Multiple roles, one path

Image from Caps for Sale
Image from Caps for Sale

Have you ever read the children’s book Caps for Sale? To be honest, I don’t remember the story well, as a friend just recently reminded me of the book, but the image of the man wearing a stack of hats on his head is one that’s been with me since then.

In my previous job, we used to joke about the different hats I wore. During staff meetings, when we had to report on our various duties and projects, I would mimic taking off one hat and putting on another to talk about each of the roles (there were four or five of them at any given time).

Now, it sometimes feels much the same. That my tasks and to do lists are like taking one hat off and putting on another one. Bundles of hats, sitting at my feet. And yet, I feel happier about the work I’m doing than I have in a long time.

This past weekend, I made one to do list. There were categories for everything and it was spelled out. The interesting thing was that, while it felt compartmentalized, there was a sense that it all led to a single path. That there are different off-shoots and different directions one can take to get to the same place. Running around, flinging hats around and taking them off and putting them all, all willy-nilly… I’ve begun to wonder how helpful that really is at this point, when I know that the hats I’m wearing actually look more like the picture, rather than scattered around the room.

When they’re scattered, it’s hard to focus. When they’re scattered, it’s hard to remember how they fit together. It’s easier to be cranky about being pulled in what feels like a thousand directions. I also know there is value in the diversity of tasks – that it allows me to set things aside and really put them out of my mind when they are distinct tasks.

Right now in my life, though, I think that the confluence of events and tasks and responsibilities is allowing me the chance to stretch and grow within this new potential future. There are so many possibilities that it sometimes seems scary and I want to put a single hat over my head and not pay attention.

And yet… my practices don’t allow me that opportunity these days. This is the choice I have made. And I walk this way – balancing hats and paying attention – the best I can. That’s all I can ever ask.

Do you wear lots of hats? How does it feel?


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