When I was about 15 years old, I sat next to my dad in the car, and we talked about why I wasn't as good at things as I wanted to be. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.
I said I wanted to be first chair flute in the concert band. And he proposed a practice schedule for me and talked about making that my main priority.
But I also want to make straight A's and be valedictorian, I told him. I might not be able to do both of those things, he said.
I also wanted to hang out with my friends and be in the church choir and take piano lessons and be on the quiz bowl teams and have a part-time job.
We talked about people who become masters of things - professional musicians and olympians and famous authors.
We talked about their drive, about the decisions they make, about what they give up. We got out of the car.
I was never first chair.
The conversation is one that I have over and over again in my head, and my struggles with it shape a lot of my life.
I have always longed to be someone with vision - with a clear-sighted picture of where I'm going and what I want. I've wanted to wake up in the morning knowing that I want to be an actor. Or a teacher. Or a lawyer. Or a writer. Or a homemaker. Or a photographer. Or a craft blogger.
But please, for the love of all that is sane, not the whole damn lot of them.
And not in equal measure.
The result for me has been a life that feels seasonal, in a way. There was the season when I worked as an actor, the season when I went to law school, the season when I made a ton of crafts, the season when I wrote a lot, the season when I took pictures and opened an etsy shop, the season when I wandered around aimlessly not sure what would come next.
It's not inherently bad, I guess, to do a bunch of different things, though I call myself names about it - fickle, flighty, unsettled, temperamental. I get frustrated with the unfinished projects, the things that I was so super psyched about that now sit collecting dust (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally).
My mom told me once - a piece of advice that I passed around to a bunch of friends, who have recently quoted it back to me - that the real question is not "what do I want to be when I grow up?" but "what do I want to be first?"
And I get that - it's awesome, actually. And it seems like it should give me a lot of freedom - to relax and just do what I'm doing, knowing that tomorrow or next week I can try something different.
The problem is that I want to be good at something. Really good. Great even.
And to do be great, you have to commit yourself to that thing. Which means - and here's the rub - you have to give up other things. At least in part. You might not have to quit altogether, but you can't be the best at all of it.
So then I'm back at square one - deciding whether I'm okay dabbling in a bunch of things, moving from season to season or whether I want to take the big step and put one thing ahead of all the others. And whether I actually can.
In the meantime, I navel gaze like this. I berate myself for it after reading articles like this. And then I comfort myself with articles like this (perhaps my favorite article of all time).
So what about you folks out there? Are you wandering around from season to season? Are you at peace with it? Or are you pointing yourself in one direction you know you want to go?