Passion, or Perception

It is all too easy to get caught up in the over-hyped discussion of FINDING YOUR PASSION, the intent being to find that ONE THING that will make you happy for all time, allow you to earn a living wage, and so forth. The search all-consuming, the goal absolute, and if ever you feel you’ve lost your way, there are a bazillion (that’s bigger than a google, I’m sure of it) articles telling us how to get back on the proper path to FINDING YOUR PASSION.

Bollocks.

We all have things we’re passionate about, and some people are even lucky enough to earn a living doing something about which we feel passion. But, I argue that’s unusual. People aren’t passionate about one thing, we’re passionate about many, and the items on that list change. That’s okay. In fact, I think that’s a really, really good thing. How boring would it be if we decided as children to be passionate about one thing and never changed? I’m pretty sure I’d be passionate about jumping rope, or Marvin the Martian, or cream cheese and olive sandwiches. I still enjoy all of those things, but I can’t say I’m passionate about them.

I stumbled over this article (profanity warning; the author is quite direct), and it really spoke to me. The title is “Screw Finding Your Passion.” The author begins by reminding us of childhood. Early on he states: “You never thought to yourself, “What are the relative merits of learning baseball versus football?” You just ran around the playground and played baseball and football. You built sand castles and played tag and asked silly questions and looked for bugs and dug up grass and pretended you were a sewer monster.”

Yes. That. Exactly! As a writer, I don’t make a living writing. I’m a program manager at an educational assessment company (think standardized testing). I don’t love it, I don’t hate it; I have incredibly rewarding days and incredibly frustrating days. But, twice a month my writers’ group meets, and we share our works in progress, we offer critique, we brainstorm, and it’s amazing, crazy, fun, hard, and wonderful. I love to write. If I never sell a single story, I’m still going to love to write, and read, and write about reading. Sure, there are some folks who do make a living writing, and that’s wonderful, too. But, the fact that I don’t doesn’t mean I’m less passionate or less serious or even–dare I say–not as good. It just means I have a different path. Isn’t that lovely? That there are so many paths to choose? Those paths fork and wind and twist; and each day I get to choose whether I stay on the same path, take a fork in the road, or carve out  my own, completely new and uncharted path. Whee!

I tend to get overwhelmed at the goal of writing a novel. The book I’m working on needs to be 85,000 words or so, and it just feels big; I’m aiming for a Catherine Coulter/Hank Phillipi Ryan/J.D. Robb-level story. So, periodically I write short stories. They’re fun to write, and sometimes really cool things happen. The one I’m working on now is just flowing like crazy–after my most recent writers’ group meeting, a friend and I stayed for some writing time. We meet at a bookstore, so that means my writing time isn’t high-jacked by chores or my daughter’s homework or anything else. This story is just working for me, and I wrote 3,000 words in an hour. Good words, words I like and plan to keep. That was a stellar day, and I’m still carrying that glow, two weeks later.

The author of “Screw Finding Your Passion” goes on to say, “The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.”  Well, darn. That seems pretty accurate. He wraps up the piece with this thought, “And the real truth is that you already enjoy something. You already enjoy many things. You’re just choosing to ignore them.” This is where I think creatives have an edge; writers write because we can’t not write, and we don’t tend to ignore this thing we’re passionate about. This seems to be true of the artists I know, as well. Creatives fit passions into the nooks and crannies of everyday lives because we simply can’t help it. We take breaks and recharge our creative energy banks, we create alone and with others, we share and we don’t. There’s a fantastic variety to love, too. Passion comes in too many forms to name, and all of them are equally valid as pursuits. We just have to give ourselves permission to love what we love. Easy peasy, right?

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

13 thoughts on “Passion, or Perception”

  1. I think this is incredibly on point. Many adults fear they’re not passionate about one thing, when they don’t really have to be. Enjoy everything!

  2. Wonderful post and right on point. Why should we limit our passions to only one thing. That said, life seems to be made up of a hierarchy of passions. And somehow, that seems the best for balance.

  3. Wonderful post, Pamela! I really enjoyed the article you shared, especially the idea that passion is a matter of priority. I agree with you–we all have many different passions, and they will change and grow throughout our lives. Sometimes we just have to pay attention to what inherently makes us happy 🙂

  4. I love this! My husband and I were just having this conversation yesterday because I was whining that I have a friend who is an incredibly prolific writer and makes me feel like a slug because she works all the time. Hubs looked at me very indulgently, I guess because it was Valentine’s Day, and said, “But aren’t you having fun?”

    D’oh, of course I am! I could be more prolific, too, but I’d have to give up making purses out of rescued books, and designing t-shirts with funny sayings on them, and taking my tap dancing class, and traveling to writers conferences, and watching movies. All of which I’m equally passionate about.

    I’m also passionate about musical theatre and one of the songs I love from “If/Then” has a line, “Once every day your life starts again.” I think about this all the time. Every day we get the chance to indulge our passions … or not. And it’s all good!

  5. I think it is healthy to be passionate about many things and have fun with them. But the point about productivity is well taken. I love creative passions–cooking, writing, sewing, home decorating. But I can only be productive at one of those things at a time. Which is a good thing. Otherwise we’d be whirling around, trying to keep up to somebody else’s notion of a full and balanced life and never experiencing that depth of enjoyment that makes the passions worth having in the first place. Great article!

  6. My granddaughters and I have had discussions along these lines. They’ve worked hard to make career decisions based on the best information they had at the time. I only want them to be happy. I want them to be able to say, ten years into their decision, “Whoa! I need to reboot and refresh.”

  7. Chiming in late, I think I read that article. Yes, it’s very on point. My day job is…adequate, I guess. It pays for things I want to do and the schools I want my kids to attend. But if I really look at it, there are several things I’m passionate about (writing being first) – and really, an adequate day job is a path to all of them.

  8. Thanks, Pamela, This made me feel better because sometimes I think I’m a serial passionist (except for writing and my friends and loved ones, of course!)

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