I recently read a fantastic article written by fellow blogger Dr Eric Perry titled ‘How to Find Meaning in Your Life’. Not only was it beautifully written, but the content had a profound effect on me, and linked well with a topic I was already planning on writing about – passion.
“So, what is your passion?” It is common to be asked something like this at a party or other social gathering where you don’t know many people. The question takes various forms, sometimes substituting the topic of ‘passion’ for the softer topic of ‘interests’ for example, but both are alluding to a similar thing. Someone is asking you what you enjoy in life, what excites you. When we are asked about our interests it feels less daunting, and we may feel less intimidated to answer. This is in my experience at least. Interests are just things you do to pass the time. The word ‘passion’ seems to evoke something else in a lot of us. I know that it used to intimidate me, and I would struggle to answer. “I’m not sure, I don’t really think about it,” I’d reply, cringing inside my mind and wishing I had a scripted answer for these questions that I could reel off from memory. But that wouldn’t be true passion for something, that would be a social tactic.
I have been pondering over the subject of passion and trying to think about why I’ve always found it such a difficult topic. Since my early 20’s I have found myself completely in awe of people I meet who clearly display what they are passionate about. You can see when someone is truly passionate about a topic; they can’t help but become emotive when discussing it and find ways to bring it up which are genuinely engaging and interesting. The topic is interwoven into their psyche, and how it changes the way that they analyse the world around them because of it. They seem to draw links to their passion where others may not see it, feel positive when they are given the chance to discuss it and dedicate large amounts of time to the benefit of it. A passion usually takes a lot of time, dedication and patience to develop. When I see traits like these in a person now, I feel a deep respect for them. That wasn’t always the case though, unfortunately.
When I was in school, it was easy to view people who cared about things and took time to perfect them in a negative light. The concept of a ‘nerd’ is well documented in the media that we consume. The importance of being ‘cool’ or otherwise is played up a lot in films and dramas with school-based scenes. ‘Nerd’ is a strange term which has derogatory meaning in a lot of uses of it, and it is not easily applicable to a person based only on specific rules or traits. Some kids in your class managed to be seen as ‘cool’ but openly try at their coursework and get on with teachers. Others may suffer socially for trying to work well in class though, and they may be seen to be less ‘cool’ for displaying these types of traits. Children’s biases often don’t make a lot of sense, but neither do many biases that adults have. Do we carry those biases out into the world unknowingly, never really finding impetus to challenge them? The workplace is essentially a playground for adults after all, filled with different cliques and the same chit chat and rumour fodder as school. The behaviours likely become more advanced as we mature. I am making many assumptions of course, such that being ‘cool’ is even a priority of an individual. But many of us are too immature and inexperienced in school to recognise differing motivations and priorities in life.
As I went into university and beyond, that is where I first remember the question of passion coming up in my life. You would be asked to introduce yourself regularly in new classes, attend mixers and meet many people through friends and friends of friends. Part of the introduction to official events would sometimes be to talk about something that interests you. I would sit, digging through my mind to find an interest that I could say enough about, without feeling self-conscious about it. “I play guitar, that is sort of interesting. Although I’ve stopped playing it so much since moving to uni. I like reading non-fiction, but I never remember the content of the books and I feel like I don’t know enough about the topic.” I would dig out my interests, then single-handedly find a reason that they were not interesting to anyone. It is this that made me think on the topic of self-consciousness.
In the first ‘C’ word article I wrote titled ‘Know Yourself’, I spoke a bit about my self-consciousness in terms of my friendship group and how I wondered why people liked me. This manifested itself in me believing it was because I always drank way too much and was seen as ‘fun’. It became a resentment of mine though and I felt that I couldn’t give it up, despite hating it about myself. The question about my passion threw out similar insecurities that I wasn’t fully aware of at the time. To be passionate, you had to be confident in my eyes. You needed to know more than everyone else about that subject and have no fear in discussing it. It required you to be open-minded and intelligent about your passion, always ready to learn more and challenge yourself for the betterment of it. They were all traits that I still felt were a bit ‘nerdy’, or would require me to commit myself to a subject to an extent that I wasn’t sure I could. Trying, in my stupid immature brain, wasn’t a cool thing to do. Despite feeling a large amount of respect for people I knew who were, for example, very good at playing the piano, I didn’t link that back to the concept of ‘trying’. “They are naturally good at playing piano,” I would tell myself, as if their ability was innate and everyone else needn’t bother; trying was something that you had to do if you were bad, but trying to be less bad.
I don’t know why I thought that way looking back, especially as I had practiced the guitar for years before I got to a high level of proficiency (I am not displaying a lot of modesty here, but I was pretty good (I think)). I didn’t think enough on the subject to draw that link at the time. It was easier to judge people who tried at things, and respect people who were already good at things. That leads to the next area I’ve thought on – judgement. The other thing about passion is that you must be prepared to be judged for your passion, and I was never prepared to deal with that judgement.
I feel I could write another article on judgement. It is such an interesting subject to me and it seems relevant here in my experience. In school and for a while in university, I feel like I was a very judgemental person. Reflecting now, I know that I was that way because of my own insecurities. It was easier to judge others and reassure myself that I was doing something better or more useful than them. What is more difficult to do, is to learn about their choices, contemplate why they enjoy doing something differently to you, or have different interests to you, and review your own life to see if you could learn something from them. That takes time, effort and dedication, like having a passion. It takes far more effort to be a person who searches the world with an open mind, learning about other people’s lives and finding things that may improve your own life. Being the type of person who is self-conscious and judgemental is unlikely to lead you to find a passion in life and is also unlikely to bring you any sustainable meaning or happiness. So, I want to conclude this article by discussing two of my biggest passions.
My main passion in life are people. Even though I have wrestled with a lot of self-consciousness over the years, I have learnt to really enjoy having friends around me that I love and meeting new people. It is so easy to invest your energy and time in people as you get so much feedback from them. You can help your friends deal with challenges in their life, be their soundboard when they are sad or angry, and watch them grow into themselves as they get older and learn. Not only can you help them, but you can also greatly influence their lives for the better. What is a better thing in life than investing in people around you that you love, supporting them and helping them flourish?
I also have a passion for writing. For my undergraduate degree I studied English Language. At the time I thought I only liked the subject as I seemed to do well at it without putting in much effort. I realise now that the reason I excelled in it was because I always loved writing. The process of sitting down and having a lot of thoughts on a topic but needing to find a way to express them effectively using language genuinely excited me. When I read a book that I loved, I would get excited at the way that the sentences were structured. Often I would read a paragraph repeatedly, writing down my favourite sentences from it in the notes app on my phone and reading them again and again when I was idling on a train or waiting for a friend. I used to have a list of interesting words on my phone, and I would challenge my mum on the definition of them. She always got it right, so I looked further for more complex words, but she still almost always had an inkling that was correct. The process excites me now more than ever, and the blog is giving me confidence to speak about this passion.
My challenge to you is to think about what your passion is and ask others what theirs is. If they don’t know, talk to them and help them find it out. Where they have a passion, find out about it and give them the opportunity to discuss it. See what you can learn about it. People are vehicles of experience and knowledge; better to be open minded to that experience and learn something from it. Being judgemental of it will offer no benefit to anyone, especially yourself. Indulge in their passion like you indulge in your own. You’ll feel more fulfilled for doing so.