Human beings are such funny creatures. We become so tribal when it comes to our passions, our beliefs and our area of work. I have been in a number of different professional areas over the 30 odd years since finishing my Bachelor Degree in Social Work. I worked part time like many teenagers, as a waitress in the local pubs, and later, in a coffee shop (the only major one back then in Adelaide) while I worked through my degree. I liked the easy, let go at the end of shift, feeling of being a waitress. I liked being able to walk out and walk away. I liked my regular customers and the buzz of speeding around the coffee shop floor in particular. But it was never going to be my thing for the rest of my life. In that life it was all about getting the napkins folded correctly and the froth on the coffee just right.
When I started work as a social worker with Family and Community Services at the tender age of 21, I had stars in my eyes about changing the world. This was fairly quickly squashed….but I did make a difference in those years. I also became very bonded to my colleagues and the areas of child protection, family reconciliation, relationships and trying to make sure children could grow up happy and balanced, as far as possible in some of the unspeakable situations they were living in. I saw things that just break your heart, and break my heart they did. In that job, my world was filled with social work theory, law and how to navigate this, saving children and trying to remain sane at the same time. The people I spent time with were all in the same space as me, and despite the danger of becoming all consuming and destroying me, this was indeed a very important thing to be doing.
When I left this work and started my own online diabetes counselling service in 2001, my every waking minute became about diabetes. Having lived with it since 1979, I was now immersed in the professional side of diabetes, albeit with some health care professionals telling me that people with diabetes should never work in diabetes because we “carry too much baggage”. My how things have changed. Breaking into the field as someone without a medical degree and a “patient” to boot, was not easy. Fairly quickly I decided to study diabetes education at university and obtained my diabetes education qualifications. Now I am completing my PhD. People with diabetes are much more involved in decisions about our care, thanks to social media, advocacy and shifts in thinking. However we have a long way to go. As I moved into this area of work, life became all about the latest tech for diabetes, how to work from a person-centred point of view, the latest research into depression and diabetes, and how we can improve quality of life for all people with diabetes. I was running my own charity and listening to thousands of people with diabetes talk about their challenges and the ups and downs of life with diabetes. I also live with diabetes. When you live with it the game changes. It is more than a job. It is more than your research topic. The people I spend time with in this work, whether peers or professionals, are deeply passionate about diabetes. While they may have other passions, the majority of their public life is related to diabetes. The online community has become more connected and our voices stronger.
In 2013 I started my sustainable interiors blog, Recycled Interiors. I also studied design and obtained my certificate in design recently. This opened my eyes to yet another community of people – those passionate about sustainability, and those who adore design, decorating and creative pursuits. The people in this community share pictures of gorgeous homes and talk about ways to reduce plastic consumption and have healthier homes. They love creating flatlays and enjoy discussions about colours and textures. The topics of sustainability matters to all of us, it cuts across the very survival and health of our planet. And as someone who has always been creative, this gives me sustenance to continue all of the things I do in life.
I have always been in all of these camps. I think many of us are in many camps. However when you are in deep, really deep, into a community or passion, it can be hard to see that this is just one thing. One thing in the world. One thing in your life. One thing to care about. There are many many others. Some people are like me. We are multi-passionates. It can be hard as you feel like you flip-flop from one to the other, and those within each community, are not interested in your other loves. You can feel somewhat split. It is easy to become so passionate about this one thing that you become blinded to others, and even burnt out and exhausted. You can start to experience anger or frustration about very small aspects and sadly, fighting within communities can happen in the social media world. People start to take everything very seriously and there can be a distinct issue with FOMO (fear of missing out).
When you move in more than one community it helps you to achieve balance in this. You can step back and see that while this current passion is so very important to you, it is so deeply in your heart, it is not the be all and end all of life. There are so many things to be passionate about. And life is very short.
The other night I was watching the fabulous ABC live stargazing programme. This aims to get us all interested and enagaged in the universe and how truly remarkable it is. Watching these people, all highly trained in their respective areas, brimming with excitement over the discovery of new galaxies and dying stars, made me incredibly happy and excited. It made me think THAT could have been an area I could have quite happily worked in (my little multi-passionate soul!). It also reminded me of how very very small we are. And of how the universe is so very very enormous. We have no understanding of it all really and certainly no control over what is going to happen to us in billions of years.
We are all made of star dust.
When you think about this it really makes you stop and remember not to sweat the small things. It reminds you to breathe and look out on the vast sky. Paticularly if you are having a bad day with diabetes or any other thing in your life. Particularly if you are experiencing FOMO or jealousy or anger or any difficult thing.
Stop. Breathe. Look up. Look out. The answers are written in the stars.