I'm Tired of Everyone Telling Me to "Find My Passion"
We spend so much time trying to find our passion, we risk missing out on experiences worth feeling passionate about.
I often work from a Starbucks near a popular university in town. Between the sounds of swooshing doors and grinding coffee, my ears are plagued with a constant stream of college kid problems. Group projects, interviews, first dates, you name it. There’s a specific energy that comes along with being an 18-to-22-year old on the cusp of real adulthood.
Unsurprisingly, I routinely hear the question, “What’s your major?” More often than not, the person stumbles over the answer, stammering through a description of a class they find interesting or what they think they’ll major in. Occasionally you’ll hear a straightforward answer (“Philosophy.”), but it’s followed by an awkward, slightly nervous disclaimer (“I have no idea what job I’ll get”).
It’s uncomfortable to be asked your life plans in such a pointed way, and yet we do it all the time. We look for a concise answer to this question from others when we’re all secretly terrified to pony up for ourselves.
We have trained young adults to give their passions in an elevator pitch. It starts in kindergarten (“What do you want to be when you grow up?”)
Then, as high-schoolers, we’re expected to have their college plans solidified by sophomore year. Once you get to college, you better have your passion locked down, or else you’re destined for a career of administrative work and living for the weekend.
I, too, fell prey to this process. I lived my life convinced that my “passion” was my worth, my definition, my 150-character bio. Then the time came when I realized I didn’t have one true passion, and I felt lost. I was exhausted by the inspirational stories and entrepreneurial memoirs telling me to “find my passion” because I couldn’t pick just one thing that would transcend all the life changes, moves, and losses that I knew were ahead of me. It was debilitating.
Finding a singular passion sounds impossible because it is impossible.
In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or fears.” Your path is going to have a lot of stops, and I believe passionate living, or “creative living” as Gilbert calls it, is about realizing that your passion is not just your career. By assuming our passion amounts to just one thing, we limit ourselves from experiencing a lifetime of opportunities. We create our own box, if you will, and spend years trying to lock our “passion” inside it. What’s creative or fulfilling about that?
Have you ever witnessed a couple that just started dating? They’re generous with the PDAs, so entranced with one another that you can literally see the butterflies jump out of their stomachs. They are passionately in love, and they don’t care who knows. Passion is a word we often associate with romance: big, grand, movie-style gestures and declarations of love. Yet, we’re uncomfortable applying this kind of exuberance to our day-to-day choices and decisions. Passion means living with an open heart, a willingness to fall in love and the resilience to get back up when roadblocks stop you in your tracks.
Passion is not an answer to a question, but a lifestyle and an exuberance. Your heart can beat for more than one thing so expand your definitions. In fact, skip the limitations of defining passion entirely. If you’re burnt out and feel unsatisfied with your current answer, reset. Realize that your current job and circumstances aren’t the essence of your existence but part of your story. Then start exploring new ways (as many as possible) to make your life richer.
How do you find new passions? Leave a comment below!