psychology, roster making, website making…

  31. Geeske says:

    This is awesome!! I totally do this every time! The cool thing is: my son is in a new school system that lets students choose what they want to learn and use the internet to satisfy their curiosity just like this cartoon suggests! Every student gets an ipad and lots of educational apps so they can study anytime anywhere. My son loves it! Yay for the new technologies!

  32. Aislinn says:

    Oh yes and still do at 51. Just until today I didn’t have a name for what I am. Others had names for me, if you’re here you have heard some of those names, but I just thought there must be something wrong with me. Thankfully teaching in the home-school community allowed me to follow my passions and curiosity while still “appearing” respectable.

  33. klufty says:

    i definitly was this way when little, but maybe not as intense since i never actually mastered any new skills. i flitted between ice skating, gymnastics, tae kwon do, trumpet, claranet, harp, voice and wood carving. but once any got hard, or i got bored, i bailed. as if looking for something i was naturally gifted at, although now i know that is very rare, and even people who do have natural gifts need to work very hard. but this lack of motivation to fully pursue interests is affecting me even now, and i’m having trouble deciding between what interests to pursue, and how to pursue them. i know i could interconnect them all if i tried, but it’s the trying. i’m new to this site, and i’m sorry if you’ve already written an entry on this topic, but could you somehow write (or is there already) an article on motivation and finding resources to pursue interests when self study is currently difficult for you?

  34. Niamh says:

    Love this, it’s very relatable. Not that I was a dragon ball z enthusiast, definitely more of a pokemon girl. So glad to have found a community of like-minded people. I feel like I’ve always struggled with my desire to do many different things, and more than ever in the last few months. I think this acceptance of who I am will help me an awful lot.

  35. Shamini says:

    This is eerily accurate! I stumbled across your TED talk and related to it so much. I’m 25 and I’ve had four career moves already. I studied science and maths at university, am writing a book in my spare time and do amateur musical theatre and sing at weddings. I even joined officer training for a year but quickly found out that was not for me…I am freaking out at my inability to stay in one career path but am constantly scared about what I’m missing out on, missed opportunities and not being successful because of my scattered, fickle nature. And then, this article reminded me of my obsessions growing up – whether it was LOTR or pirates or HP or the X Factor singer, Rhydian (true story) my obsessions were beyond ridiculous. But because of them I would draw, or write poetry or gather knowledge, remember pointless facts, learn and perfect songs, themes and music from scores. This is crazy, I have just realised I am most definitely a 1000% a multipotentialite. Thank you! Now to decide how to keep all my passion instead of specialising!

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