The terms “scanner,” “multipotentialite,” and “renaissance soul” have become interchangeable in recent years, but my first encounter with the idea was the “scanner” from Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose!: How to Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams. When I read this book, I recognized myself.
She describes people who like to dip in and out of all sorts of topics and interests. When I was a child, I loved reading. As I got to high school, I lost interest in reading (except for teen romance novels that were disapproved of in my religious circle, formulaic redemptive novels that were approved of but far more graphic than the previous, and books I had to read for English classes). After a friend re-introduced me to reading in my early 20s, I started digging in and exploring; especially after I acquired a library card. I got married, had children, began exploring homeschooling. I regularly took my kids to the library, and I would read stacks of books about all sorts of topics while my kids napped and after evening bedtime. As I learned about homeschooling, I discovered that areas of knowledge actually interconnect. Art and math, art and science, music and science, science and history, history and everything. I would become fascinated by any given topic and “see” threads of other interconnected topics.
But nothing seemed to “lead somewhere” as far as The One life career. The adventure was simply like following rabbit trail after rabbit trail, purely for fun. I think subtly, underneath, I felt slightly ashamed of this, or underaccomplished, or something. I didn’t go to college or university; I didn’t have a specialty. I just leapt from interest to interest, project to project. And sometimes I was surprised by what projects landed in my lap as fun new opportunities (such as the first time I was asked to contribute to a book and get paid for something *I* wrote!).
When I finally read Sher’s book, I immediately identified with what she was saying. When she talked about scanners spinning multiple plates in the air, I saw that image in my head. When she suggested using individual ring notebooks with blank paper to pour out new ideas into or to record new knowledge about a current passion, I looked to my stash of thrifted binders I had on hand for homeschooling. I used her method of notetaking/written dreaming for awhile (write across a two-page spread, and pour everything onto the paper). Just the act of doing that was so freeing – I could take all those bits of ideas and actually LOOK at them after they were on paper. Even if the ideas never came to fruition, the act of this notebooking method helped draw out the details of my ideas. It was so satisfying, and it provoked further creativity.
These days, now that my phase of raising kids is finished (and we are nearly two years post-accident with my daughter, and have recently come to the conclusion of one of several big issues related to that), I find myself looking around again for the “one thing” that I “should” devote the next few years of my life to. Even while my kids were still in their high school years, I would find myself researching all sorts of local university degrees, and mapping out entire four-year programs for myself. In diverse areas. I plotted nursing school, including the math and science upgrades I would need. I dove into psychology degrees, English degrees, writing degrees, history, medical lab technician, various eras of literature, and most recently Irish cultural studies (brought on by our time in Ireland) combined with entrepreneurship. I even looked into law school. I would spend hours planning these out. Then thinking about them for a few days. Then losing interest because each one costs so much money here, and I don’t want to go into debt. Also, I worried about being boxed in.
So here I am, satisfying myself with doing a variety of craft and writing projects (and meshing Sher’s notebook method with a homeschool notebook method and my experiments with Julia Cameron’s morning pages idea) plus a variety of reading, while maintaining the steadiest part of my income through my tutoring business. Even within tutoring, I am able to dive into interests. I love introducing my reading and writing students to new books and new areas to explore for their writing skills practice. Sometimes they drag their feet, but most of the time they put up with my enthusiasm for a choice of new topics, and get into it after all. “Hey, what if we read and write about the moons that revolve around Jupiter?” “More than one moon??” Or, “Have you ever heard of something called the Nazca lines?” “No, sounds boring.” “Oh, well let me show you some photos. You can only see the complete images from the sky, and yet they were made before planes were invented!”
For the moment, I am simply enjoying a bit of freedom from heavy responsibilities (and trauma, oh my), dipping in and out of projects, books, and interests. Do I have any fellow scanners amongst my readers?? Please let me know in the comments! I always love hearing about others’ experiences!