It's ok to be both
I remember the time when I was choosing an undergrad program for university. I sat there with my catalogues strewn about, carefully reading the words in front of me. Should I do a Bachehlor of Science degree, with a focus on Biology? Well yes, that made sense. But why then was I so drawn to the Arts page? My confused teenaged self, full of nervous excitement, would ponder this question for hours at end. How can I be immensely drawn to this one thing, yet also know I need to do this other thing? Both living at opposite ends of the so-called “spectrum”. Slightly perplexed at how difficult of a time I was having with this decision, yet feeling the urge to tick a box, I settled with the Bachelor of Science degree. Feeling somewhat accomplished and still unsure, I went about my day. Until I realized that this nagging feeling of being drawn to the Arts wasn’t going to leave me.
It wasn’t until I got my acceptance to the University of Guelph’s Science program that I realized I just couldn’t do it. I needed to satisfy this craving I had for the Arts. At that point, being a vet was my most important goal. I knew I was going to get there eventually. But making the choice to switch into the Arts & Science program (thankfully this was an option!), felt like quite the bold move. And bold it was. There I was, one of the only people in my program who had chosen to pave my way to being a vet while also taking many many arts classes, and yet I was beyond happy. Gosh, I loved it. I took classes like Art History and Greek Mythology. I took a whole class that was just about relationships. Relationships! I got to sit there for 3 hours a week and learn about couple dynamics and relationships within families. And it was exciting. I became full to the brim with information that perhaps I would never use again, but was immersed in a world I would have otherwise never experienced.
Although my career path took a slight right turn somewhere along the way, leading me to naturopathic medicine, I have never ever regretted my decision to go into the combined Arts & Science program. In fact, I wonder if in some way it gave me a wee little push towards my current career. Regardless, at that point in my life… I got to be both.
This experience opened my eyes to the amount of times we are asked to define ourselves. What program do you want to be in? What do you do? What is your standpoint on xyz? Something I am only recently realizing is really hard for me to do.
Defining yourself is no simple feat. Can you truly define yourself within a few sentences? Your lifetime thus far…can it be summed up into a few words? Perhaps these questions cause discomfort because we just don’t know how to define ourselves. Or maybe we just haven’t connected to who we really are.
The thing is, we have many identities. We play various roles. We feel a multitude of emotions. Each emotion/identity/situation is weaving a thread in the cloth that makes us who we are. You are being created. Even in this very moment.
If you feel pulled to be a certain person, play a specific role or define who you are, remember this simple thing: You can be both. You can be all. The dichotomy of two opposites can exist within you and be simultaneously expressed. Your desires and fears can coexist and equally make you who you are. You can be both. You can love something fiercely and not fully understand it. You can be book smart and not street smart. You can be into science and have a creative edge. You can have a wild heart and still be afraid to take the first step.
One is never better than the other. But both can blend together and form something beautiful. And that thing of beauty is you.
For me? I can be both smart and not know the meaning of a word. I can love spirituality and still gush over a cute pair of shoes. I can be into healthy food and love indulging in treats. I can work towards inner fulfillment and still want the big fancy house. I can be kind and still be assertive. I can be a girl and a woman. I can be self-sufficient and also depend on others. I can love to cook and mess up 1000 recipes. I can appreciate working hard and still spend too many hours binge watching Friends. I can jump from studying pharmaceutical medications to listening to a podcast about business. I can be a naturopathic doctor and forget to eat enough fruit/veggies. I can be in an arts AND a science program. I can be both. I can be all. Because each one of these things have created me. Each of these things are me. And slowly, but surely, I am starting to find comfort in the discomfort of being myself.
And guess what? I can be my version of these things. My version isn’t perfect. I am not the best at any one of these things. I never felt like I was the best at either the Arts or the Sciences. But, I get to play my role the way I want to. Because my version of it will never be the same as anyone else’s. No matter what.
So when someone asks you to tell them who you are. Answer with your heart. Don’t box yourself in. Don’t contort yourself to get into the “box”. Don’t define yourself simply to fit somewhere. Fit nowhere. Remain undefined. Be both. Be all. Let your heart choose. Check all the boxes. And don’t apologize for it.
And although I can’t remember the first thing about the famous lapis lazuli hippo figurine that I learnt about in Art History, I do have many a fond memory of sitting in class and connecting with friends and loving every bit of what was so beautifully taught to me. Loving it because I chose to be there. I chose to be part of both.
Let’s stop being ashamed of who we are. You were created with love by you. It’s time you share your beautiful work.