I Contain Multitudes*

May 29, 2022

*as defined by me, Thashnee Pillay 🙌

It is interesting that in this day and age there are still many that entertain a perception that we are meant to follow a single path or have one thing that gives us purpose

For example, I am a teacher, I am a mother, I am a recovered drug addict, I am a pianist, I am queer. It’s sometimes easier for people to accept that these are 5 different people but not one person made up of all those things.

Especially interesting when this is considered together with the instinctual human need within us for change, variation and difference in what brings us joy.

Historically, our society has placed people in boxes - it was easier to define and control people that way. These are ongoing and, concerning themes, heavily influenced by the patriarchy and the subordination of women (among other oppressed groups). But that hasn’t stopped us from embracing other roles in addition to the ones previously defined for us or even disregarding those roles altogether. We do need to be cautious though - Are we now expecting women to take on more than they need to? That is not to say that women can’t do this. Nope, we can certainly do it, but are we perpetuating unhealthy expectations of women when we leave them with a feeling of ‘Am I doing enough?’  It can be exhausting and at the same time rather confusing. I, personally, don’t wish to be told who I am nor who I need to be. I can do that all by myself and if I need support or advice on that, you will know society, you will know.

Multitudes refers to having varying thoughts, roles, paths etc. within ourselves that can both complement or contradict each other.

When people say ‘I contain multitudes’ they mean that they have differences within them and these play out in the choices they make and lives they lead.

For example, in seeking energy I may want to dance all night singing my heart out or I may want to sit in perfect quietness as the morning sun seeps into the room while I contemplate my day ahead - both actions bring a sense of something to my soul. Who says I need to choose one and define myself as either an introvert or extrovert or ambivert? Who defines such things? These boxes exist even more so for non-binary people being defined by their gender label (or absence of it) and not by the multitudes they contain. And why do we still need to define people anyways? Isn’t there beauty in letting them do that all by themselves? In his poem, Song of Myself, Walt Whitman wrote: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes)” 

This March, we are celebrating this freedom at Storyo through our ‘Women contain Multitudes’ series. A series that explores how as women and gender diverse folk we refuse to be defined according to what others seek to define us as.

We are whatever we want to be. Whether we want to live out our multitudes through the roles we play in society, or whether we wish to play out our multitudes through the contradictory thoughts that cycle through our brains. The bottom line is that we contain these multitudes and we should have the freedom and space to both act or not act upon these however we wish. I love these lyrics from Bob Dylan’s song, ‘I contain multitudes’ because no box can ever fit what a person can be.

“I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones

And them British bad boys, The Rolling Stones

I go right to the edge, I go right to the end

I go right where all things lost are made good again

I sing the songs of experience like William Blake

I have no apologies to make

Everything’s flowing all at the same time

I live on the boulevard of crime

I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods

I contain multitudes”

A pic of Carly in her role as a social worker when she appeared on Breakfast shown between John Campbell and Jenny-May Clarkson. Alongside is is picture of Carly as a biker standing behind her very cook chopper motorcycle. You can see more of her story here.

A pic of Christa in her role as an accountant standing in a garden carrying a cute black dog, alongside a pic of Christa in her role as a circus performer in a trapeze pose suspended from ropes. You can see more of her story here.

A pic of Ola in her role as an engineer in black coat armed folded and smiling alongside a pic of Ola in her role as a football coach sitting on the grass surrounded by a junior football team in black and white football shirts. You can see more of her story here.

A pic of Charlotte in her role as a Co-Design Advisor, smiling and sitting on some stairs alongside a pic of Charlotte in her role as an Equestrian Para-Athlete on a horse in equestrian gear. You can see more of her story here.

A pic of Karen in her role as a social worker standing in front of a black car in a black blouse red waist coast top alongside a pic of Karen in her role as a fashionista wearing a bright red dress with big black polka dots and some cool shades. You can see more of her story here.