Curiosity Cat Scan

Over the last few days, I’ve been going through an online course led by author Elizabeth Gilbert titled, What is Creative Living? After watching a few inspiring videos, the first assignment was to conduct a “curiosity CT scan,” in which I was to conduct a brief, 20-minute analysis of my mind, identify anything shiny that caught my attention, and look for patterns, themes and opportunities for joy.

The second half of the assignment involves sharing my findings with the online class, so I’m posting here for my classmates, my digital friends and for my own future reference. The questions were insightful, so I would recommend going through some of the questions yourself if you feel like you’re out of ideas or unsure of your next step.

What is effervescent in me? What’s a little bit interesting?

My strongest interest is in learning new things, particular when framed within the context of a story. This might include biographies, trivial knowledge, untold history (such as the Revisionist History podcast), investigative books in which the author submerges themselves in an experience (such as Michael Pollan taking psychedelics as a form of research for his book, How to Change Your Mind), podcast interviews, and exploration into why things are the way they are.

I’m deeply interested in psychology, human behavior, the anatomical structure of the human brain, tools to foster optimized thinking and performance, and means promoting neurogenesis and halting synaptic protein degradation. Basically, how can we fully utilize our brains as fully as possible, for as long as possible?

I’m interested in yoga–I’m intrigued by and feel most at home in that space of quietude and strength. I appreciate the ability to control my breath, my heart rate and my balance. I enjoy teaching yoga and helping students to find calm within their chaotic lives. I love that, in yoga, progress is often slow yet sustainable. It’s a lesson I try to carry into other areas of life.

I enjoy gardening, visiting the farmer’s market, cooking, researching the benefits of good nutrition and sharing what I learn with others.

I love solving problems. Whether a jigsaw puzzle, a seemingly impossible project at work, Mensa story problems or a friend’s relationship conundrum, I’ve always excelled at seeing a problem from many angles, proposing a viable solution and then adjusting the sail as needed. Solving problems is, perhaps, the most fulfilling of all my interests.

Finally, I’m interested in emerging technology, particularly in the area of health–considering both the implications of shared health details (voluntary or invisible, positive or negative) and the benefits of sacrificing the privacy of health details in exchange for the possibility of improved treatment options. It’s such a fine line, and I find it deeply intriguing.

What was the last thing you really wondered about?

The last thing I really wondered about was how we can invite low-income families to adopt healthy habits. Pediatric obesity is at a all-time high and low-income children are disproportionately represented in these figures. I think bringing a volunteer-run after school garden program to a low-income neighborhood might be a viable way to encourage healthy habits, build new skills and foster new relationships. Research has shown that kids are more likely to try foods they’ve grown themselves, so this program could expand kids’ palate and allow fresh food to be taken home.

I don’t know how viable this program would be in the real world, what it would cost, who would be willing to sponsor such a program (government, private party), who would volunteer (retired garden-lovers, teens with the Boys and Girls Club), and whether school-age kids would even be interested in joining such a program.

I’ve also been wondering about what I would do if there were no limitations. The more I sit with myself, the more I think I would ideally like to pursue some form of investigative journalism. I want to delve deep into any of my many interests, write a long-form article or book, and then jump ship and immediately launch myself into a new topic. I have wondered whether, without the standard background and experience, if I even have chance of competing with so many of the authors I so admire. And I wonder whether if that will even matter if I focus the process, rather than the outcome.

When was the last time you experienced creative flow?

The last time I experienced creative flow was on a work project that involved being given a target outcome and a tight deadline, but nothing more. I had the opportunity to discern what the tangible outcome would entail and then work backwards to plot out all relevant milestones. I was able to delegate assignments to my team members based on their unique strengths and then offer feedback and motivation throughout the project. I felt deeply absorbed in the project, eagerly working long days and weekend to bring the project to fruition. I enjoyed the autonomy of managing the project, leading my team, and learning to adjust the tasks and pace upon real-time progress reports.

What did you love to do most of all when you were 8 years old?

When I was eight years old, I was obsessed with:

  • Reading books
  • 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles
  • Building mechanical things with K’nex
  • Trying to solve the mysteries of America’s Most Wanted
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Designing load-bearing bridges in kid’s CAD software
  • Science experiments
  • Art projects
  • Story problems from Mensa Kids workbooks
  • Riding my bike with friends

My interests were all over the place, but the patterns seems to be problem-solving, experimentation and building things.

What would you do for a living if you were not afraid of anything?

I would write in hopes of inspiring people to live their best lives. I would share stories that contain wisdom, research, art and whatever else is necessary to drive home an idea. I would work with the aim of making people feel truly connected in a world where digital pseudo-friendships are becoming the new norm.

What themes do you see?

Some common themes across my life are

  • A love of learning
  • Solving real-world problems
  • Deep analysis paired with creative thinking
  • Hopes of improving lives on both an individual and a global scale
  • Storytelling
What is exciting to you?

The idea of becoming a novice investigative journalist feels exciting. I don’t need to impress anyone, but I believe the undertaking itself would make me feel alive.

What do you want to use this course to start pursuing or start creating?

I want to start writing in a way that injects up-and-coming research with storytelling to make the concepts interesting and relatable to the reader. Rather than worrying about credentials or long-term goals, I’ll simply research the things that interest me and then share what I learn. I can find my own connections between disparate ideas and explain topics in new and unique ways. As I delve into each interest, one-by-one, I can follow any urges that send me deeper into a particular topic.

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