I learned a new word this week: MULTIPOTENTIALITY.
Honestly, I don’t even know if it is a real word, but as I sit here and type this into a word document and it isn’t underlined in red, I am inclined to think it is. It was just a comment someone left on a social media post, and probably meant to be relatively empowering yet casual, but let me tell you- that word hit me with the weight of a thousand stars. Multipotentiality.
For my entire life- as far back as I can remember- I have gotten caught up in a variety of extracurriculars, projects, plans, crafts, and possible futures for myself. And for as far back as I can remember, I have had people in my corner cheering me on, believing in whatever ridiculous vision of grandeur I can concoct in my mind. I discuss that in this essay as well. But in the opposite corner, as long as I can remember, there have been quiet antagonists, which are quite honestly, far worse than the loud ones. Quiet antagonists are the ones that look like supporters on the outside but naysay your ideas, or tell you they are out of touch with reality, or tell you that you can’t do something because reasons A, B, C. They tell you that you jump around from one thing to another, that you never finish anything you start, or try to convince you that you are not, nor will ever be satisfied. They tell you how hard you are to keep up with. They roll your eyes when you approach them with a new great, million-dollar idea while taking you out to dinner.
I will give the quiet antagonists the benefit of the doubt because I think that most of them are benign, and don’t realize that they are trying to hinder my greatness on purpose. I will even go as far as saying that the reason they try to limit me, or others, is because they were never encouraged to dream themselves, and therefore stifled their own imagination and possibilities ahead of them, so are they really to blame? They didn’t watch The Neverending Story enough times to know that Fantasia lives within them, and that people with no hopes and dreams are easy to control. I will even go so far as to say that seeing other people chase their dreams, whether it is knitting chunky blankets or auditioning for a Broadway show with exactly zero prior acting experience, makes them uncomfortable because they have never allowed themselves to dream that big and so they want you to stay small and in the comfort zone with them to keep them company. They may even try to limit me (or you) under the guise of protection, wanting to shelter me from disappointment or failure.
But what these people don’t understand is that I am not afraid of failing, and that a worse fate than failing is never trying, never exploring, never taking risks, and staying small when I truly am limitless. We all are. The only reason we don’t expand, or take up space in our universe, is because someone told us not to. Someone dimmed our light and we let them. (Highly recommend The Four Agreements, if you haven’t already read it. I revisit it from time to time when I feel I am losing my way.) We are born to be wonderous creatures, to know no bounds, because all we are is light and energy- constellations inside our bones, galaxies inside our cells. Trying new things doesn’t mean I’m restless, it means that I am looking for the things that set my heart afire. Sometimes that means things flop. On the outside, it may look like I gave up, but on the inside, I know whatever the new project/craft/business idea/career venture I had just didn’t land for a reason. I can spend a year working on something, only to realize it didn’t feel right. It has never particularly bothered me to walk away from a hobby once I was over it. Or to have the passion dwindle, not because I’m flakey, but because I could tell it wasn’t my soul’s purpose, or it was no longer exciting, or I realized I pursued something for the wrong reason so why waste another precious moment continuing?
I have cross-stitch pieces abandoned mid-stitch. Have spent thousands on classes only to choose not to pursue the end goal- eyebrows for example. Spent a weekend at a course to learn microblading, spent thousands on it, and enjoyed it. Planned to add it to my salon menu, and then COVID shut everything down. By the time the world opened back up again, I wasn’t passionate about it, if I ever was, and that even though it would bring in a lot of money, it wasn’t what I wanted to spend my days doing. I toyed with offering lashes, but same thing. Good money but not what I love doing, so maybe not my path. People like to remind me about the things I’ve abandoned, as if I have forgotten them; pointed these things out to me as if I am a someone that cannot be trusted to see things through, and with the same tone as saying out loud, “here we go again.” My response is, in part, at least I’m not boring. At least I am willing to try new things. At worst, I discover something new about myself. At best, I find something new that I enjoy doing.
All this sounds well and good. Now. But I wasn’t always so confident in myself, and I falter depending on the day, and I can’t tell you how many times I have let people dim my light. People throw rocks at things that shine, and I caught them and kept them in my pockets. I believed that all of these incompletes were a reflection of who I was. That I was incomplete. That something was wrong with me because I had so many different interests. I felt…. Shame. Embarrassment. Broken because why couldn’t I just focus for once and stick with something. I’m sad to admit how many times, as I was feeling joy and mocked for it, that I gave in to the insecurities, and allowed people to bring me down with them, to tread in water shallow enough to stand in, so that we could stay close. Together. Friends. People that are afraid to grow will do their best to limit your growth. Let me say that again. People that are afraid to grow will do their best to limit your growth. They will throw your growth back at you as an insult and will use any misstep as a weapon. Quiet antagonists; wolves in sheep’s clothing.
But what does this have to do with multipotentiality? Everything. I now have a word to use, and to own. It is a word I didn’t even know I needed. All those times I felt bad about myself because I believed I was a quitter, or a flake, or inconsistent, or lacked follow through because I went searching for something, trying a new sport, a new business venture, a new job in a new field, a new craft, a new way to make money- all those times I believed what other people were saying and felt shame- it was all wrong. I didn’t start a thousand new things because I was restless, or unable to commit to something- it was because I saw my potential in everything. At my deepest level, I believed in myself so much and believed in my potential so much, that I took the chance. The leaps of faith I took, the risks I took, the things I tried, the classes I signed up for- all of it- wasn’t because I was flakey or went looking for myself in the external- it was because I believed I was capable of everything. I went searching for my potential in everything I could find, believing I could excel in anything.
This word, multipotentiality, as power. While its clinical use is slightly different, and I understand its typical use, it doesn’t matter. To me, it means that there is actually nothing wrong with me for trying new things and setting down the things I don’t like or that don’t suit me anymore. It frees me from the shame of wanting to explore different avenues or calculate risks or take chances, when so many others won’t. Is there maybe a little bit of ADHD in there, creating a little hyper-fixation? Probably. But that is also pretty normal, I’m finding, and nothing to be ashamed of. But even then, we are pursuing all these things believing we will be good at them, and I think that is incredible. Imagine thinking you could be good at just about anything you tried? You know who can do that? Kids. So, find your inner child- look at yourself in the mirror if you have to and say, hey kid, I believe in you. Try something new. Be ridiculous. And if someone you know thinks they will make a fortune making soaps that look like Morrissey? Fucking let them. Don’t even for one minute say, well, you know, you might not. It is not helpful, or useful, and you may think you are just looking out for someone when the reality is you are creating doubt where there was none, and honestly what is the point of that other than to bring someone down? (I actually did once buy a soap in the shape of Morrissey’s head- a soap bust if you will- and I truly hope the person that made that is thriving.)
What does it cost you to support people? To hype them up? To say, well, if you want to submit a story to The New Yorker then fuck yeah- let me share that story on my Facebook page for you and tag The New Yorker?! Nothing. It costs less to get on the train at the Imagination Station than it does to trudge along in your own self-doubt, trying to keep others down in the mire with you. Who needs to be practical when you can be fabulous? Start digging. Start looking. Start believing. Shake off the shit that someone else asked you to wear and sparkle. Shine. Leave everyone behind if you have to, but do not- and I repeat- do not- give up on your potential for greatness, or in this case, your multipotential for greatness.
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