I recently stumbled across Emilie Wapnick’s Tedx Talk Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling, and in twelve short minutes, my entire outlook on life changed. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it really forced me to reflect on my choices, habits and interests in a new way. It also introduced me to a word I’d never heard before and one that I identified with immediately: multipotentialite.
According to Emilie, a multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits.
Just having a name for a defining element of my personality gave me a tangible sense of relief, a bit like the feeling you get when you finally receive a diagnosis after being sick for months or years. Naturally, I wanted to know more about this “diagnosis,” so I visited Emilie’s website, ordered her book (and a few other related titles) on Amazon and dove headfirst down a YouTube rabbit hole of multipotentiality. I consequently realized that I was exhibiting classic symptoms of multipotentiality in my search for more information on multipotentiality, the irony of which was not lost on me.
As I begin to think about the many ways my multipod (short-hand for multipotentialite) personality has manifested in my life, one of my first observations is the way I tend to thrive with multiple part-time jobs. The times in my life when I’ve felt the happiest and most fulfilled in my work have been when I’m not working a single, full-time gig but several wildly different ones at once. As they say, variety is the spice of life. And it can also be the spice of your work life! Coincidentally, flexible schedules, shorter shifts and the ability to work in various different environments act as coping mechanisms that help me to manage multiple chronic illnesses too. (Because what kind of multipod would I be if I didn’t also have multiple chronic illnesses?)
As I continued to reflect, so many things in both my work and personal life began to make sense – like my long-time obsession with George Washington Carver (perhaps the greatest multipotentialite of all time), the siren call of Hobby Lobby, my interest in duathlon (why choose when you can run and bike?) or all the headaches I caused my freshman Career Exploration instructor in college.
As incompatible as these two identities may seem – how can you focus on so many different things when just managing your illness can seem like a full-time job? – the more I reflect on this newfound label, the more benefits I see to being a multipod with chronic illness. Juggling all these diverse interests over the years has certainly allowed me to practice some of the skills needed to juggle symptoms, medications and doctors. It allowed me to pivot in my career when my demanding full-time leadership role took its toll on my health. And it’s allowing me to make connections between seemingly unrelated topics like chronic illness and art, health and literacy and communication and disability.
Many of the downsides to being a chronically ill multipod, like feeling flakey or pushing past your physical limits, are accompanied by tremendous upsides. It’s certainly frustrating when your body can’t keep up with your wide range of interests and pursuits, but if one passion turns out to be too physically demanding, there are a dozen others to fall back on. While other folks struggled with boredom during last year’s quarantine, I finally made some progress on the many projects I’d been anxiously waiting to dive into.
After 33 years as a multipod, I finally have a word for the unique and sometimes chaotic way my brain works. My fellow spoonies will understand how empowering something as simple as a name can be.
Are you a multipotentialite with chronic illness or disability? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or contact me here.