“Can you be more than one thing?” asked Benjamin.
“What do you mean?” I asked. His three other siblings were finally asleep, and the two of us were snuggling in my bed.
“I mean, like, an astronaut, but also a singer, and also…”
“Oh, yes!” I exclaimed. “There’s a Canadian astronaut who was also a singer, and also he wrote a book for grown-ups, and also a book for kids, and now he does lots of speaking and teaching, and he used to fly planes.”
“I know who that is,” he said. “Chris Hayfield.” (Super close, I thought. “Yes, Chris Hadfield!” I couldn’t help but correct.)
“Or,” I said. “Think of mommy. She’s a mom, slash physiotherapist, slash chicken farmer, slash baker, slash sewer, slash future volunteer fire-fighter…”
I paused, remembering this was a Benjamin question. “Is there more than one thing you are wanting to do?”
“Yes, I want to be a singer, slash writer, slash artist…”
“What type of artist?” I asked.
“Like a painting artist,” he said.
“Like an illustrator?”
“I can think of a few people who are all three of those!” I told him of Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, a singer, a writer of grown-up books, an illustrator as well (I think).
I was proud of myself for my exhaustive exploration of career prospects and inspiring icons. Slightly exhausted, too, as storytelling and engagement at bedtime takes a tank-empty push of energy to connect well with the kiddos.
It was time to carry him off to bed, before moving on to the things ahead of me: finishing cleaning up from dinner, cleaning up cat litter in the garage, moving on to my daily writing work, connecting with Kendra over chips and wine and reality TV, putting the things of the day behind us. We had cared for sick kids, I had spent time at work, and had a lunch meeting connected with my role as board chair.
I guess that makes me a father/husband/cat-person/board-chair/facilitator/writer.
During my lunch meeting today, we had explored some themes that I had shared previously in my humble heresy post. The idea that the stories of the past are only meant to ignite a path forward for the future. That existence isn’t meant to be a constant historical analysis of those who have gone before, but a moving ahead into the unexplored future.
We fixate on other figures and find ourselves falling short. We focus on the past and forget about our role in the future. We take a lifetime to believe, eventually, maybe, that we can even be one thing: our own first names, worthily — nevermind the slash.
Is it true that you can be more than one thing?
I have an idea of how I want to answer this, but it might not land.
Look at you.
You are a product of the universe. You are the flowering, mushrooming, blossoming product of the world itself. It’s you, in your fullness, that is the design. You are perfect as-is, and it is from this stance that you have the opportunity to recognize your gift and step into practice.
You’re a natural. A product of the universe. A prodigy. A wunderkind. The One. And no matter what opportunities are afforded you, what risks you are able to take, what talents you are able to cultivate, you are already you, slash beauty itself, slash the universe.
If I said this answer to Benjamin, would it bestow this belief? If I said it to you, would it register as a meaningful invitation? If I said it out loud to myself, would I believe it — truly absorb it? Would I allow it to strengthen me in the face of shame, take my gaze off the past, look ahead to a future where there are untold struggles ahead, impossible fights to fight, mundane daily love to give, cat litter to change, slaves to liberate, dishes to wash? I don’t know. I can try. I’ll say it again.
Can you be more than one thing?
You are already everything.