A Diagnosis for My Disease

This morning, I had a doctor’s appointment. We talked about a lot of things: my thyroid, my workout plan, the stuff you would expect to talk about at the doctor’s office.

Then, as always, it spilled out of me.”I’m bored. I know I’ve committed to my job and I’ll give it another year, but I’m so, so bored.”

Without missing a beat, she asked, “Do you know what a multipotentialite is?” I shook my head. “Since you started coming to me, you’ve spent a lot of time talking about what you don’t want in life, but have trouble pinning down what you do want. You sound like a classic case of multipotentialite.” 

I immediately went home, and down the interweb rabbit hole. Don’t worry, I’m not dying (at least physically). Here’s the definition I found:

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But what does that mean exactly? Normally, I would never ask you to watch a 12-minute TED Talk (it’s so loooooooooong when all you want to do is skim this post for something relevant to you, right?), but nothing else has ever hit home for me. EVER.

So there you have it, I’ve been diagnosed. Multipotentialite. Finally, I have a name for the reason I feel forever unfulfilled, always chasing the next thing, frequently bored with the status quo.

If one more person asks me if I want to be a principal, or a full time consultant, or an FBI agent, I’m gonna explode. I don’t want any of these things, and I want all of these things. Even my husband, who is constantly mastering new hobbies, is sick of my daily existential crisis. Some days I want to quit and become a camp cook; other days I want to start up my own charter school. Why don’t I take the plunge? Because then I know inevitably boredom will set in and I’ll be stuck.

I’ve been romanticizing the idea of going back to teaching for the last six months, but when I was there, I was also bored, restless. It will be different this time, I tell myself.

The biggest reasons I love coaching is that I get to help people be better at the thing that they do (whether it’s classroom instruction or playing soccer) and then walk away. It’s their commitment, not mine. The freedom to dabble in others’ specialization is interesting and challenging. At the same time, I’m not creating anything that’s mine.

Let’s be clear, my life outside work is fulfilling. Clearly my multipotentialite personality had me create a bucket list to explore the vast interests of my life. Who else can say that they’ve submitted a gingerbread house to the state fair, joined an FBI Citizen Academy, ran to the top of Diamond Head, and had holiday tea with their friends?

OMG – do I need a work bucket list? I might have just stumbled onto something there…

One other thing my doctor said, “I feel like you’re on the edge of something really big in your life,” and since she’s pretty much the smartest and most intuitive person I’ve ever known, I’m going to hang on to this.


Fake It Till You Make It

Last year I watched this TED Talks video about body language (I really recommend you watch it when you have the time):

I decided to try it out the next day. I was co-leading a staff meeting in the morning and as people walked in, I sat on a stool and struck a casual “power pose.” I kid you not, two different people asked if I was filling in for the principal, even though he was three steps away (no one noticed him because he typically has a hunched, shuffling posture that avoids eye contact). Then after school I was in a small meeting with a few teachers and I leaned back and put my hands behind my head as they walked in. One teacher asked if I was leading the meeting, even though the Assistant Principal was right next to me (and she doesn’t let anyone lead anything).

Thus I decided, this “fake it till you make it” body language totally works.

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve faked (or really just elaborated) a lot of things to keep climbing my way up. That’s right; I’m a phony. Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert in something I’m not, but I make sure to listen (and listen hard) to those around me who are experts so I can glean their wisdom.

I live by the “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” mantra. I consider that a little bit of faking it. Research proves that the sound of heels on a tile floor communicates power, and if you know me, you know I wear heels a lot. It’s not just a fashion statement.

I’ve made an effort to surround myself (personally and professionally) with people who are successful. If you only hang out with old stoners, just face it, you aren’t on a path to the up and up. This doesn’t mean I’m using people for their success, I truly find successful people more interesting (and why wouldn’t you?).

Also, here’s a terrible “faking it” trick: when I’m in the waiting room for a meeting with someone “above” me, I bring my iPad and have it open to the Wall Street Journal or Huffington Post or New York Times. I make they get a look before I put it away. It’s terrible, but I’ve had more than one person compliment me on my choice of reading material.

To take this one a little further, whenever I have a meeting or a training at another site where I know people will see me drive up in the parking lot, I take my husband’s Mustang. It’s shallow, I know. But several years back I was stuck in traffic and I noticed a woman next to me in a Jaguar and thought to myself, “I wonder where she’s going; she’s probably a high powered lawyer, or has some rich husband.” Ten minutes later, we pulled into the same parking lot, and she ended up being at my meeting. I was like, That woman is LEGIT. (And by the way I found out later that she did not have a husband, let alone a rich one).

Today I got confirmation that I will be teaching a graduate level class in the summer with my colleague, Angela. Not only that, my new principal asked me to fill in for her later this week (when she’s only known me a month). Yeah, that fake it till you make it stuff really does work.