I watched a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert called Flight of The Hummingbird: The Curiosity Driven Life. Ms. Gilbert was in the habit of giving people the advice to “follow your passion”. A Facebook comment had made her realize that unlike her, not everyone has an all-consuming passion, something they would do no matter what. When people without that drive hear the advice to “follow your passion”, it makes them feel deficient in some way. I am one of those people.
So much that I read or listen to says the same thing, to follow my passion, to pour all my energy into that thing that I feel most strongly about. But after years of trying to decipher what it is that I am passionate about, no one thing ever seems to rise to the surface for very long at a time. This has been an ongoing source of frustration for me for most of my adult life.
In her talk, Ms. Gilbert goes on to identify people like myself as hummingbirds. We flitter around from one thing to the next and in so doing, cross-pollinate things, bringing ideas to new places and people. It was comforting to watch the talk and have someone acknowledge that not everyone has an overriding passion that makes clear to them the direction their life should follow. Her advice for people like me is to let curiosity be our guide.
It is good to be a hummingbird. Sometimes following my curiosity leads to a dead end, and sometimes to something that shapes the direction of my life for years to come. Curiosity led me to try skateboarding, which introduced me to fascinating people, exciting music, and different ways of thinking about my life. It was curiosity that brought me back to Outward Bound after my course to see what it was like for the people who work here, and 20 years later, I’m still exploring where that pathway leads. Curiosity led to getting a degree in Web Technologies and though I’m still not certain what role it will ultimately play in my life, I liked learning something new. I am a curious ultra-runner, not super passionate about it, but curious enough to really enjoy it. The list could go on for a while.
My curiosity has not lead to fame, riches, or a lucrative career, but it has taken me on a fascinating journey, one that I could have never imagined before embarking upon it. I’ve lived in the Caribbean, hiked and biked in New Zealand, managed a restaurant, cooked for pilgrims walking across Spain, and so many other things. Curiosity is at the heart of what keeps me on the road, moving forward into a future that is unknown, but more interesting because of it’s uncertainty. When you don’t know what’s beyond the horizon, the possibilities are infinite.
I envy those who have a passion, but I don’t think I want to trade places with them. I have no idea what I’ll be doing even six months from now, and that uncertainty keeps me awake and alive, ever scanning my field of vision for what’s next, ever moving across the landscape of this life, occasionally getting stuck in some valleys, but eventually always finding the next mountaintop. Life is sweet, but I think even sweeter when I drink its nectar like a hummingbird.
If you liked this post, you may be interested in I Am a Multipotentialate
Based on a journal entry from 2.23.16