Cabinet of Curiosities. What is creating YOU today?

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First time I heard the term, as I remember, sometimes during my school years sitting in a history class. Most recently I stumbled upon the term in the book I read and re-read constantly “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon. The term means a room filled with whatever objects that fascinate your mind, natural or man-made, whatever objects got your curiosity hooked. I love this idea of having a place, where we collect everything that boggles our mind for some weird reason.

Those things, objects, they create us.

We are what we eat. It’s not limited to food only. It’s about everything we consume: people around us, places, books, music, art, words, sentences, sounds, conversations, sights, emotions, clothes, food — everything. It all becomes a part of us, part that most of the time we don’t even notice. We often wonder: Why am I like that? Why is my life like that? Why do I do certain things, certain way? Why do I like this and that, and don’t care about million other things? Why do I hate this and can’t live without that? Why?

It might sound too simple but we are today is the product of our own cabinet of curiosities. Creating yourself as you want to be is an art, art of filling your box of curiosities with things consciously. Most of the time we fill that box unconsciously, sleeping being awake. Then the product, what we become, is a complete surprise to us. We didn’t see it coming. We were not aware of the process, how the final product was formed, we just see the results and marvel at it. What we get seems no less than a miracle to us, God’s creation, accidently formed reality.

I think of myself as of multipotentialite, multipod, polymath — a person that has many interests, many passions, many talents. I used to think it was a gift from life, from the Universe, it was luck. Maybe it was to some extent, but I don’t believe I was born this way. I believe I was made this way, made by my own cabinet of curiosities, by environment and my interaction with it.

My first childhood memories are all about learning, exploring, being curious.

Before I even went to school, my father used to spend lots of time teaching me English, playing chess with me. I didn’t become a chess player, but enjoy an occasional game of chess, and can get better fast, when I want. I’m pretty good at English, and languages is my huge passion, always has been. I used to think I’m just naturally good at languages, but now I tend to think it is all the time with my father reading, listening, singing in English that built that skill into me.

Another memory is about playing the piano. I was forced to go to musical school 2 years before normal schooling began. I had to spend 6 years there! I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it much at the time. It seemed unfair to me that I had to spend so much time playing the piano, playing in the orchestra, singing, while other kids could do whatever they wanted with their time. Now I kinda like I was forced to go through with it, pass all the tests, exams.

I haven’t become a professional musician (not yet at least), but I can sing pretty well, can pick up and learn any instrument really fast, I appreciate good music and can’t stand monotonous music that has no originality whatsoever. And because of my musical school, dancing came really easy to me. I love it, spent many years attending classes, was a pro street/club/jazz dancer for a while. Was long time ago. Almost seems like another life. But I still dance every day and get into dance classes, whenever I can and it’s really easy to pick up any style of dancing for me. I don’t get it why some people seem not to be able to dance.

My father was into sports, and he didn’t really have anyone to do sports with. My mom and sister were never into that. So I had to keep him company. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to ski, to skate, to roller-blade, to do yoga, to play tennis and basketball, he made me exercise every single day after school, to develop a “good posture”, he used to say. I thought all the parents were like that back then.

I don’t consider myself a professional athlete, although I am a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and a former marathon runner. But exercising every day is still part of my life. I don’t know how people live without daily exercise. And what all that talk about rest days. We need to eat daily right? I don’t see how movement is different. It’s just different kind of nutrition.

And then we traveled a lot. Every summer. Different places. Adventures. Maybe not the most exotic places, and most of the travels happened in Russia, but I saw many beautiful places, different cultures, nature, people. I fell in love with traveling back then and never fell out of love with it.

My father had many professions. He played in the orchestra, he was a physical training teacher, a painter, a craftsman — I love crafts by the way too, don’t mean to brag but I can get really good really fast at many many crafts — jewelry-making, model-making, cross-stiching, wood-carving… — list goes on. He too tried so many things, a physician, an athlete, a photographer, he loves jazz, and oh boy he loves dancing. When he is in a good mood, he dances, sings, tapping the beat — so funny to watch him. I never thought about it before, but I’m exactly like my father. Not because of genes, it has nothing to do with biology, it all has a lot to do with the environment. I was exposed to so much diversity growing up, so many things. I couldn’t turn out to be any other way.

And books. Reading. Writing.

Our home library was huge. Compared to the size of the place we lived in. We had 2 bedroom apartment, when I was growing up. My parents’ room and the room for me and my sister. My parents’ room had an entire wall occupied with book shelves my father collected over the years. In our room we had half of the wall occupied with books. Different books: fiction, classical literature (lots of that — came in handy, when we had to read all of that at school), sci-fi, national geographic types of books, books on crafts, photography, music, biographies, foreign, Russian. I loved to browse through all of those books. I don’t think I got to explore everything we had. But so often, when I was alone, I would just pick up one book after another and read a page or two from it, maybe the whole book, if I got really into it.

Bookstores like Barnes and Nobles, Kinokyniya and any Indie book store with a great selection, libraries, those are still places that fascinate me the most — I can spend hours, probably even days, if I was allowed to sleep there, just walking around, reading from this book or that book, just looking through titles, pictures.

Knowledge fascinates me. Life Fascinates me.

I hope physical book stores will never cease to exist. I love that experience. I love touching the books, smelling them, browsing them. Especially old books that have a history. Where have they been? Who held them in the arms?


My parents never told me what to do — well, except for musical school, — they never told me what to think, they just let me try whatever I wanted, they never told me I got to be anything or anyone or do any kind of job, they never told me anything was impossible — that’s why my mind is so open I guess, I am a free spirit, my mind never fitted and never will fit in any box. It never had any box in the first place. The only thing my parents had an issue with was money. Soviet Union culture didn’t really approve personal wealth and my parents never got into abundance mindset, money was always an issue — and that’s what I got also, issue with money that only now I’m starting to get over.

Another one is healthy eating, home cooking, sleeping early — all that I learned at home. Eating out was never considered something desirable. Nothing was better than home-cooked fresh meals. I still wonder, how some people survive at all without that home-cooking culture and basic cooking skills. We never ate junk, take-aways. Holiday, celebrations — the whole family, female part of it to be exact, was cooking, shopping, making dinner plans. We would invite friends to come to our house most of the time. Sometime we would go out and visit friends. But my mom, even though it was a lot of work, always preferred to invite people to her home, cook amazing meals that could feed the whole army (feasts are a part of Russian celebration/eating culture) and I loved it. Cooking together, inviting people. My mom’s cooking, that was delicious and simple at the same time, tasted the best for me. Me and my sister got really picky about food, we still are, really picky, we can’t stand most of the meals prepared anywhere but home. That’s why I’m not into eating out, it all tastes like nothing for me. I love only too types of cuisines: my mom’s cooking and my own cooking. I’m very simple with my food most of the time though. The only time I eat a lot — when my mom cooks, I’ll eat anything she cooks. I got to teach her a few tricks from my nutritionist/health coaching/raw food education and experience. She took the knowledge and perfected it. Meals got healthier and still taste freaking amazing.

When I look at all that, I understand much better, where today’s version of me comes from. I understand better my modus operandi, my issues, things that come easily to my and things that are a struggle.

Now instead of a question, why am I like that? I got another one: what do I want to add to my cabinet of curiosities to become more of a person I want to be?

When we know where our believes, habits, thinking — all that makes us “US” comes from, when we realize that we are a product of the environment and our interaction with it, when we finally get that we are not a finished works but works in progress, it becomes easier to see ourselves having a completely different life, it’s easier to see ourselves changing. We just got to choose better the things we consume, we surround ourselves daily with.

Creation is a cooperation between yourself, conscious-self and the Universe. We choose something, the Universe suggests things, some we leave, some we toss and there is a new version of us, new life.

When I see, feel, taste, experience anything — I don’t judge it, I don’t think there is anything good or bad in general, there are things that make me personally feel good or bad. I try to choose the ones that make me feel good, hopefully short and long term. I create a version of myself that I feel good about daily. I collect curiosities, like pieces of a puzzle, to assemble that new picture of me I have in mind, to bring it into physical existence.

What are you collecting today? What are the pieces of the “FUTURE YOU” puzzle?

People? Sights? Smells? Meetings? Experiences? Thoughts? Questions? Tastes? Believes?…

I collected lots today, fascinating pieces:

Donna Karan’s interview on Fresh Air podcast, that made me remember my passion for fashion and illustration — my father used to design his own clothes too by the way, I tried that of course

Bloom County comics, that are revived after Berkeley Breathed’s, the author, 30-year or so retirement

New book in Tim Ferriss’ book club “Daily Rituals”, that I can’t wait to read

Fascinating facts about my favorite Macadamia nut, I can’t wait to munch on

Release of the second season of Fargo Tv series, that is lots like one of my all-times favorite TV show Twin Peaks

Calvin and Hobbes Comic stripe from BrainPickings about creative life and not being a sell-out

– many things to explore, dig deeper, geek out, leave for future use or toss and forget forever.

We are our own cabinets of curiosities. Becoming the person we want to become to live the life we want to live is as simple as filling that cabinet of curiosities with matching items.

But first let’s take account of all the things we’ve already collected consciously or unconsciously. Let’s remember our own history. And then re-invent ourselves. Start assembling a new puzzle. This time consciously.

Create Yourself Today

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