I believe in life we’re all Venn diagrams. We’re the intersection of our hopes, skills, and ambitions. Especially those of us lucky enough to do what we love.
For many years, I was a textile artist – educator. At one point I added a new ring: I became a mother. Motherhood couldn’t help but influence my work. My earliest commissions were portraits of children on fabric.
Over time, my circles shifted. My textile artist ring became metal – still an artist, but a slightly different kind. My education ring broke in the recession. I added an entrepreneur ring instead.
Some years later I got married. Moved to a farm. Built a studio. My daughter grew up and went off on her own. Wife – farmer – builder formed a new set of rings interlinking the others. My motherhood ring became a small embellishment.
I started writing. Just for fun, at first. But it quickly intersected my other circles. Much like those early years of motherhood, they couldn’t help but influence each other. I wrote about farm life. Being an artist. Being an entrepreneur. It was all an elaborate Venn diagram of… me.
But it isn’t just me. I’ve seen it in so many others. So many people doing what they love by finding those connections, those intersection points between their rings. In hindsight, the career paths of the Venn diagrammers seem obvious. The foodie – photographer who becomes the food photographer. The upcycler – sewer who finds her niche selling sewn upcycled goods.
But at the time, they weren’t obvious. Many of the Venn diagrammers I’ve known have struggled to figure out what they wanted to be when they “grew up”. Or, they started late in life. Or they struggled to figure out how to make it all work. It only ever seems obvious in hindsight.
All that said…
I think one of the biggest emotional challenges we’re facing right now, in social isolation days, is that many of us feel disconnected at our very core. We’ve lost a ring. Half of our Venn diagram, gone. Or stuck inside. The artist who can’t create his work. The grandmother who can’t see her grandkids. It disconnects our very points of connection.
Or, we suddenly feel as though our rings aren’t good enough. That if we don’t have a doctor or nurse ring in the mix, the others have no value. But if the father – farmer doesn’t supply the grocer – connector with the ingredients the nurturer – baker uses in the bread the student – barista turns into sandwiches, the doctors and nurses don’t get to eat. Society is interconnected. It’s an elaborate Venn diagram of all of us.
So hold onto your rings – all of them. The ones you have, the ones that feel disconnected, the ones that don’t feel like they’re enough. Give them the reverence they deserve. And embody them, fully. If you’re a baker, bake. If you’re a student, learn. If you’re an artist, create. And if you’re tired, rest.