Multi-Passion Diaries: A Witch Infiltrates the Public Policy Field
Hello all! Welcome back to my ongoing Multi-Passion Diaries where I explore what it's like to be a theatre making, tarot card-slinging, freelance writing entrepreneur and general adventurous but introverted human in today's world. I also host guest blogs, which is what today is! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in contributing.
I'm so, so excited about our guest blogger today. Abbie from Northern Lights Witch is a close friend of mine (she even crashed in my spare bedroom for awhile when her job life got weird) who runs a really great witch business while managing a career in Public Policy. Read all about how she juggles the two and what she's learning along the way.
I have always, always been a multipassionate. When I was a child, I wanted to be both a journalist, and an artist, and also I wanted to be a biologist. All at the same time. In high school, I spent my early mornings with the jazz band, worked hard to keep my grades up and my writing top-notch, and spent the evenings in rehearsal as an actress. I almost went to school to become a jazz musician, but decided during my senior year that I would rather be a writer. By the end of my senior year, I had decided that the best way I could make a difference in the world was to become a human rights lawyer.
Spoiler alert: I am none of those things now.
I don’t play in a band, I don’t work for a newspaper, and I don’t have a law degree.
What I DO have is a Master’s in Public Policy, with a part-time job working on water policy and mining in Northern Minnesota, and a tarot business.
I miss the arts. I miss playing music – when I listen to music, I yearn to play, and when I try to play I’m frustrated that it’s not as easy as it once was. I miss performing. But I am able to write in all of my careers. Writing is the constant that holds together all the pieces of me.
Recently, I wrote on my own blog (link to my multipassionate post) about the cycles that you go through as a multipassionate professional. It’s important to recognize that sometimes, when you’re balancing two (or more!) careers, you need to put more energy into one of them than the other. That doesn’t mean that you don’t still have those multiple careers – it just means that the balance has shifted somewhere different for a while.
For the last ten years, I have put almost all of my energy into my career in public policy. To an extent, it’s important to be creative in the field of public policy. It takes a deep level of analysis to take in all the information that you need, and to find new solutions to difficult social and environmental problems. But there isn’t that sense of freedom I crave.
I started Northern Lights Witch while I was still seeking my Master’s degree, in large part because tarot was (is?) having a Moment and it’s been a part of my personal spiritual practice for over 12 years. But really: I needed an outlet where it was ok to talk about my understanding of the world in terms of intuition, rather than logic. I needed a space where I could deeply explore my identity as a witch, as well as write creatively about witchcraft and the Unseen parts of the world.
It was a rebellion against the strict career positioning necessary in a graduate program.
But as I’ve moved through both careers, I find that they really do inform one another in interesting ways. They are very different, and use different parts of my brain, but there are lessons to be learned that carry through both places.
Trust your goddamn intuition. As much as public policy is about logic, it is also about intuition. This is especially critical when communicating with decision makers and those who hold power. It’s more important to read between the lines, to read the body language rather than the words. Now, I am not a mind-reader and it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it is possible to pick up a lot from nonverbal communication. Those gut instincts? Critical.
Do. The. Work. When you’re working on legislative campaigns and issues, things move quickly. Sometimes, you’ll be asked to produce a policy memo in two days that needs to be researched in depth. I once wrote a policy brief that was 10 pages with 160+ individual citations in a week. I need to do a better job of translating this work ethic to my own tarot business, but I know that I have a capacity to produce top-notch work on a short timeline and with few resources.
Know when something is outside of your control. Reading tarot has made me keenly aware of forces that are greater than myself. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency, and the subsequent radical alt-right takeover at many other levels of governance, has taught me important lessons about playing defense. And a lot of the time, things are outside of my control – and so I need to know when to use my power and how to use my power to the greatest advantage. Witchcraft and tarot are both ways of exploring the unknown, ways of exploring your own power. It is far easier to influence policy for the better when you know what is and isn’t within your sphere of influence. It’s important to concentrate your energy where you will actually have power, instead of needlessly running into walls. Tarot helps me accept that which is not within my control, and can remind me when I’m not focusing well.
Tarot and public policy hone crossover skills – writing, intuition, communication, analysis – but they also hold particular tensions.
When I accepted my current job, I decided to have my birth chart read for the first time. I knew that I would be moving to a more rural community, and I had concerns about being “out” as a witch. She advised me that it’s important to first establish credibility as a kickass environmentalist, and then to mention that I’m “tarot-interested.” I still haven’t told my boss that I do tarot readings. I’m terrified that I will lose his respect – or fail to gain it.
And so I need to be careful about how open I am. My last name isn’t listed anywhere on my website, nor is my address. This has made it hard for me to fully throw my energy behind marketing, getting myself out there, and pitching podcasts and blogs. Not all positions within the field of public policy come with these politics – but navigating the field as a young person means I need to think critically about this. I need to establish credibility above anything right now.
Soon, I hope to have a position that will allow me to bring my full self to all aspects of my work. Until then, I must keep my witchcraft in shadow. But the lessons I learn from the tarot resonate through all aspects of my life, and make me a stronger advocate. No matter how open I am about them.
More About Abbie here, including bio and tarot info.