Does this question terrify you, too?
It has always made me uncomfortable when people ask me the question: what is your passion? Ok, maybe a little more than uncomfortable. More like…stomach-flippy, dry-mouthed, sweaty-palmed, shame-filled, instantly-awkward-and-desperate-for-a-fire-alarm-to-go-off…
Why? First, because I don’t know how to answer it. Then, it sends me into a spiral of the above-mentioned symptoms that ends in a bottomless pit of questioning the meaning of life and my place in it. And I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
There seems to be a huge focus on finding your passion. In theory, this is a good thing. People being encouraged to pursue a hobby or career doing something they love, something that makes them happy…that’s great! Right? Of course it is! But for a lot of us (I think), this emphasis is a constant reminder that we haven’t found our passion, our calling, our reason to be…and this is not a great feeling. The journey to finding passion is important. Essential, really. Maybe the whole point is the journey. But on such a long journey, I can’t help feeling lost once in awhile (or most of the time, let’s be real).
Several years ago, in an attempt at adulting (you know, when you decide you’re going to do something you think you should maybe do because it’s something responsible adults do, you think, maybe…) I met with a Financial Advisor. We talked about investing my small chunk of savings and mostly he tried to sell me life insurance. At the end of our chat, he asked me what my passion was. Maybe it was a final push to show me how he could make my money work for me so I could retire early and pursue my life-long dream of rescuing unicorns in the jungles of Paraguay or whatever…but instead I stammered, turned red, and said “I don’t know”. Then he told me he was sad for me, because what’s the point if you don’t have a passion, and man, I really need to work on that…Yeah. Thanks. THANKS MR. FINANCIAL ADVISOR FOR THE WONDERFUL ADVICE HOW COULD I HAVE KNOWN WITHOUT YOUR TIMELESS WISDOM I’LL TELL YOU WHERE YOU CAN SHOVE YOUR LIFE INSURANCE %$&7@…I guess my point is that there are positive and negative ways to go about having this discussion, and shaming someone into buying life insurance is not one of the positive ones.
My upbringing involved a fair amount of exploration in this area. My sister and I were pushed to try many things in pursuit of finding “the one”. And I mean MANY things. I really enjoy making lists, and now seems like a good list opportunity, so let’s take a look at some of the extracurriculars I was put in as a kid:
- Junior Musical Theatre
- Music Video Production
And hey! Here are some I’ve subjected myself to as an adult!
- Digital Publishing
- Dog training
- Wine (a level 1 tasting/pairing course, and years of self-study)
What a great thing it is for parents to encourage their children to explore, experiment, and seek out things that make them happy. We were never told we should pursue a certain lucrative profession or discouraged from creative aspirations. That was fantastic, and we were lucky. Really. We learned a lot. My sister is now a professional musician. I have basic, low-level skills in a wide range of disciplines, and I also am a fast learner, which I believe is a skill I’ve honed because I’ve tried so many different things. It is, however, a bit traumatizing, because at 34, I’m still searching for that one thing. Or, I was, until recently.
I spent my twenties working hard. I got a University Degree and had a couple of really cool jobs. The thing about cool jobs is they are often really, really hard work. Challenging, exciting, stressful, exhausting.. Cool jobs that are hard work can also be incredibly rewarding, if you find the work meaningful. There’s the big IF. If you aren’t passionate about the thing you’re doing, it feels more like work. More of the stressful and exhausting, and less of the challenging and rewarding. I worked hard for over ten years, trying to ignore the constant nagging feeling that I was unfulfilled. Many people find the work I did meaningful. Sometimes I would feel guilty for not being able to feel it myself. Also denial is a pretty powerful tool. But I digress.
Over the past few months, I’ve started to see things a bit differently. Some big changes happened this summer. My partner got a job opportunity that required us to move to another province. Which required me to leave my job. Which forced me to do some major thinking. Starting fresh is a pretty great way to force yourself to take a good long look at things! Even so, it took me a few months to really begin to be honest with myself. I actually ended up finding a job opportunity in the same field I had been in before, and briefly got back on the denial train. But after the move and leaving everything behind, I couldn’t ignore how I felt any more. I had to buckle down and take a good long look at myself.
You know how sometimes things happen that feel like “the fates” are trying to drop major hints? I believe it’s more of a case of seeing things when we’re open to seeing them…but either way, I came across this video on ted.com a couple of months ago, right as I started to really dig into my bottomless pit. In her TED talk, Emilie Wapnick discussed why some people can’t find just one single passion in life. It made me feel a little less lost.
I started to realize that I don’t need ONE thing. There doesn’t have to be A passion. I started reading more, and I read about the Sylvia Plath stuff with the fig tree, and being paralyzed to make a decision, and then while you’re standing there trying to figure out which path to take the figs all die and then you get nothing (apologies for the ridiculous bastardization of her beautiful imagery). I kind of felt like I’d been paralyzed for 34 years. Suddenly, I felt more free to do things I like, lots of things, different things, without feeling like I was shutting all the other opportunity doors as I went. I started painting again. A lot. Like, every day. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog…to share my progress and maybe some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
I don’t regret the choices I have made so far. They put me in the position I am now, literally, sitting here writing this first ever blog entry in my PJs on a weekday morning, loving the fact that I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed to go to a job that doesn’t inspire me. This time off is limited. I have very little income; my savings are dwindling. I can’t sit here forever. But the few months I have had to focus on doing things I love have been incredible. They are a gift I am giving myself (and my partner is supporting me through); a gift that I’m trying really damn hard not to squander. I’ll have to start working again soon, and all I can hope for is that I use what I’ve learned – from various childhood extracurriculars and school and work and crappy Financial Advisors – and do something that is meaningful to me. Do one…or several!… of the things that I am passionate about. But for now, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Maybe writing about it will help me dig deeper. I hope so.