Sometimes people who are *not* novelists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, management consults, programmers, parents, financiers, CEOs, politicians, scientists, traders, consultants, models, etc., find that they want to *become* novelists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, management consults, programmers, parents, financiers, CEOs, politicians, scientists, traders, consultants, models, etc.
Sometimes it seems doable, or one can do some low-cost experimenting to see what it might be like; one has enough time, enough savings, few enough obligations. Though, sometimes it seems like that ship has sailed–too little time, too little energy, money, health, youth, something.
(All of this applies to not only “career,” “income,” “impact,” something. All of this also applies to things like wanting to be cool, loved, loving, confident, etc., too.)
In any case, I think people often oscillate between, on the one hand, excitement and optimism about becoming something different, and, then, on the other hand, at least at the extremes(!), a sense of resignation, futility, or despair.
People do change their lives, all the time, of course. People accidentally find their niche, or have an epiphany, or a catch a break. Something “just starts working.” And/but, people also have the intuition that some kinds of big life changes can be quite hard, can realistically take years or a decade, and often involve some kind of safety net, which might just be youth; or parental support; or savings from a former, high-paying life; or hard-won, opportunity-costly knowledge about how to be frugal; or a tremendously supportive community, or other significant resources.
In any case, a question one might ask, is how might someone *systematically* become something/someone different? (And what are the pitfalls and paradoxes involved in that!?) And, here, for the moment, we’re at least *temporarily* setting aside questions of food, shelter, money, opportunity cost–just, what are the gears-level things that need to happen, for true, deep, change, on the level of, say, “deep bodymind”?
Those gear-level things are somewhat outside the scope of this blog post, but there are at least two reasons that change of this kind is so hard. One is at least counterintuitive, and the other is at least paradoxical.
The counterintuitive thing is just how much, how expansively, how seemingly heterogeneously the things are, that sometimes need to change, for a person to change. One typically doesn’t have a model, a feel, a sense, of what all these things might be. They all fit together at “the level of mind,” but teasing them out, semi-explicitly, can look pretty weird. It’s maybe stuff like this:
- the experiential/phenomenological field
The above items aren’t mutually exclusive, though they’re arranged somewhat in order of expansiveness or inclusivity. You might note that I phrased it above as these items *themselves* need to change. That might seem kind of weird–the “universe” needs to change, for you or your life to change?
What I really mean is that your “model” of “the universe” needs to change, rather, the “very preflective seeming” that is, in part, your “physically embodied, moment-by-moment anticipations” that somehow involve “the universe,” that need to change. (One’s “model” could be the reflective, explicit part of that.)
People change, all the time, for much less. But, sometimes, the whole universe needs to change.
Items in the list above might be counterintuitive for different reasons, but I want to focus, in particular, on “personhood.”
People often have the experience, even when they kind of like the different parts of their life, of all those parts not quite fitting together. Something is bursting at the seams. But, their life goes on, their relationships continue, maybe indefinitely, their career continues, maybe indefinitely. So, it’s not exactly the “external” roles and obligations that are bursting at the seams, they just keep happening, steady state, but instead one’s “sense” of all of it, one’s embodied feeling, sense, deep-down planning, the constellation of sensory anticipations and physical actions that make up them doing all of that:
Somewhere there’s a little bit of shearing, a little bit of grinding, a little bit of jamming, and so there’s some stress, some shortness with loved ones, some muscle tension, ongoing “unsurprising surprise,” because something, somewhere isn’t able to learn.
For there to be, instead, costless ease, a seamless life, sometimes a person’s very concept of a person needs to change, maybe subtly.
The way this goes, is, usually, a person’s intuitive concept of all the ways a person can be becomes more expansive, the basis vectors change, and then a pin is dropped, on the map: YOU ARE HERE…and perhaps you could be THERE. The voice can be soft. The reconfiguration profoundly shocking. This is sometimes on such a low, low level–the sensemaking of the blooming, buzzing confusion–it changes.
So that’s the counterintuitive piece; now, there’s the paradoxical one.
We’ve all heard things like this before, “what you resist, you’re stuck with.”
There’s such danger in “deliberate, systematic, directed,” change. First, where we’re pointed is usually somehow incorrect, some deep error of conceptualization or misunderstood personal preference, ignorance about the personal goodness/badness/possibility of the thing. That’s usually fine, when one starts with little bets as well as care, to mitigate overcommitment! (Granted, the bigger and more monolithic the decision is, the higher the potential stakes. College majors and career decisions, I hear you.)
Second, though, and this one is killer, “directed change” can sometimes mean away from something, in this case, parts of yourself, and this can be disastrous. So instead of away from yourself, you must somehow, at least first, if not forever, move towards yourself:
For you to become anything *else*, anything truly new, for you, you must somehow, simultaneously, become ever more *yourself*, in some sense, as you always, already, now and forever *were*, and will forever *be*.
And this is sometimes terrifying, the feeling of fucking cruel, cosmic joke. What if one hates oneself, seemingly irrevocably and irreparably? Sometimes: self-disgust, cringe, shame, horror–all of which, that you will always have been, written into the past, written in stone. Who wouldn’t, sometimes, want to reflexively try to smash all that out of existence? A bifurcation, a discontinuity, at least a forgetting, by you and everyone else–and then, finally, you can start to live your real life.
But no. That’s not how it works; that’s not what minds are. Usually, maybe, probably always, for the deepest changes, at least, you have to go back, all the way, for all of it. [Note: “Going back,” can *also* become a top-down, smashy thing, if one isn’t careful…………]
It turns out, in the end, in the end, in the end–that it’s ok. All the things you thought and did, your causal history goes through structure preserving transformations–the feel of it gets to change, almost nothing is what you thought it was, no matter what it was and is. It’s ok.
A bit of a tonal change, here:
I thought young kids often spontaneously hyphenate their aspirational professions? (I thought this was more of a thing, but google is failing me.)
- “Librina” (a librarian ballerina)*
- magician-scientist (that was/is me; true story)
- (Please add yours in the comments…)
Update: Commentators, mostly on twitter, have submitted these, to me:
- rock star-author
- hypnotist-ventriloquist-novelist-librarian adventurer
- “I just wanted to have an adventure and be in love”
- I wanted to be a mad scientist geneticist president and make War Pokémon
- Unfortunately I can only offer mycologist, which is non-hyphen, but still weird enough to be notable.
- Space Wizard-Scientist
- book store owner-pilot-ballerina-writer-witch
Here’s some more, maybe tongue-in-cheek, though pretty indistinguishable from those above; this online article** suggests (additional) grown-up versions:
- makeup artist-influencer-accountant
- digital-strategist-ice skater
And, here’s even more, quick-imagined by me; I think lots of people crave a sort of heterogeneous seamlessness:
- avenging valkyrie-mom
- spouse-astronaut-world saver
- financier-bitcoin millionaire-lover-traveler
- captain of industry-community organizer
To be sure, sometimes having a “hyphenate” career or life (or multiple jobs) is an act of desperation.
But, modulo resources, privilege, and more, and often even then, with the right tools and avoiding counterintuitive and paradoxical failure modes, why not?
To be sure, as well, you may have to walk through hell and give up far more than you ever thought you’d get in return, and what you finally end up with may look nothing like you thought it would, and that might be heartrending on the front end.
But you may end up with a seamlessly satisfying life.
*https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/the-2017-imagination-report-what-kids-want-to-be-when-they-grow-up/ [last accessed 20201114]
**https://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/What-Multi-Hyphenate-Career-45742128 [last accessed 20201114]