Follow Your Passion

To the past me who was wandering, completely lost in life. To the current me who is questioning my priorities. To the near future me who will probably be washed out during the first few years of teaching. To the far future me who will be cynical about the educational system and the world. To my future students who wonder what path they should choose. To those who feel stuck in their current situation and are miserable.

FIND SOMETHING YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT AND FOLLOW IT.

I know that there are plenty of motivational articles out there telling you the same thing, but personal stories are ones that connect to people. So here is mine.

I had recently watched Three Idiots, a great Indian film about choosing to do what you are passionate about and not just following the path others choose for you. It really resonated with me because I realized that whatever I have chosen to do, I did it because I am passionate about it. For a long time, I have always wondered what’s the meaning of life and what should I do with mine. I felt completely lost and it was quite depressing because I felt like I was always wandering.

After being introduced to dance in high school, I became passionate about dance. I made it my goal to become the best dancer I can become. Not necessarily to gain a certain title or win Nationals, but to continue to push myself to become better. I’ve dedicated the past seven years to competitive ballroom dancing and taken on all the challenges that comes with it. What this entails: hours of practice, weekly private lessons, money for competition and travel fees, mentality training, learning to communicate with my partner, buying competition dresses, etc. It was and still is hard, especially as a full-time student, because that’s a lot of hours and money spent on a “hobby”. However dance isn’t a hobby for me, it is a sport I train for. As a Dancesport athlete, I have to train like any other athlete. There’s a competitive mentality to build, physical conditioning (no, dancing is not enough), and a more recent change for me, proper diet.

Following your passion requires you to do things that aren’t very exciting. The must-dos are tedious tasks that may or may not directly correlate to your goals. For me, this is losing weight. In competitive ballroom dancing, it is very much so an aesthetic sport so there’s a certain look dancers want to achieve. But beyond that I realize that in order to become a more effective dancer, the weight loss, combined with strength training, is necessary. So I came up with strategies to achieve what is necessary. I am currently tracking what I am eating using a phone app and cutting unnecessary junk. I also increased the amount of cardio I am doing and continuing with strength/resistance training.

There are many passionate people out there, but they may lack drive and structure to actually follow their passion. These tend to be the people who pick up many hobbies, but abandon them as soon as it requires more effort than they are willing to put into it. The thing is, passion alone is not enough to carry you through to reach your goals. Alongside passion there must be perseverance. Perseverance means constant hard work and again, no distractions. There must be drive and that requires a strong mindset. When it comes to dance, it is very much a mental game as well as physical training. Therefore, reflections are also essential to anyone who wish to follow their passion. Reflections can give you insight to how you think, what physical and mental habits need to change to support your passion. Take the time to listen to yourself.

With ballroom dancing, a partner is also involved and a good partnership requires similar drive and similar goals. Goals can either be tangible like winning first in a division or intangible like mine, but it is generally they should work towards the same path. Passion requires sacrifice. Anything considered a distraction is cut. Any excess spending that doesn’t go towards dance has to be reconsidered. There are times where passion needs to be kept in check. It is a double-edge sword. Does the passion result in you hurting others and perhaps more importantly, does it result in hurting yourself? You have to constantly evaluate, are the sacrifices worth it?

There will always be people who question your passion because following your passion means achieving something unmeasurable by society’s standards. How much of it do you listen to and how much do you just file under naysayers? Find people you can fully trust in to give you feedback, but also have multiple perspectives. Finally, always check in with yourself and if you are analytical like me, make a list of pros and cons. However, don’t make any decisions right away because your pros and cons might in fact, be influenced by your emotions at that time. Put it aside for a bit until you are in another state of mind to either confirm your decision or reevaluate it. Some people say, “Check your gut feelings” and there is some truth to that but don’t make any impulsive decisions you might regret.

So what about motivation? There will be times where it seems easier to give up. How does one find inspiration? Remember why you decided to follow your passion in the first place. Check if your priorities have changed. Listen to the success stories. Talk to people you have inspired and those who have inspired you. Surround yourself with people who support your passion and get guidance from mentors. Mentors are essential for success because they can give you advice and the tools to get to where you want to go. Also don’t compare. Do the best that you can do, not the best that others can do. Comparison without appreciation or out of jealousy can only bring you down.

Passionate people are good at what they do not necessarily because they are “talented” (talent is overrated), but because they let their passion drive them. It requires a game plan and figure out strategies. It requires a lot of failure and “behind-the-scenes” disappointment, heartache, emotional, physical, and mental fatigue. For us dancers, dancing is made to look easy because it is our “job” to make it look easy, but people don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears underneath the surface. Therefore to follow your passion requires a lot of resilience and you absolutely cannot give up. Each hurdle you overcome makes you a stronger person as long as you get up each time you fall.

Now I am moving towards a new passion as I near a different stage of my life. I have become passionate about education. I inspire to be like my teachers and mentors who have taught me to love learning and sharing that love with others. They are such amazing people with infinite resources and are so passionate about what they do. I want to dedicate my life to education, to inspire students to care about social sciences and about life-long learning. Knowledge is so powerful and with the world the way is now, we need people to become more educated. But not just educated and be textbook-smart, we need the future generation to have the tools to make the difference they want to make in their communities.

I didn’t realize just how passionate I am about social justice until I start discussing with colleagues and friends about the changes that should happen in our society. I also started envisioning the teacher I want to become. A teacher who is deeply involved in the field of education, part of outreach programs, and can empower her students. It will be a long journey to fulfill that goal, but I am taking steps to get there. There will be obstacles, there will be times where I feel like giving up, but to follow my passion, I must have patience and perseverance.

Past/current/future me, students, readers, and lost souls, remember that life is too short to live with regrets. Don’t spend most of your life doing something you are not passionate about. If there is something you love doing and you can embody it with your entire physical, emotional, and mental being then that is your passion! Once you figured that out, be persistent, figure out strategies to effectively achieve your goals, have support from friends, family, and mentors, and lastly, don’t give up! Let your passion become your fuel and trust that a life full of passion is a life far better than one without.