Variety is the Spice of…..

Macarons in Atlanta, Georgia
A Variety of Macarons in Atlanta, Georgia

….Life. Variety is the spice of life. It’s why I love to travel, and the more spontaneous the plans, the better. It’s why I like trying different things (like these macarons during a visit to Atlanta a couple years ago — even that was a variety of flavors). It’s why I’ve been able to deal with whenever we have to move yet again. It’s why I find different cultures and people fascinating. And so on.

I’ve slowly come to realize, however, that this need for variety has affected other areas of my life in such a way that I didn’t understand why I am the way I am. For the longest time, I thought that I was unable to follow through on ideas. Unable to produce enough to turn various hobbies into any kind of profit-making venture. Feeling indecisive. Thinking, “should I do this, or should I do that” ? Feeling like I should be more focused. Heck, I even wondered sometimes if I had Adult ADD.

I do have some constants, though. I’ve been happily with the same man for 32 years (27 of them as a married couple). I am an involved mother. I stay in touch with many of my friends , quite a few of whom I’ve known as far back as pre-school. I’ve always loved to read — but my tastes and genres in books are constantly evolving (that’s the variety part sneaking in). I am constantly curious.

A moment of clarity came to me the other day when I came across HoneLife: Stop Searching for Your Passion. This site has a huge amount of advice and inspiration; I won’t go into all of it but definitely check it out, if you feel that you are like me: a Variety Seeker. Now there is a name to one aspect of who I am!

Here is a good example of my variety seeking. When I was 24 years old, and a newlywed and a new transplant from California to Michigan, I took up quilting. I really, really got into it.  I don’t quilt anymore. That didn’t end overnight, though. Quilting was a constant for a long time, but within that, I seeked variety. I bought every new gadget there was. I subscribed to every quilting magazine there was. I took classes. I embraced the saying, “she who dies with most fabrics win” and would go on quilt shop hops. I shudder to think of how much I spent over the years on this hobby. I entered quilt shows. I even was in a juried art quilt show at a local art gallery a few years ago.

I often thought (and said out loud) that maybe I could make money from quilting. Then what happened? I realized that I had done all there was, learned all there was, and was tired of spending money. What about the money-making plan to recoup? I was always more into the process — I had so many UFOs. That’s a quilter term for “Un-Finished Object”. Other quilters have UFOs, maybe they’re variety seekers like I am, but many quilters are able to focus and finish projects — and even just one at a time. Not only that, I knew that the time spent on quilting would not return much money — a dollar an hour, maybe. There are quilters out there who make money — usually by getting other quilters to spend more money on their books, quilt kits, patterns, etc. I’m very cynical about the quilting industry now.

Anyway! I didn’t wake up overnight one day and say, “OMG, I’m quitting this”. No, over the last five years or so, I gradually sold off/gave away/donated many of my fabrics, threads, books. I let magazine subscriptions run out. Then I donated (or in some cases, recycled) all of the saved magazines. I started working smaller in hopes of finishing projects sooner. Art quilt wall-hangings instead of bed quilts. None of it was really satisfying anymore. At the time, I didn’t realize it was a lack of variety. Although there were other reasons: less disposable income (the kids became more and more expensive), realizing I had too much of quilty-everything already, unrealistic expectations of becoming rich (ha!) or at least some pocket money from quilting — I think it really was my variety seeking that did me in. I moved on to going back to school to take art classes. I even said maybe those classes would make me a better quilt artist.

Interestingly, with those art classes, once I learned the basic techniques, I lost any real interest in pursuing excellence in say, ceramics. Or painting. Or drawing. I felt something was wrong with me — was I afraid? Unwilling to stay focused and work hard? But no.  I do work hard — I got nearly all A’s during this second stint of a college career — so I know I’m not lazy. Too busy? That part certainly is true but if I wanted it enough wouldn’t I be willing to live on only four hours of sleep every night? Actually, I think that not “sticking with it”  is really more the fact that I’m a variety seeker. Some might think I’m trying to make excuses but I really do need to learn, try, and experience different things. Understanding and knowing this has taken a load off my shoulders.

So, what now? I have already, for some time, known that I cannot keep flitting from hobby to hobby or art technique to art technique. That is due to both finances (one kid in college and two very close to being in) and being less inclined to allow paint brushes, rubber stamps, you name it, to pile up and take up space.

I’ve been craving simplicity in life. Being a variety seeker, too, this path I’m finding my way on should be interesting. All my questions haven’t been answered yet but at least I do understand myself a bit more.

Again, refer to HoneLife if you’re curious about Variety Seekers or feel you may be one.