The ampersand & me:
Everyone has their own version of self-discovery. When we were little, our teachers and parents asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up and we shouted out the one thing that fascinated us the most at the time. But then we grow, right? We change, and we gain new life experiences. A lot of us never wind up where we thought we would by the time we’re adults. I don’t even remember what I said that I wanted to be because even at a young age, I probably had no idea.
Back then, my sister and I weren’t allowed to watch much tv. Mom had a rule: Use Your Own Imagination. We had Barbie dolls, Play-doh, Crayola crayons and colored pencils galore, countless books, bicycles, stuffed animal toys, and so many more. Sure, we didn’t know it at the time, but these things were the tools we’d use to chisel out our personalities. In fact, I was quite a creative little tyke who spelled my name using an ampersand because I thought it was a capitalized cursive “S” until I was taught otherwise.
Thinking back on it, I realize that the reason I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up was because I was perfectly content the way I was. There were so many things to do and the time to do them seemed limitless. Whenever I wanted, I could pick up something I loved, like a doll or a crayon, and let my creativity run free. It was glorious, but it is that exact element of freedom that we seem to lose as we grow. I thought for sure I had.
Still, life goes on and soon we’re in high school, then college, and hopefully into our chosen careers. But I never made it that far. I felt like a rock in a steady stream watching everyone around me pass me by. They all seemed to know what direction they wanted to take. That had goals they were reaching while I was floundering in what few classes I had picked at random because I didn’t know what I wanted at all.
The answer to the question of what I wanted to be was still alluding me in my early twenties. So, I quit. I dropped out of college after one year of so called study. I just wasn’t there for the right reasons. I wasn’t interested in going to class and I had more fun socializing than anything else.
For the next ten years I bounced around from job to job essentially trying to figure out who I was. In the meantime, I strained the small extroverted part of my personality trying to be something that I wasn’t. I knew I didn’t want to be in customer service, but I didn’t know what I did want to do except escape and that wasn’t an option.
I spent each day waiting for the moment when I could clock out, go home, and immerse myself into anything that made me happy. Books, movies, music, writing, shopping, makeup, cooking. Anything that would erase the strain of the day and allow my mind that blissful feeling of freedom like when I was a kid. That was my escape.
It was all well and good, but it still didn’t solve my problem. I still hated my job and whenever I left one job to find another, the questions arose: What do I really want to do? What am I good at that I can turn into a career? What is my one thing?
I can only speak for myself when I say this, but that question is so heavy. It weighs my head down like an anvil. It’s too heavy to push out of the way or forget about which explains why I’ve been struggling with it my entire life.
I was always picking away at my personality trying to figure out which of my talents I could utilize on a daily obligated basis. I couldn’t draw well enough to be useful to anyone and even if I could, I couldn’t imagine being told what to draw and how to do it to please someone else. The very thought of being forced to do something that is supposed to be a fun hobby made me gag. I knew it would become something I hated if I used it like that. So, drawing was out and so were all of my other ideas. Makeup tutorials, arts and crafts, marketing, consulting, I said no to all of it for the same reason. If I was forced to do one thing for the rest of my life to make a living, it would stop being a hobby and start being a chore.
Thus, the anvil remained in my mind. I couldn’t shake it lose, I couldn’t lift it, and it weighed me down day in and day out. I found solace in new ways. I tried to research my options and find out if there were jobs that I could do where I didn’t have to deal with the public. Maybe then I’d feel some of the freedom I was seeking.
I started connecting more with my friends who shared my interests like reading, writing, movies, and k-pop. These were like little escapes. I wasn’t worried about the anvil when I was swapping stories with my friends or learning about upcoming films, games, or books. Sometimes it was nice to talk to people who understood me, not only for my interests and hobbies, but for what I was going through as well. In fact, it was during one of these little escapes that everything changed.
I was chatting online with two friends who understand me inside and out. They don’t just appreciate my love of anime, writing, reading, chatting in a well-designed café, and doodling, they also reciprocate. I learn so much from them and our collective ideas are so intriguing and inspiring.
On this occasion, we were discussing finding new jobs. It seemed to be a common theme since none of us were happy with our current professions. The more we discussed our current situations and what we’d rather be doing, the more ideas began to form. With each new idea, an inspired spark filled me, and I’d think of another new and exciting inkling that I just had to share.
I kept coming up with new and exciting things we could do as a group or individually so long as we were doing something with the amazing creations our minds were cooking up. Before long, one of my friends said “I think you might be a scanner.”
I paused for a moment before sending a question mark of a response. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me until she went on to explain that it was a term used by Author Barbara Sher in her book “Refuse to Choose”. So, now I had an answer, but what did it mean?
When I asked, the answer came in the form of a hyperlink. It was a direct link to a web page where I could read an excerpt from Barbara’s book.
Within the first two sentences, I was hooked and unable to do anything else but read further. I was at work so it was dangerous to get sucked into something that wasn’t work-related but I couldn’t help it. The author was speaking of things that rang so true to me that I had little choice. I bought the book immediately. I had to know more!
It would take time for the book to arrive so, I decided to print out the except and highlight the parts that really stood out to me. I cherish one part in particular:
“Scanners love to read and write, to fix and invent things, to design projects and businesses, to cook and sing, and to create the perfect dinner party. (You’ll notice I didn’t use the word “or,” because Scanners don’t love to do one thing or the other; they love them all.)”
Such true words! And it was those very words that I was reflecting upon when the full power of what I had been missing all this time finally hit me some months later.
There I was, still hating my customer service job but simultaneously taking classes online to become a Virtual Assistant. I was on the right track. I knew that I wanted to work from home and I thought being a Virtual Assistant would give me that freedom.
But as I studied more and even tried taking on small jobs here and there to test my skills as a remote assistant, I realized that I still wasn’t all too happy. I didn’t feel fulfilled or excited anymore. I just felt like I had more work to do for someone else which was exactly what I was trying to get away from.
One night while studying, the program asked me, the student, to reflect on why I wanted to be a virtual assistant. I found myself unable to answer the question. Why? Because the truth was screaming at me.
I don’t want to be a Virtual Assistant.
The reality is that I’d like to wake up each morning knowing that I can sip my coffee, tidy up the house, read a few interesting things online, check out new deals on Amazon, and, when inspiration strikes, sit down and actually be able to do something about it. I want the freedom of knowing that when something interests me, I don’t have to stop and put it down because it’s too late at night and I’ve got work the next day. No. I want to fully explore my new idea and the idea that forms from that. I want to chase my fascinations and see where they take me.
But you don’t find jobs like that. You have to create them. I tried to think about how I would even begin to create a job like that when my mind shifted into it’s tired old habit and asked ‘What’s my one thing? How can I use it to make a living at home?’
Ah! Yet, this time was different. This time, that seed that had been planted in my head when I read Barbara’s words grew and bloomed within me. The answer seemed so simple now.
I don’t have one thing. I have many things!
Yes, I am a scanner. Yes, I love to do so many different things that I can’t keep up with them all. From that moment, realizations began hitting me like hail from the sky. I love to reach out with a desire and explore an idea so long as I see fit to and then move on to another interesting thing just like I did when I was a kid.
my passion in life is to explore what fascinates me, to obsess about something until I wear it out and then find a new obsession. To create at will and find new and exciting ways to do so.
That was it! That was the key! What I had been looking for all this time had been me! For all those years, everytime I went home from work to nerd out with something that I enjoyed, I was living the very dream that I said I wanted. Each time I got excited about an idea but set it down because I had to go to work or because I didn’t think there was much point, I was ignoring that which would set me free.
Well no more!
This blog is a direct representation of all of the things I’ve been ignoring or casting aside as simple hobbies. It is my chance to dabble in anything that I desire and to share it with the world.
I love music and movies and writing and cooking and singing and electronics and makeup and fashion and video games and plenty others. There are so many “and’s” in my life that I can’t believe that I didn’t think of using all of them sooner.
To me, the word “and” may seem simple but it is very powerful. It is just like Barbara was saying, it is not this or that. No, I love this and that.
To know oneself is a glorious thing but to know oneself and to use what comes naturally to your advantage is even more so.
When all these realizations came to me and I starting trying to shape my blog and the website I built around it, the name came to me in shockwave of inspiration.
I had discovered the power of And! Now, I get to share that power everyone and I hope it inspires them to showcase their talents, their arts and crafts, their little hobbies that they think could never amount to anything. Use them. Share them. Embrace your individuality and your passions.
What is your "And"?