This is a question that I have been trying to answer for the past four years, and one that I plan on spending the next four years trying to answer. What am I passionate about?
I have made elaborate lists, shortlisted and experimented. Then, I’ve changed my mind, crossed a couple of items off the list and added a dozen other interests to it. As of now, I’m interested in neuroscience, and I’m curious to know what would happen if I tried to blend it with the fine arts or music. Could the amalgamation of these fields of knowledge have an impact on education? Secretly, another part of me also wants to work with animals or for the environment, maybe even as an explorer for National Geographic.
To worsen this whirlwind of confusion and uncertainty, the society around us drums into our minds from a very young age that we all have only one true calling. Everything else is merely a hobby and should be sidelined. This is the reason why so many young individuals, like me, are hopelessly waiting for epiphanies while dealing with bouts of anxiety and agitation. Amid this chaos, Emilie Wapnick comes as a gleaming ray of hope and possibility. She is a self-proclaimed “multipotentialite” who aims to spread the term through her website, counseling and TED talk.
A multipotentialite, according to Wapnick, is “someone with many interests and creative pursuits.” Although we’ve been told that having multiple interests is disadvantageous, Wapnick disagrees. She argues multipotentialites have “super powers” the world needs. They can combine and apply their knowledge of various disciplines to generate creative solutions. They can effortlessly delve into new areas and grasp new, transferable skills. They can also change with the world, adapting to its needs. These are great ideas, and I agree that we need these so-called “multipotentialites” now more than ever. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder how they fit into a society that binds them to structured education all through middle school, high school and eventually college.
How then, do multipotentialites make their way around this system to best fit their “internal wiring”?
This is a daunting question, and Wapnick rightly points out the lack of exposure to multipotentialite role models. She gives us a few examples of individuals and their eclectic careers, but this does not answer the question. We still do not know how they managed to reach the heights they did in a society that functions in a way that sets them up for failure. In a world that desperately needs a constant influx of ingenuity, I think it is imperative that we alter our perceptions of what the ideal path to a successful career looks like.
We need to change the way children are socialized and taught in order to allow them to look beyond the concept of choosing only one interest. Moreover, the qualities that come with being a multipotentialite need to be cultivated in our educational systems. They should allow for the flexibility and variety that a multipotentialite needs, while continuing to cater to the structure and depth needed by specialists — individuals who have found their one and only true calling.