For awhile, I was convinced that I needed to limit my love to one thing - but I'm learning to accept the fact that I love a lot of things, and that it's okay. It's okay to be some sort of creative nomad, and it's okay that I'm not the ultimate master at any one particular thing. It's okay to explore and immerse myself in a number of things, and it's okay that I don't have it all figured out just yet.
"Love what you do and do what you love."
You hear it all the time, but what the hell are you supposed to do when you don't exactly know what that thing that you love is? We graduate from high school and are expected to narrow that thing we love down to a college major. When we graduate from college, we are expected to then turn that college major into a job. With this societal mindset, we're trained to believe that that thing we do for a living, that thing that sets our soul on fire, that thing that we love has to be one thing - one thing that we decide upon in those exact moments -- but what if we don't know what that thing is when those times come? And what happens when you can't quite pinpoint just one thing? What happens when you love a lot of things?
When I graduated a year ago (May 2014) with my BFA in Communications Design / Graphic Design (and a minor in Art History), I still felt like I didn't know what that one thing was. When I chose graphic design as my major, I didn't REALLY truly fully know what I was getting myself into. There's no real way of knowing until you give it a go. I've learned that I love to do a lot of different things, and they are all so different from one another. Within the branch of graphic design itself - there are so many different directions you can go. In school, I felt like I was constantly trying to figure out what my forte was amongst all of those different categories of design, and desperately searched for how to define myself in the creative world as a fresh grad. In addition to design, I also really love photography and prop styling - two skills (very different from, but also related to - graphic design). Upon graduating, I've been able to dedicate more time to those skills, but it's also left me feeling like I am "all over the place" in terms of a professional focus. I hate when people ask me "what is it that you do exactly" because I feel like it isn't a simple answer - because it isn't one single particular thing that I do - it's a number of things. When I look at my overall body of work, I often feel that it doesn't seem like it was all created by the same person (me).
I love graphic design. I love branding. I love typography. I love hand-done typography. I love illustration. I love photography. I love fashion photography. I love portrait photography. I love prop styling. I love food styling. I love making food. I love eating food. I love to write. I love color. I love pattern. I love street art. I love visiting galleries and museums. I love nature. I love going on adventures. I love a lot of things. A lot of other things that aren't even on this list. And I am pursuing all of those things to some extent. Some more than others, yes - but ultimately I am designing and photographing and styling and writing and making food and going on adventures etc. Now the question is: is that a problem?
For awhile, I thought it was. And sometimes, to be completely honest, I still feel like it is. I have days where I freak out - thinking: "Holy shit I have no focus and I definitely can't master all these skills and do all these things! #panicattack #SOS #deepbreaths" It's humanly impossible to do everything and be everywhere at the same time. I worry whether or not my skills will be forever stuck in a state of "mediocre" because I never chose to focus on any one particular thing. However, another very big part of me feels like there is nothing wrong with working towards being better at multiple things. After all, why should we limit ourselves?
James Victore sums up my feelings pretty well in the video below. If you're not familiar with his work or his "Burning Questions" video series - get familiar! I subscribe to his newsletter, and it's one of my favorite emails to open every week! (just the kick in the pants that I always seem to need) ;)
I think "you are what you love" is the perfect way to look at this dilemma. If you still don't exactly know what that one thing (or multiple things) is - I totally feel you. I've been there. I kinda still am there, in some ways. I've written out lists of my interests to try to narrow it down. I've rewritten my "about me" and social media bios more times than I can count. I've thought about the things I'd be willing to do without getting paid to do it. I've thought about the things that truly make me happy. I've thought about it over and over and over again, and ultimately - yeah, I'm still thinking about it - but I'm also a believer that I can keep doing multiple things - because they all make me happy. Every day I learn more about myself and what I enjoy doing more than other things, but I still don't think that I'll ever narrow it down to one thing. That's just not who I am, and that's okay.
I think the best advice I can give is to listen to your heart and trust your gut - which sounds super cliche, but it's true! In time, things will start to make more sense as you try things and find out what gets your blood rushing and what doesn't. Stop over-thinking it, and just be honest with yourself. When you stop searching for answers, I think that's when the most clarity will come to you.
If you really love one particular thing, then go for it. Become a "specialist" at that one thing, and own it! But on the other hand, I personally don't think there is anything wrong with loving more than one thing - aka being a "generalist." And I'm not just saying that because that's the situation I'm in. ;) Just do what you love - whatever makes you happy. Whether that's one thing, or a bunch of things - and have a little faith that it'll all work out in the end. None of us have it all figured out, and that's okay.
I've been trying to get this post out of my system for months (it's so hard to write a cohesive post out of brain vomit like this), so I'm hoping that it makes a tiny bit of sense, and maybe brings you some inspiration today.
What are all your thoughts on this? Are you a believer in focusing on one thing? Or should we try to be great at as many things as we possibly can? Where do we draw the line? Is it possible to love too many things? Are you still trying to figure out what it is that you love? Are you, too, also afraid of pursuing too many things and spreading yourself too thin?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below! :)
PS: Thank you Kristyn Brady for snapping the first photo of me and the perfect wall for this post! (spotted in McCarren Park, Brooklyn NY this past weekend)