In college, I had a friend we’ll call Sue. Sue was smart, cultured, and kind—one of the coolest people I’d ever met. She would take me out for beers, put her phone away, and we’d have interesting conversations that would stick with me for days. But not long after we met, Sue moved to New York, and then somewhere else, and eventually, we lost touch. She was that kind of person: always moving, making a dent in a new place, then moving again.
Sometimes that’s what it feels like to be a multipod. You get lost in cool, new pursuits that rock your world, but eventually, you may lose touch with them.
As multipotentialites—folks who don’t have “one true calling”—we hear the call of lots of projects, and we’re eager to dabble in them all. We’re launching clothing lines, learning 3D printing, writing screenplays, and starting podcasts. If you’re a fan of the Phoenix approach to multipotentiality, a work model in which you pursue your interests sequentially, you’re probably all too familiar with the pattern of leaving one project to work on another. Even if you tend to have a few things going at once, it’s likely you’ve had the experience of realizing that it’s time to move on from something you still feel passionate about.
Moving into (and out of) communities
Years ago, I was part of a creative writing class that met at a bookstore every Tuesday evening. Every week we shared our—sometimes very personal—stories, and offered feedback and encouragement. But, after two years of weekly meetings, I left to make time for another project I wanted to pursue. It was hard to say goodbye, and while some of us kept in touch, it wasn’t the same as seeing them regularly. That’s one of the toughest things about being a multipod: moving into and out of communities. Sometimes it feels like you’re constantly getting to know new friends and routines, and constantly saying goodbye to old ones.
The nature of being a multipod means being porous and flexible, open to possibilities. The trouble with being a multipod is, life is short. There isn’t time to do all the things you want to do, at least not all at once. Sometimes you have to choose one thing over another. And because multipods don’t have one specific path to follow, there’s also no timeline that tells you when to leave a project, or at least take a break from it so you can try something else. It’s a difficult decision you have to make on your own, often relying on intuition more than anything else.
Leaving vs. quitting
Some projects you leave and some you quit. When you leave something, whether it’s a job, a relationship, a city, it just means you’ve left. When you quit something, on the other hand, it implies a fair amount of effort was put into the thing but ultimately, it didn’t pay off. It seems easier to know when it’s time to quit versus when it’s time to simply leave. When you want to quit, you’re tired and exhausted from trying. That’s not to say it’s easier to quit, but emotionally, perhaps you’ve disconnected.
Knowing when to leave something is harder. If a project brings you joy and makes you happy, leaving might seem wrong. You may even convince yourself you can do it all. You love the project so much, you’ll add it to your ever-growing list of hobbies, priorities, and to-dos, forcing it to fit into your schedule. Of course, this usually backfires. As your time shrinks, you become stressed, flustered, and resentful. Suddenly all of the projects you used to enjoy start feeling more obligatory than joyful.
Think about the “opportunity cost”
So how do you know when it’s time to leave? It might help to think about opportunity cost.
Put simply, opportunity cost is the price you pay for making one decision over another. Ever miss one party to go to another, and then you find out Party A had open mic karaoke, endless mac n’ cheese balls, and free-flowing champagne? Bummer, you missed all that! The karaoke and mac n’ cheese balls are the “opportunity cost” of choosing Party B. In terms of projects, opportunity cost is a project you give up when you choose to do something else.
Let’s say you’re deciding between going back to school to get your graphic arts degree, but in order to do so, you’d have to leave the photography group you’re in, which meets on weeknights. If you leave the group, you’ll miss out on spending time in a community you love, doing something you really enjoy. If you stay in the group, you’d potentially miss out on a career in graphic design.
As multipods, we might be more prone to err on the side of trying new things, but sometimes staying might be the right decision for you. There are no easy answers. Leaving something you love will always be difficult, but it can help to think about the opportunity cost of either decision.
Why not both?
All that said, one of the best things about being a multipod is that instead of thinking in terms of “either, or” we think more along the lines of “yes, and.” Yes, you want to get your degree, and you want to stay in your photography group. Sometimes it really does come down to a time constraint, but in the spirit of endless possibilities, let’s look at some ways you could make both work:
- Dabble or tinker with one project while you jump into another
- Try the slash approach — have two or more narrow projects that you shift between
- Batch your time or try a similar productivity scheduling hack
Of course, this is theoretical. Ultimately, there are times you have to say no to something if you want to say yes to something else.
I’ll admit: I have an ulterior motive in writing this. Sadly, this is my last regular post at Puttylike. Part of me is excited to start something new, but another part is sad to leave this project behind. For the past two years, writing for Puttylike—and being a part of our monthly editorial meetings—has been a joy in my life and an especially bright spot in 2020. Your comments (and the open, kind, thoughtful spirit of the Puttylike community in general) have been a welcome reprieve from the chaos of this year—thank you for that.
When you start new projects, you never think about how tough it may be to leave them down the road. The bright side is, if it’s difficult to leave, you know that pursuit changed your life for the better. And, like an old friend, there’s a good chance you’ll meet and reconnect again.
As always, I want to hear from you. How do you cope with leaving projects that bring you joy? How do you know when it’s time to leave?
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