On “finding your passion”

The expression ‘finding your passion’ is quickly becoming a cliche for Gen Y.  We’re told this so much on the Internet on sites like TED, Mark Manson, Thought Catalog and Elite Daily, as well as as on various other sites and blogs, not to mention in real life. You wonder at how these lucky people found their passions, and why you’ve been so unlucky to be one of the ones that doesn’t have a passion. Well, you’re not the only one.

When I was younger, I struggled a lot because I felt like everyone knew what they wanted to do in life, and I didn’t. I felt like I was on a platform, waiting for a train, while all my friends had boarded theirs and were heading to their destination. I didn’t know when my train was coming. I didn’t even know where I was going, or where I wanted to go, for that matter.

But the real issue was not that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but that I didn’t have the courage to pursue it. Ever since I was able to read, I always, always knew that I just wanted to write books. I loved the act of imagining, creating worlds that were just your own. To do anything artistic though, whether it be music, art, writing, poetry, acting, requires great courage. Not only to put yourself out there, and risk ridicule and the fear of being told you’re not good enough, but also courage to overcome the fear of failure.

I didn’t have that kind of courage, not then, anyway. And so I went in and out of different vocations, thinking this or that might suit me. I tried my hand at several different things; so unrelated you wonder at how I made the vast jump from one to another so quickly: nursing, childcare, tourism. Needless to say, none were the right fit for me.

I wasn’t the only one either. My friends, who had boarded their trains already, were now back at the same station they started from. No one really knew what they wanted to do. I watched my friends go through the same things I did, studying different things, graduating only to work in completely unrelated jobs, going back to study in an entirely different field. And what was it all for? In the name of “finding our passion”? No previous generation has been as lost, as directionless as Gen Y. It’s been said that our generation will change careers up to 6 times (but this number might be ever higher now).

In the back of my mind, I always thought how good life would be if I could just make money from writing novels. No matter what path I went down, that little thought in the back of my mind was always there. But you could just write. Wouldn’t that be perfect? Voices of disapproval were all around though. When I was in kindergarten, I told my grandfather I wanted to be a writer. My grandfather disagreed, he said I would be a doctor. He didn’t hesitate to tell anyone and everyone that fact (the shame of your grandchildren not fulfilling the desires you project onto them). I remembered a conversation shortly after finishing high school, when I mentioned to my brother that I just wanted to write novels for a living, and his response was that writing was not a stable career.

He was not incorrect. I mentioned my brother’s comment at the first writing class I took, taught by Australian author James Roy. James stated that the average Australian author made about “$6000 per year”, and commended me for having the courage to pursue my dreams. But his former statement was an extremely sobering moment. The room, full of professionals, was silent as we thought over our life choices, the unfortunate reality of having a life passion that doesn’t pay well (if anything, at all).

I knew more than anything though, that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate life in a job I hated, and so I decided that I would do whatever it took to make my dream a reality. Life was intolerable doing things I hated, disliked even. Those years where I drifted in and out of studying different things were probably some of the worst of my life. I spent them in a haze, lost and directionless, dreaming, doubting, worrying, wondering. Life improved infinitely when I made a conscious decision to begin slowly and steadily working towards my goals. Not being able to do what you like and want out of courage or fear is an oppressive, disheartening way to live, and it’s one of my deepest regrets that I didn’t begin living my life the way I wanted much earlier. I know now that one of the best, most satisfying things in life is to be able to make money doing the things you love most, and it’s this that I’m working towards, despite being a long, torturous road, undoubtedly filled with many rejection slips.

But for those who haven’t yet found their passions; keep trying. You find out what you like by a system of trial and error. By trying things you don’t like, you realise more about what you’re really capable of, and what you want in life.

And that’s not to say that everyone can, or should find their passions. Not everyone has a career that works out to be a perfect fit for them. Some people find it bearable to work in jobs they dislike, in exchange for the 6 figure lifestyle, and the luxuries that 100 hour work weeks can buy them. There are good and bad parts of every job, and whatever you choose has to be something in which the bad parts are bearable for you.

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