The Hummingbird: Curiosity and Careers

There are some conversations that repeat on you at the most inconvenient moments. They are the long past conversations that join you in your morning shower, or when your brain refuses to shut down and you find yourself staring at the ceiling until the early hours.

Well, this is mine:

You need to pick a career soon

I know. The horror.

These very nonthreatening words were spoken about seven years ago by the parent of a close friend of mine. I’m sure he meant well by them, but for some reason these words have played havoc ever since.

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I feel the onset of mild anxiety when i look at this picture

Before we continue with this blog post (and disguised therapy session) let me provide you with some context.

My friend comes from a wonderful family. There was something about this family dynamic that was contagious. They were warm, outgoing people who loved to play card games at lunch and then go on a 20 mile bike ride together. When they were not being a successful family unit, they were achieving success in their careers. From cousins to uncles, they all appeared to be oozing focus and ambition. My dear friend was no different; he knew what he wanted to do from the start and he was prepared to work hard for it.

During one of my last visits and whilst on a long walk in the countryside, we started discussing the inevitable post-university life. I had toyed with some job ideas, but none of them truly stuck and I had openly admitted this. It was at this point when my friend’s dad turned to me and said, “You need to pick a career soon, Amy“.

For whatever reason, my mind decided to blow this way out of proportion. It became a focal point in decision making and years later I was still spending countless hours researching job pathways in an attempt to map out a viable career. I began desperately trying to find my “eureka” moment, praying that it would arrive when I read through the next job description.

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This does not look like fun to me.

The only thing I ever managed to create was a big anxious mess. When it wasn’t anxiety about making a decision, it was anxiety about missing an opportunity. Eventually it translated to hobbies too. I was continually throwing myself into extra curricular activities in an attempt to pin down a interest that I could possibly pass off as a career. I felt like i was wasting time and avoiding this became an obsession for me. It was ridiculous.

A few months ago, I was able to take a step back and finally accepted my fate. The epiphany is not coming.

Despite the continued lack of direction, I did learn a valuable lesson about time. The cyclical process of worrying about how long I was taking to “pick a career” ended up being the biggest time waster of all. Initially I felt that those years since graduation had been spent aimlessly wandering. I had no house, no mortgage, no 2.3 kids and definitely no £40k+ job with benefits – all the things a “successful adult” human needs to have, right?

Instead, I dabbled. I dipped my toes in to anything that peaked my interest enough. If it didn’t fit, or if I didn’t fit – I moved on.

To other more rational minded human beings, this may sound like a bit of a cop-out. Surely I could become an expert in my field and just focused on one career, one passion or interest? Maybe I was just lazy, incompetent or work-shy? My mind went through this time and time again; until one day, I accepted that I “didn’t fit”. I accepted the cliché of the square peg and the round hole.

hummingbird-1336491So I started the searching process again. Except this time, I shifted my focus to finding out why.

A late night internet journey eventually took me to a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat Pray Love”. In this video Liz addresses an alternative view to the “follow your passion and stick with it” camp; a mantra she admits she was once fully subscribed to. Liz explains that this view is perfect for the “Jack-Hammers” of our society. These are the people who are lucky enough to know what their purpose in life is and how they plan on spend their working days.

Liz acknowledges that this is not for everyone and that some individuals struggle to ever find their passion or their “life’s work” – these are the Hummingbirds. These are the souls who are forever moving from job to job, just as the hummingbird moves between flora and fauna. They are driven by pure curiosity and by not having a passion, they can end up being just as fulfilled as their Jack-Hammer siblings.

It clicked. I guess I found my epiphany after all.

To “follow your passion” is definitely a solid path in life and one that i would urge people to fight for. But what happens when you have lots of passions? From video game design to the history of medieval asceticism – my scope for topics is vast. Through just moving and taking up new, yet sometimes unrelated challenges, I was working on skills and gaining valuable experience. I enjoy learning and I am simply interested in things that I find…well, interesting. And despite what society may tell us, this DOES have value.

Although this society is tough on all of us, it is arguably a little simpler to navigate for the natural Jack-Hammers. For us Hummingbirds, it leaves us questioning our internal compass and can often demand that we become a round peg for that round hole. I personally found myself wanting to prove my worth through my choice in career. Although, it was fairly obvious from my degree choice (Religious Studies) that this would never be a straightforward task – and no, the nunnery and convent life will NEVER be an option!

The whole internal struggle over this issue left me wondering whether there was something wrong with me but i eventually realised that i was forcing myself into the mould of another’s expectations. Whether its careers, body shape or size, your living arrangements – everyone has an opinion. But truly, no one actually cares. They may think about it for an ounce of time but they soon saunter off, back into the self absorption of their own lives. I’d be surprised if anybody actually remembers that day, let alone still gives a toss about how i spend my working week.

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Just like so many other fellow human beings, I am driven by curiosity. Following this path may not allow us to discover what we do want to do, but we can definitely work out what we don’t want to do (like becoming a nun…)

Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find myself in a job or career that turns out to my true calling, but maybe I won’t. I could develop some cross-diagonal interests or skills that allow me to break out of the 9-5 routine; but maybe I won’t. Either way, I can say this for certain – I will continue to remain unrelentingly interested in the world around me.

I am grateful that this Hummingbird nature drives me to experience new things, all whilst feeding the wanderlust that propels me to my next destination. It is why I take on more than I can probably handle and it is why I study a plethora of short courses around my 9-5 job. It is why I choose to stay in haunted castles for fun and why i will be moving to a new country within the next year or so. It is a sustaining life force that can provide you with the courage to challenge, to step out of your comfort zone and to give you that final push to take those risks.

I am sure that the feelings of “Oh, God. What am i doing with my life?!” will continue to blind side me at 3:35pm on a Tuesday afternoon. But what i will remember is that there IS value in not knowing the answer to this question.  

Remember, there is no need to rush – you are where you need to be.

The place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you
wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,
the beloved has bowed there-

The beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming…

~Hafiz