Why finding your passion is not as straight forward advice as is labelled on the bottle.
I turned 23 on January 23rd 2017. My Jordan and Champagne year all rolled into one — talk about a double whammy situation for the IG, or so it should have been. In a year previous, I would have expected this period of my life and the years following to be full of bottomless celebrations and positive reflections on the abundance of life. Instead I broke up with my best friend at my birthday dinner table, I decided that my ex-boyfriend of almost a year was the one who got away, my normally positive meditations fell on the finality of change and zoomed in on the supposed barrenness of certain areas of my life.
The nearing-mid twenties anxiety finally kicked in — yes, this is a thing — and I realised, the independence and adulthood I had been asking for since my long lost teenage days was not only not going to approach me with soft hands and ease but, it was going to dissolve every preconceived notion I had of myself and the world surrounding me, and kick my ass until I was able to say exactly what I really wanted.
For the past five years I had been carefully tending a garden which I thought was going to blossom in the form of a positive attitude and a who-cares-what-happens-next!? mindset. But the age of 23 recalled me to its office and asked me to explain, with certainty, what I was learning thus far.
In my spirit I knew this growing up challenge was always going to be *the* big one and I guess it explains the anxiety I had been quietly brushing aside for some time, but I guess the latter approach to this supposedly exciting birthday finally made me realise life is, in a way, a path and a journey, an assault course for certain and if you never get lost, fall flat on your face or struggle did you really conquer the trail and reach the peak?
This applies to small and big problems alike and I had to accept this reality whether or not I liked it. The struggles would be external and internal, social, political,mental, emotional — all types of layers and dimensions. But was I truly ready to face the reality? In a society that offers you bliss and the promise of satisfying your needs by way of following your passion — passion being used to define a pure and God-given way of life — what would be the greatest hurdles and lessons to acknowledge on the way to figuring out what the real deal regarding happiness, or even satisfaction, is?
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
― Henry David Thoreau
The following sections are things I identified as being challenges in the pursuit of a happily satisfied, passion filled life:
- Humans are creative beings: Humans are by their very nature creative beings. Whether that means you will practice a creative career or you simply exist as a creative being in other areas of your life, history shows that our main function as a whole is creating. Though the terms popular use often relates to a particular kind of professional, creativity is in our DNA.
As a teen I thought of myself solely as a visual artist. I expected that in my adult years I would practice in some tattoo shop, an art form which was not bound by traditional requirements for beauty. In fact it was my affection towards Japanese art and a keen interest in the Yakuza and other countercultures across the globe which supported my view that art by nature meant resistance.
By taking the concept of universal beauty and distorting that concept by making equally beautiful visual material but not a kind which was universally accepted morally was a radical position which allured me. Turns out at 15 I was more lazy than I needed to be in order to pursue that particular dream and though I still have a pretty neat (though short) portfolio tucked away in my wardrobe right now, it became shocking to me at 18, once I had blatantly fallen out of the education systems good books, that it would take far more work than simply being passionate to achieve a fulfilling lifestyle which coincided with my moral view. Later in life, I realised that in fact I was actually devastated by my purposelessness following the realisation I was too lazy to be an artist although it held so much meaning for me personally, which led to a number of poor relationships and interactions with myself and others which I had to reflect on in the wake of lucky 23.
Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous.”
What I did confirm in all of that, however, was the fact that I needed my creativity as it gave meaning to the things that I saw, particularly the things I saw differently and that in itself was enough reason to pursue or engage with creativity. Over the years I have attempted to adopt many different mediums in order to express this need and continue to explore what possibilities are suitable for me rather than rushing towards a goal and falling short of what I expect or hope to be my lifes’ calling.
2. Emotional beings: Following my self confirmation that I wanted to be an anarchist hippy tattoo artist (maybe), I had an extremely negative romantic experience with someone I genuinely thought the sun shone from. He was pretty cool but not cool enough to make me lose my mind. Prior to this I had chilled friendships, nothing too intense, nothing to relatable. This experience, with someone who was also experiencing the same desire to fulfill their passion and purpose, highlighted and exacerbated all of the insecurities in me and made me vulnerable to the idea that an all consuming passion would be the best thing to soothe me. Not the best idea!!!
Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen.
— Amy Winehouse
The fact is too much of anything will harm your emotional and mental well-being and passion which we endorse as a burning red flame is most certainly in that category. Human beings being the emotional and sensitive creatures that we are require tenderness and emotional strategies in order to keep us sane. Cherishing your emotional safety highly is one of the most important things you can do, beyond following your so called passion, because a mentally healthy and emotionally rounded person is more likely to practice, with balance, the things which lead them to living out their life purpose on a day by day basis rather than killing them first.
3. Creatures of habit: By the age of 18 I was well aware that I had a problem with the education system. I had been moved up a year while in reception in Primary School so I had spent my whole life being the youngest in the class which was always made a point of as some kind of exceptionalism by teachers and adults. The fact this occurred at such an early age actually meant that there was truly no difference between me and the other kids I studied with except the schools decision to move me up because my experience of studies had been advance for that age. It was no real indicator of any advanced mental capacity, but alas.
I was lucky enough to have parents who consistently ensured that I enjoyed well-rounded educational support from them outside of school which meant I naturally progressed with ease through school. Attendance on point, punctuality, engagement in class, homework done — routine things.
This is a structural privilege. Those who practice the same things consistently often — not always, but often — do better. If you can adopt the habits of: practising, reiterating and concentrating on education you will enjoy the structural privilege of the education system and the standard of intelligence that goes with it, see literacy and comprehension skills.
Often time people who profess to be following their passion are actually simply having a fun and liberal time careering based on habitual intelligence which has been developed and perpetuated within our school system.
By the time I got to secondary school, my personal interest in education waned and peaked. Classes such as Geography and Citizenship — things which related to the world as was discussed on the news— completely captured me and the things I had always been so good at and enjoyed such as Art & Design and English Literature jumped straight out the window, literally running for dear life. This was my experience of conflicting passions and little to no routine any longer to support me. I had, in Primary School, achieved the best that I could. That chapter of routine had left me and now I was left to fend with passion for myself.
The problem with this is having left Secondary School with this split experience and no discussion about what was or could be happening as I entered college, the land of the free — non habitual and alternative.
From the day I began nursery to the day I left for college, I had been developing a habit for attending school. Not only because it was normalised by society but the things which made it normalised. For instance, laws which would criminalise parents whose children were off school too often; or, the concept that routine is seen as a necessity for good human behaviour; or narratives encouraging studying with others as it is good for socialisation. The list goes on. There are a number of precursors offered by social institutions which normalise your engagement with social routines and the fact education is your fundamental introduction to routine and normalised behaviour makes habit a centrifugal aspect of human nature.
Going back to the idea of passion and being lost, this is a misnomer in the world we exist in. Passion is often punished and derailed. It is not simple or celebrated unless it is undeniably excellent and culturally celebrated unless being capitalised. With that said, the advice to follow your passion from the view of those who have been educated within the Western and Western influenced education system is a conflicting reality and begets serious questioning.
If it is the case that you are slightly more available to the idea of social distance and individuality it is highly likely that the structures that be will force you into a corner, by way of habit. When habit is normalised within you as an individual then you begin to feel as though you are resisting your own self and if you are doing this there is a large chance that you are overlooking or even undermining your true talent and passion.
Subsequently the trope of following your passion is limited by very real and dominant social structures which you literally cannot get out of until you are very much in the habit of following them anyhow. Leaving the matrix is a trip. And it has to be exited carefully, which leads me to my next point and seemingly only really important point:
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
4. The fate of an individual: Having been through the mountains of youthful existential barriers, I would now happily like to consider myself a home cook, non-professional, still quite shy writer, a part time private illustrator and painter, a bedroom cultural critic, a social photographer and a student patiently waiting for the right mentor. A little new person trying many many things. This feels like a gazillion more words more than I would have said about myself three years ago and a great achievement in itself because I allowed myself to be fearful of calling myself anything which I was not publicly known to be. If you ask anyone else around me, I am sure “crazy”, “crazy!” and “freestyling” are more likely to be the words that pop up before the above.
Ask my parents and it is likely to be an “I have no idea!”. But the point is, irrespective, of who knows what and who is doing what — I am working on it, my own life, my own identity, my own comfort. Passion, if ever there was some.
The window of opportunity to decide who I am that I felt on many occasion was closing on me is not: The opportunity to create poetry is not confined or restricted to the professional artist, nor is an artist solely the man who sits at the easel painting nude women in contrasting shades in blue. Those who are well travelled and versed in the world are not necessarily the ones who had a head start at 18, hopping from country to country every two weeks on a europass.
Different folks have different strokes but knowing yourself is imperative for your contentedness.The term following your passion often is predicated by a number of preexisting images of what being passionate means, but sometimes your passion is being at home by 4pm everyday or getting on a specific tube carriage at your local station. Sometimes your passion is ten years down the line rather than the end result of your three year degree which you camped in the library for. Whatever it is, whenever it is, if you are searching for it you are not likely to find it as only life will reveal exactly what it means to be passionate without following someone else dreams or being self-destructive of sorts.
If we had the time to read every creatives biography we would know two things: first, the very nature of life is manic no matter who the person is living it, and secondly every persons journey is different but it is certainly tailor made for them when they take their time to stroll into its individual rhythm.