Figuring out whether we’re “doing life right”
On a recent trip home, I was having a conversation with my sister when she received a text. A look of relief washed over her face as she read it.
“Thank God, my whole day is saved!” she exclaimed.
“What’s the good news?” I asked.
“There were some dinner plans up in the air tonight. We just finally decided where we are going, and I have a favorite dish there so I know EXACTLY what I’m going to eat and my whole day just came together knowing that it’ll end with that dish.”
I think my face said it all, because she laughed. Then she asked me a serious question:
“Do you think it’s bad that I plan my day around my meals?”
My answer was: it depends. For a chef who is passionate about cuisine, planning a day around meals makes sense. And while an architect like her can certainly be enthusiastic about food, I wasn’t sure it could be considered a “passion” unless she was putting energy into researching cuisine and somehow contributing to the forward movement of cuisine as a field.
And “research cuisine,” she certainly does. Reading restaurant reviews and chatting with her boyfriend, an actual chef, about food take up a not-ignorable portion of her day.
But contributing to the world of cuisine?
Other than cooking meals at home, both using recipes and deviating from them to explore, there wasn’t much she was contributing at the edges of the field. She was happily enjoying cuisine, experimenting with it, but not driven to create new things and change the world in the way she’s driven to do with her architecture work.
Cuisine, for her, was a pastime. Something that was comforting and filled time in a happy way, but not something that made her feel driven to research history, follow current trends, and push boundaries herself. It was still a valid way for her to spend her time and energy, but it didn’t inspire her to create.
Quickly, we began dissecting passions and pastimes we could think of.
People who enjoy fishing as a pastime versus people who make fishing their living and/or advocate for legislation that protects fish and/or people who fish.
People who say they “love beer” when really, they just love drinking beer — perhaps different kinds of it, but they aren’t driven to research beer’s history, stay abreast of current beer developments, and even make their own beer to share with the world.
My sister caught the attention of her boyfriend, sitting on the couch enjoying a video game.
“If the makers of Fortnite asked you to help them develop their next game, would you?” she asked him.
“No. I’d just want to play it,” he answered.
“Pastime!” we cheered. He shook his head and put his headphones back on, relaxing so that later he could put his energy into his passion: running a restaurant kitchen.
We realized quickly that many people aren’t “employed by their passions,” so to speak, and that was okay. With 24 hours in a day, even someone who gets the recommended 8 hours of sleep and spends 8 hours at work still has 8 hours left for pastimes and passions alike, and that’s without counting days off.
When I reflect on the ways I’ve spent my time over the years, I realize that sometimes, I chose pastimes over passions too often. Because pastimes are so comforting and enjoyable, with their lack of internal pressure to keep pushing at the edges and grow, it meant I sometimes went long lengths of time without growing at all — instead simply coasting.
It was fun, of course, and felt good. Perhaps at those times I needed to coast. At some point, though, even pastimes couldn’t satisfy the need to do more, to be more, and slowly but surely, I reconnected with my passions: researching, writing, and finding drowned-out voices to make louder.
After that conversation, I felt it was a question worth asking about many of the ways I choose to spend my time: is this a passion, or a pastime? Am I motivated, eager to advance thought in this space, or am I just…passing the time?
There’s nothing wrong with just passing the time; we all need relaxation and even recuperation. But if your passion vs. pastime audit finds a lack of passion, it might be time to reallocate some of your time and attention. We all deserve to live passionate lives — just as much as we all deserve to look forward to whatever’s for dinner.