“Find your passion”. A catchphrase of the last quarter century. A perfect quote on a motivational poster with a backdrop of a sweaty NBA player lunging at the basket in the back of a 2nd grade classroom. The command that so many think will solve all their problems. A statement that makes people who don’t feel particularly strong about anything feel insecure and inferior. Yes, passion makes the world go round. But it does some other things too.
In my life as a musician, these are some of the things I’ve heard grown up ever since I was fourteen and decided to pursue music for my life: “You’re SOO lucky that you found what you wanted to do”…”It’s great that you found something you’re PASSIONATE about”… “My daughter is 25 and she STILL can’t figure out what she wants to go to school for”…”So many people can’t find their true calling, you’re lucky to have found yours…” I’m sure these sound familiar to anybody who has been on a similar path. I don’t deny any of these statements. I have a life that I love, supportive friends and family, and have been able to make money doing what I love. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
But there are darker sides to having a passion, and I don’t ever recall having heard any of them expressed before. Below is a list of a few major points that are often overlooked when people discuss the virtues of “having a passion”, and should be a comfort to those who don’t feel particular strong about anything in life:
1. People will likely not pay you for your passion. They will adore you, feed you, look up to you, wine and dine you, perhaps even sleep with you – but they will not pay you. (Or at least not enough to make a decent living and raise a family). The burning desire to master Saint-Saens’ cello concerto, write a batch of short stories worthy of the O.Henry Prize, or juggle 15 firesticks simultaneously won’t always translate into you making a decent living at it. And what does this mean? Having to take a day job. This has the potential to be even worse than lacking passion or talent to begin with, because what good is passion or talent if you don’t have the time and energy to hone it?
For the average person, taking a job in accounting, management, or retail is matter of course; something that can be written off as a necessary evil. But for somebodoy who is wired to live and breathe their passion, the thought of spending the majority of your waking hours on something else can be suicidal. (Working full-time and pursuing your passion on the side is possible, but toll it takes on your health and personal life is questionable).
2. The chances are slim that you will find a romantic partner who will support, tolerate, and understand your passion as much as you do. And this may be fine. Who says that partners need to be the same? People exist to learn from eachother. But there is also a possibility that for those with a true calling, the “one” in your life may need to take back seat to where your heart really is, which follows that you may possibly be alone forever.
3. The obsession with your craft and desire to hone your talent can leave few resources to become a well rounded, healthy human being. Going to the gym? Learning how to ski, fish, or snowboard? Cooking? Dating? Being caught up on the latest trends in TV, movies, fashion, or music? Travel? Sure, maybe you can dabble in these things, but the time spent pursing your passion (or more likely the money spent on it), will be a large block preventing you from pursuing most of the other things that the “passionless” take being able to do for granted.
4. As you grow older, your values shift. When you’re 25, maybe it’s important to be the best goddamn film director you can imagine. But when you’re 45, you might just want health, a wife that loves you, the ability to put your kids through school, and not worry about retirement. But there is no way to go back in time and convince your 25 year old self that you will see the world through a different lens in two decades. You know what they say, love is blind – and a passion – if too great – can become an obsession that blinds you to the totality of what a truly wholesome life is.
So there you have it. I reiterate, I would not trade my passion for no passion. Since this article focuses solely on the negatives of my overall very happy and content life, it makes me look like I’m ungrateful and unhappy with the choices I’ve made in my life, which I am not. But the darker sides of things are what people don’t’ always hear; the things outlined here I do feel strongly and consistently, and they should be heard by those who think they key to life is as simple as “Finding Your Passion”.