David Bowie died, and I’ve already found a way to make it all about me.
This will surprise no one who has ever met me. Or any other human, probably. We’re inherently good at taking things that are not about us and making them all about us. I consistently manage to bring this skill to new levels.
Anyway, David Bowie died, and I was immediately all I will never change anything or affect anyone the way that man has. And truthfully, I probably never will. The amount of creative work he produced in his life lifetime is astronomical. I watch way too much TV to even come close to accomplishing what he did. (And no way am I about to give up Top Chef, dudes.)
Today was also the day that the American Library Association announced a host of book awards, and all kinds of authors that I tremendously respect and am inspired by were on the list, and I haven't even written much to speak of recently (well, there was that one grocery list), and then I was all everyone is doing all these great things and David Bowie did ALL the amazing things and I am not accomplishing anything because I try to do too much and THAT IS BAD.
This is a serious concern I’ve recently developed: that I am involved in too many things instead of focusing on one pursuit, and therefore I will never achieve as much as I could if I just did the same thing all day long.
I’ve also recently discovered that I am probably what Elizabeth Gilbert would call a hummingbird. Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love (which I’ve never read, but I hear good things), and Big Magic (which I’m kind of obsessed with right now and reading super slowly so I can savor every word). Gilbert argues there are two kinds of people in the world: jackhammers, who are obsessive in their passionate quest of one pursuit, and hummingbirds, who flit from pursuit to pursuit based on curiosity and interest.
I’m a flitter. There was a time when I might not have been able to recognize that in myself, because once I flit to something I tend to jackhammer it right into the ground. But I like a lot of things, and I want to try a lot of things, and I tend to move back and forth between them all. I have multiple careers because I can’t seem to give up either teaching or writing, and I also like to write curriculum so I’m always trying to do that on the side, and I like skiing but I’m not about to give up running except when I decide to do yoga for a few weeks in a row. I even do this flitting thing within my writing. I move back and forth between manuscripts and projects, jackhammering at them periodically and then moving on to something else. I meet deadlines because I know do know how to jackhammer things when I have to. But I’ve never been good at picking one direct pursuit and just hammering at that for years on end.
So this morning I was thinking about how David Bowie must have been a jackhammer who just made things happen and worked and worked and worked at music, and I was bemoaning that I will probably never be like that…only then I remembered more about Bowie. He was a lot of things. He was a movie star and a cultural icon and within his music he played with genres and moved around in his various pursuits of artistry. Maybe David Bowie was a hummingbird after all. Gilbert argues that the power of the hummingbird is in our ability to weave ideas in and out of different fields and different passions—spread the pollen, you know? If anyone knew how to spread ideas between sects of humanity and different creative endeavors, it was David Bowie.
I don’t need to be the next David Bowie, but I do need to remember that there is value in my hummingbird instincts. Sure, I might never accomplish as much as some of the jackhammers of the world, but I genuinely love all the different ways I spend my days, and I love that all the ideas and passions I have travel with me wherever I go.
RIP, David Bowie. Thanks for all the marks you left across this world.