The difficulty of being interested in everything

Photo: Mohamed Saied —

What are your hobbies and interests? Seems a simple enough question. Some people like to reel off a list, others prefer to give a detailed description of a few things they feel passionate about. Some of us, however, fall silent when faced with the insurmountable task of answering this question. This is such a massive problem for me, that I even break into a sweat when someone asks me which bands I like.

It’s not that there isn’t anything that interests me, that my life is a blank slate waiting to be filled up with the markings of deeply explored obsessions. The problem is, I am interested in everything.

I’ve struggled for years with keeping anything up because I go through so many phases of being really captivated by a certain topic or hobby, only to quickly find something else just as, if not more, exciting. There are just so many awesome things to do and see, so many options, that sometimes it all feels a bit overwhelming. The biggest problem with this, is that it means I get stuck in a rut of doing nothing because I’m terrible at making a decision.

When I was 5 I wanted to be a nurse. I quickly decided this was lame and that actually I’d like to be an astronomer, because planets and stars are awesome. A string of other options evolved over time including dancer, artist, politician, social campaigner, beautician, lawyer, tv presenter, writer. Don’t ever call me unimaginative.

Even how to spend my leisure time is a nightmare. I frequently have 20+ windows open on my Mac, consisting of articles on numerous news sites, all my social media accounts, and a multitude of Ted Talks. I’ll read, watch, do something for about 7 minutes and then I’ll get bored or distracted, and dart over to another tab. As you can imagine, I have a very unhappy laptop and an even unhappier boyfriend, as my attention routinely drifts off to something else usually in the middle of one of his sentences.

I know that I’m definitely not the only one who feels likes this though. I’d like to think this is symptomatic of an age in which so many interesting things, just so many things in general, are within our grasp. I only have to reach for my mousepad and within 10 seconds I could be reading the Wikipedia page on dark matter or the history of cross dressing. It’s actually insane how many things there are to fill up the days, weeks, months, years.

This is also why people who complain about being bored drive me mad. How could you ever not know what to do in a world filled with literally infinite possibilities. As a young person living in the Western world I also recognise the enormous privilege I have in being able to have so many interests open to me and at least some freedom to explore them. I want other people to recognise this privilege too and not take it for granted.

I guess my bottom line is, being interested in everything is sometimes exhausting and can stop you picking something to really focus your energies on. It can distract from larger goals or a long term lifeplan. On the other hand, I like to think we are also dreamers, open to every piece of knowledge and experience life throws at us. We are interested in everything because everything is worth knowing, and because everything is interesting.