I’d follow my passion if only I knew what that passion was. I hear people say this. Some people say follow your bliss, follow your passion. They say it in a wispy, romantic sort of way as if they are speaking for angels. Then others look at them and respond with how do I find that passion, how do I know that bliss? Then the follow-your-bliss people say look for it, wait for it, you will just know, again in that breathless tone that makes one believe. Others, who aren’t speaking for angels, sometimes suggest a series of career, interest, or strengths assessments. They’re not as fun to listen to, but just as clever. Your passion, it turns out, is that thing you can’t imagine not doing, that thing you do even when you’re not being paid to do it, that thing that energizes you and, in turn, energizes those around you. I’m thinking that would be a good thing to follow.
Well, I feel as if I am cheating a bit, but still am not without dilemma of my own. You see, I know my passion. Granted, it took forty-eight years to find it. And, yes, the angel speakers were right--I just felt it, I just knew (insert breathless romantic tone). The problem in the beginning was that I was trying too hard to look for it. I was using my head. Passion (who would have known) is born of the gut, born of the heart. My head told me that one’s bliss must have a title---teacher, engineer, physician, writer. My head told me that a passion led to money and position and status. My head mostly has good ideas, but it’s bossy and not very good at listening. So, when my head backed off and let my heart speak, my passion jumped right out at me. So, yes, I know my passion. What I don’t know is how to follow it.
Seems I am not interested so much in teaching or writing in the broad sense of either term as my head once believed. I would do either every day, and have done both for my entire life, but not for the content, for the……well, we can talk about that later. There aren’t many places I haven’t gone with my words. I have taught nursing mothers proper latch-on techniques in the hopes of avoiding sore nipples in them and failure to thrive in their babies. I have taught them the concept of supply and demand as it relates to breastfeeding, the benefits of colostrum, and the tricks to relieving engorgement. I have taught third-graders how to be a good friend, how to make a killer sit-upon, and how to sell Thin Mints like there’s no tomorrow. I have taught middle-aged women how to run their own businesses, how to focus on what they do well and how to improve customer satisfaction. I have taught four-year-olds where to look for Jesus, or maybe those four-year-olds taught me.
I’ve written in journals, in diaries, in newsletters, in promotional literature, and eventually, in magazines. I’ve created, written, and had published recipes for muffins and breads and chili and brownies and Italian Vegetable Soup. I’ve provided bullet points, how-tos, and tips on enriching your vegetarian life, transitioning to a vegetarian life, and being okay with your vegetarian life. I’ve suggested ten things to do with a bean. I have encouraged new mothers to find their own voice and to trust their instincts. I’ve waxed philosophical on the trials of parenting, helped wannabe organizers clear the clutter from their pantries, and told fledgling parents what exactly they could do with that cloth diaper. I will write until I die.
But here’s the thing. I’ve found that I don’t really care about Freud or Piaget or tempeh or tofu or which shade of lipstick to wear if you’re fair. It’s not for assigning students a grade or getting Erikson into their heads that I stand up and lecture. Likewise, I could give a shit if women ever change their eye colors according to the seasons. Two colors forever are all you really need. And those Girl Scouts? How many of them will ever really tie that kind of knot again?
But I thought this was my passion? If not writing and teaching, then what?
Seems what I truly enjoy is not imparting specific knowledge, but empowering, instilling the belief in oneself, the information and the motivation to make a desired change, to get from eh-yeah-it’s-alright point A to this-is-unbelievably-freaking-great point B. Turns out, I live to transition. Who knew! I love to help others move to a more positive place in their lives, whatever that place may be. I’m like a cheerleader only without the tiny little skirts and pom poms. If I have done nothing else with my day but move, motivate, encourage, inspire, I’m good. So where’s the job for that? I can’t find that in the classifieds.
I say to those angel-speakers I would follow my passion, you wise guys, if only I knew how. Does it count if I don’t get paid? Is there a single job that fulfills my passion-following requirements? And what in God’s name would that be? Could I do it while I’m just walking down the street or does it have to be dressed up in suit and tie? What does that even mean, Empowering Others, and why did I get such a difficult passion? Couldn’t I just have been assigned Creating Works of Pottery? And here I thought the finding of the bliss was the tough part.
It took me forty-eight years to find my passion. I’m hoping it doesn’t take another forty-eight to figure out what to do with it. I’m thinking, though, that if one’s passion is that which one cannot not do my gut and my heart have already addressed this dilemma. My head just needs to be quiet for a second and give them their turns to speak.