All of the really great people of the past and of the present always have some singular destiny. Somehow they know exactly what they love, they find it when they're young, and they spend their entire lives doing that one thing. Their destiny, their singular passion becomes their entire life, and they love every minute of it. It's their calling, it's what they were born to do, and it's beautiful.
My husband, for example, is one of these people, driven by one thing: building a quantum computer. It's been his passion, his goal, his singular destiny his entire adult life. Every waking moment is spent building quantum computers, and he loves every minute of it. Watching him work is one of my favorite things in the world.
My life is so different. I have no singular destiny, no one true passion, no goal. I flutter from one thing to the next. I want to be a physicist and a mathematician and a novelist and write a sitcom and write a symphony and design buildings and be a mother. I want to run a magazine and understand the lives of ants and be a philosopher and be a computer scientist and write an epic poem and understand every ancient language. I don't just want one thing. I want it all.
This is why I read so much. I want to know it all. I want to hear every story. I want to feel everything that can be felt. I want to live a thousand lives. I read and I read and I read, and I love every word and every hurt and every dream and every failure.
There's a piece of paper taped to the wall above my desk, titled "What I Want in Life." One day, not too long ago, I sat down and made a list of the things I wanted my life to be, leaving out any occupations or fields or specific goals. It reads:
What I want in life
1. To figure out how to find meaning in life and give meaning to life
2. To understand how to do what is right
3. To always do what is right
4. To have a husband and family and friends to love for all my life
5. To write stories and create worlds
6. To spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying the beauty of the world
7. To be a light in the world
8. To always leave things better than I found them
9. To understand the universe
10. To understand my place in the universe
Sometimes I look at this list. Then I look at people who have singular destinies, and I'm in awe and I'm jealous. It hurts a little. I want a singular passion. I want to be driven by only one goal, not ten thousand goals. Because having ten thousand goals is paralyzing sometimes, and you can never truly dedicate yourself to something the way that that something deserves. Because having ten thousand goals means you always feel like you're searching for the one.
People tell me I can't do all the things I want to do, and they are of course wrong, because I can and I do and I will. But I still can't ever reach my greatest, deepest, most secret goal, the goal I left off that list: to have a singular passion. Maybe that's ok. Maybe my life will always be about running toward that unattainable goal, trying and loving everything I find along the way. And maybe at the end, when I have to give an account of my life, I'll say that I never was anything, but I was everything.