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Some Thoughts On Finding Your Passion, And Wondering If You Even Need One

Here on TFD, we talk a lot — and in many different ways — about passion. It seems we’re always either searching for our passion, chasing our passion, or trying to make space for it in our busy, and often passionless work-lives. Sometimes I write these articles, and sometimes I read them, but in either case, the same thing holds true: I don’t really feel like I have a passion of my own.

It is a weird feeling, especially because I currently work in a field where a lot of people doing similar work to me are incredibly passionate about what they do. And I’m not at all saying that I don’t love it, that I don’t strive to improve and be better every day, or that I couldn’t see myself comfortably and happily doing it for at least a good portion of my life, if not for the entire duration of my life in some way or another. But I haven’t been dreaming about it since I was a child, or even a teen in high school trying to vaguely visualize my future. I never went to a guidance counselor and asked them to help me find the path that would lead me to writing, and I never spent free time in my youth or even in college engaging in extracurricular activities to support my passion and coax it to grow.

But I have to wonder if it is even necessary to have one. I’m not unhappy, and I’m not walking around searching for my life’s purpose. I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled into a path that I enjoy and do well in, and a situation where all of the things I do to earn money make me feel happy and inspired and stimulated almost every day (hey, I’m only human — no one feels happy and inspired and stimulated all the time). But I sometimes wonder how boring and uninspiring my biography would read, or my E! True Hollywood Story would be:

Mary did boring random shit for all of her early years, but nothing really ever stood out to her. She never completed a single season of a team sport in full because nothing held her interest long enough and she always dropped out. She concocted an elaborate plan to escape from horseback riding camp because she didn’t give a shit about horses. Her preschool ballet class consisted of 12 small ballerinas dancing around her while she sat on the side and sighed because she was bored. She worked consistently hard at all the things she did for school and work, and half-heartedly at some mostly-failed attempts to fully love and invest her life in something recreational. She genuinely enjoyed a lot of the things she did. Then she became a writer, and she really loved it. Some other stuff presumably happened. (I can’t say this part for sure since I haven’t lived more of my life yet — stay tuned.) Later, she died.

It isn’t that interesting. It isn’t the scrappy tale of a little girl whose family gave up everything to pay for her gymnastics classes because she loved it so much, and now she’s just won her 7th Olympic gold medal and she credits all of her success to the passion that fueled her and drove her to this point. I think about it a lot, and I have spent a number of years trying to pinpoint the one thing that could be “my thing” to identify with entirely, to call myself “A ‘Blank'” confidently and mean it in every sense of the word. And I don’t think it is because I’m boring or impatient or pessimistic; there are so many things that I genuinely love and dedicate time to in my personal life. I love writing, cooking, watching old sitcoms, fashion, running and hiking, painting and drawing, doing yoga, working with children — the list goes on. And although the closest thing I probably have to a passion is writing, because I dedicate so much of my daily life to it, it feels like nothing ever stood alone and jumped out at me as the one thing I would do anything for. I don’t think I’d drop everything, deplete my savings account, move across the country and start over for any of these things. There’s no insane fire inside me for them, just a gentle warmth and a desire to engage, but not the passion to jump in and turn the world upside down.

Since I’ve never felt what passion tends to be described as before, I have to wonder if maybe what I experience is passion, but I’ve been led to believe it means something much more powerful. Is passion just enjoying something? Is it just working at something you like, but not being obsessed with it or feeling 100% fulfilled or satisfied with it at every possible turn? In that case, maybe I don’t have “zero passions” — maybe I have hundreds. I guess it depends on how you look at it. But that “I have to have this, I can’t live without it” feeling is the one I’ve always searched for, and never quite found.

And sometimes it makes me feel weird, or bad, or unworthy of the life I am living. Sometimes I have to wonder — am I stealing spots in life from the people more passionate than I am who truly deserve to reach their goals and achieve their dreams because it is all they’ve ever wanted? 

But when I really sit and think about it, I think it’s really okay. It isn’t talked about all that often (and I totally understand why, because “I Quit My Job To Follow My Passion” is a lot more compelling of a headline than “I Do Things I Feel Happy And Content With For Money And Sometimes For Fun”), but I think there are a lot of people out there who feel the same. Who genuinely love their jobs, care about them deeply, put their all in and strive to be better every day — but don’t want it to be the all-consuming passion in their lives. And there are certainly people like me, who even outside of work don’t have a secret passion that has been bubbling and brewing beneath the surface for years waiting for the right time to be unleashed and finally fully pursued.

It is okay to be comfortable. And happy. And talented, and successful. And seeking opportunity, and working hard, and putting your all into the things you do choose to do every day. But I don’t think you really need a passion. So if you don’t have one, at least for now, try not to worry. (Worrying is definitely not a good passion.)

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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