One Person (Me) / Multiple Careers (Maybe)

Last week, I re-read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.  In it, she mentions Marci Alboher’s book One Person / Multiple Careers and I decided to look it.  The book’s blurb states that it is ’essential reading for anyone who is loathe to answer “What do you do?” with a singular definition’.  Whilst I would hesitate to use the word loathe, I certainly struggle to answer this question.  Usually I just say that I’m a historian, which is true but doesn’t quite seem to really reflect how I spend a lot of my time or the work that I identify with.  

Reading One Person, which I did in two straight sittings, I realized that I’m not alone in my dilemma.  Lots of people feel similarly and others have forged a path, with the book drawing on these examples to provide some useful tips and pointers for developing multiple careers.  Crucially, Alboher doesn’t offer a ‘one size fits all’ solution.  On the contrary, she emphasizes the varied ways in which multiple careers can develop and the different forms that they can take.  

It was inspiring to read about others’ experiences.  It was also fascinating to learn about people’s self-definitions.  In particular, I was intrigued by those who identify most strongly with activities that don’t actually pay, or aren’t the means by which they earn their living.  I’ve always considered these areas of my life as more like hobbies, but what if they form part of what one views as one’s life’s work?  What if those things are what we were born to do, and the stuff we are paid for is just a way to cover the bills?  What effect would re-defining them have?  

As if on cue, a conversation with my five year old niece in the last few days revealed that she thought my Quaker meeting is where I go when I am at work.  An interesting perspective that added to my sense of needing to rethink and redefine how I classify different aspects of my life.  I initially assumed this would involve exploring what I want to do, but maybe reconsidering what I do already would be equally as enlightening.  Rather than viewing multiple careers as something I’m striving towards, maybe I’ll see that it is already my way of working. 

The Gifts of Imperfection

Last week, I issued a book amnesty, whereby I declared that I had stopped reading any of the books I was currently part way through. It was such a relief from the self-imposed guilt of a half finished pile! With a clean slate in place, I had the joy of beginning to re-read Joanne Field’s “A Life of One’s Own”, from which this blog is named, over the weekend. Also over the weekend , I had a conversation about favourite books. Always hard to pick one, or even a handful, but I straightaway cited Brene Brown as an author who has really influenced me. Barely a day goes by when I don’t think of something she writes about in “Daring Greatly” or “The Gifts of Imperfection”. It’s no exaggeration to say that they’ve been life-changing reads (I guess this is a sign that I should read her other book, “I thought it was just me”, soon too!).

One of the things I like most about Brown’s writing is that she takes seemingly nebulous concepts and gives very precise definitions that she’s worked up from her research into shame and vulnerability. In particular, I like her statement about love, which has helped me to explore what it means to me. How can we ever know what love is? Are we “in love”? Are we loved? Big, challenging, scary questions, but her short definition has provided a guidepost when searching for answers.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something that we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivates between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.
Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”

Brene Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, p26