I’m mulling. You know how I get into that mode, the one in which I go round and round just…brooding. A little while ago, K went through an intense period of wanting to know what her singular talent is. “What am I really good at??” she kept asking me. I finally deduced that this newfound interest was because she’d been binge-watching My Little Pony and became fascinated with the idea of a cutie mark. “Mama,” she told me, “your cutie mark would be a sewing machine and a paintbrush. And your ipad. But I don’t know what mine is!”
As far as I can tell, the cutie mark is the anthropomorphic pony version of a superpower represented as a symbol on the hind quarters. It’s like a tattoo on the butt announcing your individualized awesomeness. There are rainbows and diamonds and apples and I haven’t delved deep into My Little Pony land so I’m not sure what they all mean, but I found it riveting that K would be so insistent about figuring out her unique talent. It’s a topic I’ve been obsessed with forever.
This reminded me of an incident a few months ago when, at a gathering, a friend of mine sidled up to me and asked, “How do you find your passion?” I was stumped, not the least by the unexpectedness of the question, but because I don’t have the definitive answer. She went on to observe that I seem to have figured out my purpose in life and wanted to know how I did it.
As pleased as I am that someone thinks I’ve got it all worked out, this, of course, is hogwash. I’m bumbling along, very much clueless. And I have to say, I’m averse to the word “passion” because it always makes me think of romance novel covers with ripped dress bodices and glistening, inhuman-looking muscles (not that there’s anything wrong with romance novels, but I don’t know…I get discombobulated with the word). At any rate, I sense that what my friend meant to ask was how to find her cutie mark. Because — as K put it in her customary succinct and wise way — “your cutie mark is something you love that you’re super great at.” It’s the intersection of talent and passion, as it were.
This notion of loving what you’re intrinsically adept at is one near and dear to me — I have scores of journals dedicated to it. Looking back, I had a friend in high school who exemplified the difference between talent and passion. He was an exceptionally gifted pianist; his musical acumen was identified early on and his schedule filled up with lessons and there was no doubt that he was slated for world renown. Full music scholarship to any school, the works. Tragically, he hated playing the piano. His fingers glided over the keys, producing melodies fit for angels, but he abhorred every second of it. What he really wanted to do was make movies. In between school and piano lessons, he would round up friends and shoot detective flicks. His enthusiasm was contagious, but the quality of the films…well, we’ll leave it at that. This was high school after all, and the point is that he was having a blast. He ended up using his talent to fuel his love of movie-making. He got into his top choice university with aforementioned scholarship and then switched to become a film major. I don’t know what became of him, but he made an impression on me. It just goes to show you that you don’t necessarily love that at which you’re innately masterful and vice versa.
Having been enthralled with this idea of finding my calling, I’ve treated my entire adult life like the first two years of general education at college. I dabbled in a wide array of industries, extracurricular activities and relationships to see what felt right, seeking that special quality (which I secretly called “The Big Kahuna” for some unknown reason) that would catapult me to success. Along the way I discovered that I’m terrible at the following:
- acting (yes, my friend cast me in several of his movies — the Oscars are not in the cards for me)
- public speaking
- managing/supervising people
- budgets and anything finance-oriented
- advanced technology; I am particularly good at breaking electronic devices. I have behind me a trail of broken laptops, desktops, large format printers, the list go on….M calls me the electronic black hole.
- dealing with mean people
- dating boys without a sense of humor
I also unearthed many strengths, most of which were totally useless and not many worthy of love. My ability to fold t-shirts perfectly is unmatched. See what I mean?
Which brings me back to homing in on your cutie mark/calling…it seems to require part luck, part instinct, a ton of determination.
I’ve been thinking that what trips me up is this idea that our “passion” should be inextricably linked with our career. It happens, sure. Absolutely. And it’s amazing when it does! I’m a huge fan of TED talks and actualizing human potential and I’ve spent many years studying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We should all strive to use our talents to the fullest. In the way that K was seeking a single cutie mark for herself, I wonder if we assume that there can only be ONE holy grail-esque attribute that makes us extra special? I know I used to. It was find the Big Kahuna or bust for me. But we’re all born with so many gifts and have so many interests. Sometimes we need to prioritize them and rank them because there’s a good chance the two worlds of passionate hobby and livelihood will not collide. And I guess what I’m trying to come around to is that, that’s okay too. Take sewing, for example. I’m actually not stellar at it and seem to regress a lot, but because I love it so much, it doesn’t matter. It won’t ever become a real income-generating skill, and I’m fine with that. Having that feeling of excitement and enthusiasm for something, anything, will always enhance your daily existence (assuming of course, that the excitement/enthusiasm won’t land you in jail or cause suffering elsewhere).
I could go on and on, and I’m still mulling. I ended up answering the questions of both K and my friend basically the same way: I’m not sure how you figure out what you’re meant to do, but try things. A lot of things. Experience as much as you can. At some point you’ll feel that “click”, when you feel content and at home in your own body. Then keep doing the thing(s) until you want to continue even if everyone else might think it’s dumb or weird or unnecessary. It might be what you naturally do when you procrastinate. Or something you turn to when you’re feeling blue. Maybe you’re fifty and way into Dungeons and Dragons. Cool. Or you’re fifteen and can’t get enough of cheese-making. Go for it! Or maybe you’re like me and fill journal page after journal page (and post after post) with your incessant thoughts. Pay attention to what feels unabashedly fun and delightful. Thinking and analyzing tend to ruin the fun. Then keep trying because sometimes the talent portion takes time to catch up. And speaking from experience, when you follow that “click”, phenomenal things will start to happen.
So, what’s your cutie mark?
Side note: the only real talent I seem to have lately is to get sick. As a result, the cutie mark I’m sporting is a bruise shaped like Charlie Chaplin’s mustache on my upper lip from blowing my nose so often. Really attractive.