Walking the Cat . . .

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Passion Changes Everything (only not always for the better . . .)

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What do you do once you’ve discovered your “one true thing”, the thing which gives purpose to your life; your passion?  What now?  Do you chuck everything, rush off into the great unknown armed only with this beautiful,  fragile thing, yelling at the world, “This is what I was meant to do.  Nothing else matters, only this!”  I would advise against such action, at least in the beginning.  There is a time to do just that, but now may not be that time.

If you are fortunate enough to find your “one true thing” early in life, it may well be best if you devote yourself wholeheartedly to its pursuit.  You have not invested any (or not much, anyway) time in any other pursuit(s), so now may be the perfect time to do just that.  On the other hand, if like me, you’ve spent a number of years vainly searching for that “one true thing” only to be disappointed, time and again, until you’ve just about given up hope of ever finding it, then, perhaps, it’s best to nurture your passion quietly, without giving full vent to the emotional impact of its discovery.  There’s a reason, a very good reason, why this could be the best move initially.

Most people simply aren’t going to understand.  At first, they may look at you uncomfortably, nodding their heads and smiling.  They may even be encouraging, “Yeah, right, Steve.  Well, good luck with THAT”, in a backhand kind of way.  But then will come resentment, fear; maybe even downright hostility.  “What the hell makes you so special?  What makes you think you can make that (whatever it is) happen?”  This can be toxic to passion, or at least your belief in your passion and, sadly, even your belief in yourself.  It is especially toxic to those things we have not sufficiently nurtured (within ourselves) to be able to withstand such criticism.

When I was younger, I wanted very much to be a writer.  I was passionate about it and spent countless hours struggling to string the words, sentences and paragraphs together so I could point with pride to my finished manuscript and say, “I did this!”  At first, when asked what it was I did, I said, “I’m a writer.”  Inevitably, the question came back, “What have you written?”  I would say I’d done a few op-ed pieces for the local paper, some theater reviews, and the like.  I was proud of my accomplishment and wanted people to know (I was never one to “hide my light under a bushel”).  “Make any money at this writing “thing”?  I had to admit I hadn’t.  Most of the work was done for the exposure, to build some credits to attack the bigger markets.  “How long you been at this writing “thing”?  I’d been a “struggling writer” for a couple of years and not collecting a whole lot except a small stack of “contributors” copies and a large stack of rejection slips.  “When are you going to get a “real job”?  The question eventually killed, for the time being, my passion for writing.  It wasn’t because I didn’t think it wasn’t work, or a “real job”.  I knew in my heart it was.  But I began to doubt, to second guess myself.  I had spent quite a lot of money on my writing; classes, paper, ribbon for, at first the typewriter, then the word processor and, eventually, a computer, postage.  None of the expenditures were overly lavish, but we couldn’t easily afford them.  And I hadn’t published anything of note for quite a while.  Maybe I was being selfish, spending money and time away from my wife, not really working at the relationship.  Self-doubt reared its ugly head and bit me right in the resolve.  I put the writing away and got a “real job”.  I wasn’t that good, anyway, I told myself.  Maybe I would’ve been but now I’ll never know.  And neither will you if you expose your passion to a similar environment too soon.

Passion, as Sir Ken Robinson says, can change everything; the change, though, isn’t always for the better.

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Written by stevewthomas

May 11, 2011 at 3:12 am

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