I was watching J-Lo’s speech at the VMAs (partly because someone was mocking how long it took and I want to see if it was justified) – and I found myself unexpectedly inspired. She talked about her career, which has been consistent even if it has not reached the momentous levels of some. Her early days as a professional dancer led into her career as a singer dabbling in several genres (nothing quite as near to my heart as her RnB days), acting (maid in manhattan is the perfect feel good film) and TV shows (American idol most recently). She spoke about the fact that many people told her to just do one thing, because she couldn’t do more than that but her response was always ‘but why?’
It resonated with me because I am also someone who is interested in many different ways of being and expressing myself in the world. Yes, I love academic learning and teaching, but for me, I am not content to simply be a great lecturer who taught others to make a difference in the world; I also want to be able to point to tangible changes that I have helped to make myself. I have had people say – ‘just do one thing well’, but to me, that would not be being true to myself. I take my cue from leaders who have combined the two – those who have developed a sharp mind alongside a commitment to activism and changing the world in practice. Aside from this, I also love to express myself in other ways which is partly why I started this blog. I can write an academic journal which will reflect one element of my personality and connects certain people, but I also want to write about life using poetry and fiction which allows me to express another part of my personality, and will connect with so many other people. I might want to take a dance class or do yoga, or work with my hands making bread or painting, or simply being outdoors among trees and fields.
I agree that you may not be able to do all the things in your heart at once, but I believe in making the time to do what you can while you have breath. I often keep in my mind, an image of my 90 year-old self, and make decisions that will give her good stories to tell and a sense of contentment rather than regret. I wonder what our lives would be like if we stopped listening to the people who told us we couldn’t, which is often only really a reflection of the fact that they don’t think they could. What if you assumed the answer to the question ‘should I?’ was a huge YES – from God or from yourself? What would you do if you had no anxiety about whether or not it was the right thing, but simply gave it a go? I believe that life can be a phenomenal adventure if you assume a yes until there is a clear no. There are always more possibilities than we realise.