“I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it.”
That doesn’t happen in a day.
When you start a mindfulness practice your life gets scary. Maybe you have a lot of closets and nasty things filling those closets that haven’t ever been let out and you don’t know if they should be let out. Maybe you spend 70 hours of your week doing something you absolutely hate and you can’t really figure out how you got here. All that doesn’t matter, what matters is that you have made the choice to pay attention and that takes incredible courage.
Sometimes the pressure to find your passion can be overwhelming. You read annoying writers like me gabber on about health, fitness, and well-being and you think, “that stuff just doesn’t do it for me.” Or maybe you know someone who was put on this earth to draw or make music and you think, “I will never have that kind of passion.” But both of those acknowledgments are needed and are fantastic. You know what is not your passion and you know what your passion might not look like.
A lot of students ask me how do I get to do what you do? The answer is that what I do, might not be for you, and the only way I got here was by trying lots of stuff.
I thought I wanted to live in a Spanish speaking country so I went to a lot of Spanish speaking countries and I was very right. I love the pace of life, the language, the climate, and the people. I thought I wanted to be a surgeon, so I shadowed a surgeon. I hated it everything about it and walked out on med school leaving my grandmother absolutely appalled. I thought I wanted to be a teacher so I taught. I loved it, but realized very quickly that high school teaching is more about classroom management than content and if I spent all my time teaching at the high school or university level I would fall behind in learning. Yet, I am still thankful for every time I get to teach and I also have a deep respect and gratitude for thoughtful and caring teachers. On the other hand, I had no idea I wanted to be a writer. I took a creative writing course when I was 20 and I lost myself in the words and things started pouring out of the closets and onto the page. I loved it and it became the underlying passion of everything I do and guess what, in the beginning my writing absolutely sucked, but I had no idea. I just knew I loved tapping the keys and moving the pen. It felt like smooth jazz at a train station, because that’s what I thought it should feel like. I wrote in coffee shops with rain dripping down the windows in New Mexico. I wrote through tears and I wrote the glare of the sun, but the key is I always wrote.
It might also take a long time for your passion to pay your bills. AND your passion might never ever pay your bills, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile or that you should dedicate any less time to it. Let your other working life support your passion, and more than that don’t let your working life leave your passion in second place. My father’s passion is everything related to Zen and this has permeated into all the other aspects of his life. It took him a long time to find and trust this passion, he studied everything related to religion and theology and has read the bible in Arabic. He has also worked in the IT industry for over three decades to pay the bills. In the beginning, he drank a lot. This was probably because he was spending the bulk of his time doing things he didn’t love and he was self-medicating a mind that was over stimulated and under nourished. There were many mouths to feed and bills to pay, but eventually he found his way back to his calling of studying religion, asking deep questions, and helping others. His passion is still a net negative financially but it is no longer second to his daily work and very soon 60 years later he may be able to spend all of his time reading, studying, teaching, and practicing. Be patient. Be kind to yourself and never stop putting effort into what it is you love.
You are not going to find your passion tomorrow at 12:13 pm. You are also not going to find it by thinking about what your passion might be. You are going to find it by getting out there and trying new things. Keep the things you like and don’t feel bad about the tasks or fields that just don’t do it for you. For example, I love lifting, but reps and sets and getting humans to break world records is not my passion, but I respect those who have that passion immensely and I want to help them keep the wheels on their athletes. I also love to watch it. In fact, this past weekend, I got to be in the background as one of the heads of USA Track and Field and one of the best strength coaches in college basketball talked shop for over five hours. You could see the fire in their eyes and hear it their speech. While I stared out the window, writing about the grey sky reflecting blank faces in a city that never sleeps.
Happy Thursday. Get out there. Follow your gut. Try new things. Find new hobbies. And don’t think there is one right way to get “there”.