“Follow Your Passions”
Otherwise known as: all anyone my age heard from the guidance counsellor at their school.
Seriously, though, has this advice every actually inspired you to do anything differently? To do anything at all?
For me it was just confusing, and annoying, and… It didn’t make sense. I was 17, I didn’t know what my passion was; I didn’t have just one thing I enjoyed doing more than anything else, and my fascinations were so fleeting that I felt like none of them could possibly be my passion. If something was my passion, then surely I would know?
I really envied the girls in my class who would proclaim with absolute certainty that they were going to be doctors, or lawyers, or “No, I’m not studying any Maths or Science in my final year, I don’t need them…” HOW DID YOU KNOW? Telling them to follow their passion was like preaching to the choir — they already were, they didn’t need to be told to keep doing what they were doing… Meanwhile, I’m off to one side, thinking that I might want to be an astronaut — but no! In an instant I would realise that I was wrong, I was born to be a tattoo artist!
In between these momentary passions, I just felt lost. Lost, and like time was running out, and I had to do something — but what did doing something even look like? Because it had to mean something, right?
I always considered travel, but I had no money, and no patience for saving any money for an adventure I felt certain I wouldn’t even want to go on by the final boarding call. My longest standing interests were writing fantasy — although honestly I’m more of a world-builder, not a writer — and horses. I dabbled in so many sports and instruments that I lost count, and I flitted among friendship groups a lot. Nothing stuck; I was adrift on an ocean of possibility, nauseous as anything — and while I ignored the way I felt, I only got more seasick.
I didn’t go to university, and got a job as a waitress. I hated that; I went to university. I couldn’t stand to live at home anymore, so I moved out, and learned that when you stay on the internet way past your bedtime, your flatmates won’t hide the router under their mattress. In fact, they’ll probably join you for a 3am “Baby’s First Lemon” marathon. Somehow, I finished my degree, and I couldn’t get out of NZ fast enough. I spent 3 months enclosed in concrete; I wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by trees and clouds for the rest of my life.
I had no idea what I wanted, no balance in life, and absolutely no idea where to start figuring out anything.
You can’t “follow your passion” if you don’t have one. Sometimes, even if you do have one, you can’t “follow” it… Following your passion is not nearly as simple as we’re led to believe. Figuring it out isn’t even the hardest part! Actually “following” it to its logical conclusion, as understood by pretty much everyone— of monetising it sufficiently well to live off — that’s a whole other month of marathons.
I still don’t have a passion. I’ve kind of realised they’re bullshit. They lie to you, seduce you, make you think you will need nothing else in life. You might never have one; that’s OK. It’s great, even, because without a passion, you’ll be just fine, but without the pressure to make it happen.
Because I’ve figured it out — people with a single passion, or two, or fifty— they may have always known what drives them, they may never. But for everyone watching on the sidelines, and being inspired as they live their life — none of us think of it as their passion until we see them doing it, and well. And how do they get good enough? Easy. They work — hard.
And that’s something you can do right here, right now, for free.
People with passions don’t stumble into them, they don’t come upon them by accident, or chance. They grind. They work their asses off, long before we think they’re living the dream, and they’ll be working long after we stop watching. They may never even believe that what they do is their passion. But they get on and do it.
And that’s the secret.
That’s what I’ve spent my whole life trying to work out.
You can’t follow your passions; they don’t lead you anywhere. I don’t even think they exist. You have to drag yourself — against the urge to stay in bed for 10 more minutes, against the overwhelming desire to drown yourself in a funny cats sinkhole on Youtube. You have to do, and do, and do. And then do some more. Don’t worry that it doesn’t light your fire 99% of the time. Just keeping doing it, doing something, doing anything.
Because doing is the only thing we can do. It’s the only way to get anything worth doing, done.
And maybe then you’ll find that white-hot 1%, and for one glorious moment, your passion will exist…