by Elise Seyfried
If you ask my family members about their work lives, prepare for quite an earful. It occurred to me the other day that, among the eight of us Seyfrieds, we hold no fewer than 25 jobs. Husband Steve is a writer, actor, producer, director and teacher. I am a church worker, actress and writer. Son Sheridan and his wife Ya-Jhu are composers, instrumental musicians, church music directors and teachers. And so on. We are always heading off to work in a million directions, and let me tell you that can be confusing. It reminds me of the short story by Kurt Vonnegut, “Who Am I This Time?” In the story, Harry Nash, a shy hardware store clerk, transforms himself regularly in his very different little theater roles.
Only with us, our transformations happen daily, if not hourly. Among the rest of the brood, the Evan who toils away at a Navy job in Washington, D.C., becomes pianist/accompanist Evan by night and weekend. Rose in New York juggles so much freelance work that I can’t begin to keep it all straight, and I don’t know how she can either.
PJ the full-time college student is also PJ the deliveryman for a local apothecary. Besides the eternal challenge of arriving where we are supposed to be on time, we are constantly switching skill sets. Julie is Julie, but Jules with a dust rag in her hand as a housecleaner is not quite the same as Julie the elegant stylist for a jewelry company.
As children, our kids had the usual ambitions, but often in multiples. When he was a little boy, Sheridan planned to be both a pitcher for the Phillies AND first violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. (He figured the seasons didn’t really overlap much, so why not?) Evan was always torn: would it be music, science or the military? He spent all of his high school years as a US Navy Sea Cadet, enduring tough summer trainings (Gulfport, Mississippi, in July, anyone? Anyone?) while at the same time developing an intense love for both physics and jazz piano.
Rose was a baker/singer/songwriter. She whipped up Hummingbird Cake and Kahlua brownies as she wrote and performed edgy indie tunes. PJ always loved both history and German, and plans to teach the two subjects in high school — but he also adores lacrosse and hopes to coach. Julie even now wonders about her future career(s) as she travels through Europe on her own during this, her “gap” year.
As they grew, it became clear that none of the kids would be pigeonholed. They have too many interests to limit themselves to doing one thing for a living. The other issue, to be honest, is financial. No one job will fully support most of them at this point. But even if that weren’t the case, I can’t see them all settling into a single groove happily. This diversity of activity energizes them, and it energizes their parents, too. It’s stimulating to wear different hats and to tap into different parts of ourselves to suit our various tasks.
We, each one of us, have so many God-given gifts and talents. It’s easy to relegate a passion to “occasional hobby” status, easy to fall into a deadly routine that doesn’t really inspire us. Back when you were young, everything seemed possible; didn’t it? Even the sky wasn’t the limit, as you may have dreamed of being a pilot or an astronaut. Then you grew up and “put away childish things,” which included many of your hopes and ambitions.
Well guess what? There’s still time! If you aren’t doing what you love, often, you’re really missing the boat. My brother-in-law Rob was quite unhappy in his computer job. Rob’s glory days were as a drummer in several bands. When he played his drum set at home after work, he could forget his troubles and tap into another, vital part of himself. Another example: I do nothing but write on my day off, Thursday. Shopping and chores be darned! I’d rather spend my whole Thursday putting words on paper. This weekly literary hiatus is just the change I need from my busy church life.
So, if you haven’t already done so, consider taking a page from our book. Carve out as many hours as you can for what brings you the most joy and fulfillment. Don’t let those precious gifts go unopened. May today be the day you look in your morning mirror and say: “Who am I this time?”
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children and of a self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus. More information at www.eliseseyfried.com.