I am a continual work in progress. My journey began almost 38.5 years ago and it keeps going. To begin with, I was never that person who always knew what they wanted to do. As a child I had many interests. I was a trained dancer and performed professionally and continued to do so up into my adult years, albeit my focus shifted when I realised dance as a career was not the best option for me. Today, it is still a fun thing that I do. Where there is music, you will find me!
In terms of my interests, I have always been a multi-potentialite as I do not have one calling and my life was not set on a particular trajectory. I come from a family that values education and many of my immediate and extended family members tend to have careers in professions which revolve around Math and Science disciplines. I attended schools that also focussed on the same. My quintessential immigrant parents had very high expectations for me and so I ploughed through excelling and doing well academically but I always knew there was a creative side in me. I was a prolific writer as a young child, often writing about topics like politics and spirituality or morals and philosophy. I remember writing a speech once when I was 12 years old about the government on my island and giving it to my History teacher, Mr. Claxton. He exclaimed, “Jo-Ann this is deep, did you write this?” He told me you would make a great politician. Funny enough, I knew I never wanted any part of politics. I always thought it a party where I would never be allowed to express myself fully! Thank goodness, I knew that from the outset (giggles)! No one ever really paid attention to my writing, which was perhaps a good thing because it meant I could do it without fear of being judged.
The year before attending university I lived on a Native American reservation in Canada and attended a Math/Science Programme in New York. Both impacted my lives in more ways than one. Both led me to becoming a vegan, which I have been committed to, for the past 22 years. Growing up in the Caribbean, the environment, land, etc were always a necessity for us. Much of what is touted as sustainable practices now were just everyday norms for us. So, it was off to University to study Environmental Science.
Post university I obtained some additional degrees in construction engineering and property and ended up working in those fields in the corporate space for a decade. After ten years I knew it was time to move on. I was feeling very unfulfilled at work, the projects being “bigger””better”” “flashier” and “big deals” no longer meant anything to me. To be honest, I cannot say they ever did. But I let that phase of my life run its course.
I continued to dance for fun in various groups and wrote freelance for multiple publications alongside having this decade long corporate career. Restless as I am and curious by nature, I needed more, as there was something about “work” that just wasn’t enough. I started volunteering for non-profits and social enterprises too. What initially started as a few hours here and there, developed into a new side venture, working part time as a consultant. I ran projects, advised, implemented programmes and the like for organisations operating in the poverty, hunger, international development, healing and spirituality spaces, to name a few. Whilst doing this work, I met some of the most interesting individuals, who always seemed passionate and motivated to change the world. There was a sense of urgency about them, the way they had intensity and purpose. I always relished speaking with them, hearing their ideas and thoughts, and the next day I would go back into the world of the corporation. It really exposed me to the lives of others. Admittedly, the energy that I experienced in the corporate space was a big contrast. It was not bad but I can emphatically say it was different!
Whilst working in the corporate world I did a few guest lectures and workshops and got involved with organisations that afforded me opportunities to speak publicly and socialise with other professionals, particularly females. I worked in the very male dominated field of construction, so being around other women was always a treat.
Here I am now building a social enterprise, writing full time, consulting, lecturing and teaching and constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to solve environmental problems: my next business idea. Somehow along the way, it all worked out. Like I said before, I had no big plan or no major calling. I simply kept doing what felt right, despite the naysayers. When I say naysayers, I mean those people who labelled me as “confused.” I believe in investing in experiences, people, ideas and thinking critically about the world around me.
I am chuffed, because I am now a new label, a multipotentialite! Albeit, not being one for labels I do think it suits how I live my life in that I pursue my interests. I lead and live my life very intuitively, which always seems to work for me. My career path has and will continue to be unconventional. I am a lateral thinker and enjoy using my creative spark to solve problems in an unorthodox way. The world needs a balanced combination of specialists and multipotentialites. We cannot have one without the other! My specialist colleagues are intensely focussed, honing in on their craft with a level of expertise that I admire greatly. The opposite side is me the multipotentialite, tapping into new ways by learning and doing multiple things. We enhance and complement each other well.
So this is my story and these are the choices I have made. I have stopped seeing my choices as good or bad and more as chapters in my book. Each chapter uncovers something new and every experience moulding me in a new way. I do not believe that I was meant to live a lifestyle that is planned or orchestrated because it is just not who I am and for a long time, I felt very uneasy about that. But having lived, worked and travelled around the globe I realise my tribe is huge! We are everywhere and it gives me comfort in knowing that we can choose who we want to be and be confident in those choices. Now that I am more certain, in who I am, I no longer seek validation. I am in agreement with my consciousness and I know instinctively that I will always be on the path that was meant for me.
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Jo-Ann Hamilton is the Founder of SecretBirds, an emerging market entrepreneurship community for women and girls. Her professional and academic experience spans North America, the Caribbean and Europe. Prior to founding SB, she worked in the construction and property industry for a decade. She’s also been a freelance writer and consultant to social enterprises.
Jo-Ann’s social media:
Website: Secret Birds HQ
LinkedIn: Jo-Ann A Hamilton
Twitter: Jo-Ann A. Hamilton