“Finding your passion isn’t just about careers and money. It’s about finding your authentic self. The one you’ve buried beneath other people’s needs.” – it’s always going to be someone on Pinterest
I recently watched the movie La La Land ( highly recommend it) and despite swooning over Ryan Gosling every other second, it got me thinking about life ( and how mine is heading nowhere, but that’s beside the point). Without giving much away, its characters face a struggle known by many- the choice between chasing your dreams or settling for anything but.
However, the struggle I’ve faced my entire life is somewhat different: How can one choose to follow their dreams without knowing what exactly those “dreams” are?
For as long as I could remember, envisioning what I wanted my life to look like has always been difficult, to say the least. Ask me when I was five years old what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would have said a singer ( my imagination was clearly advanced for my age). And so, despite the loving support from my family and friends who never failed to tell me that I sounded like shit, I continued to pursue this “dream” of mine well into elementary school. I wrote songs and recorded myself singing on my IPod every chance I could get, until one day I just sorta gave up ( which my parents were quite happy about) . Eventually, I moved onto the next great idea- fashion design. Although a bit more realistic than the last, I quickly realized that (a) I had no artistic ability and (b) I couldn’t sew in a straight line for the life of me. Add sports commentator, dancer, baker, aspiring pianist and professional Ben and Jerry’s taste tester to the list and I was left on the boulevard of broken “dreams”.
For years , I’ve lived my life advocating for how important finding your passion in life is- mostly because I had thought I had never found mine. I’ve lived in utter envy of anyone who has found something they love and who is willing to dedicate their entire lives towards it. And so, to me , the question of whether or not to follow your dreams and passions has always been a no brainer.
Why settle for something less than what makes life worth living ? Because you won’t have a high chance of making it “big”? Because it’s something that doesn’t hold much prestige in society ? Or my personal favourite – because it won’t make you enough money ?
I’ve heard a bunch of criticisms of following your “passions” that all align with the same type of argument : it’s too unrealistic. Many point out that the majority of people have no clue what their passion is. And I agree 180%. What I’ve begun to realize though , is that the issue is less about knowing how to find your passion, and more about knowing how to define your passion.
We all think of our passion as this one magical thing that we love doing, which translates into this one specific job that’s going to be our source of eternal happiness and success. But , that’s not the case at all. If you’re anything like me, you may suffer from what I call “loving too many things syndrome”. I love music. I love food. I love fashion. I love writing. I love cats. Now, how the fuck am I supposed to find a single job that incorporates all of these “passions” of mine into one? The answer is simple- I’m not. And frankly, I’ve realized that I don’t have to.
Your passion does not have to manifest itself in the form of a job. As a society, we’ve embedded the capitalist notion of work and profit into pretty much every aspect of our lives. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my five year old self automatically assumed my answer had to be something career related. But why? I could have responded with: “When I grow up , I want to be happy. I want to be loved. I want to be someone my loved ones can count on. I want to be the best version of myself”. But I didn’t. And I think that says something very important about how we think we should live our lives.
I would take any of the things I just listed over a huge salary, fame or social status any day of the week. Because when it comes down to it, those are the things that I want to achieve. The things that will make my life fulfilling. Those are my dreams. Those are my passions.
So, next time someone tells you to “follow your dreams” or”pursue your passions” and you feel as lost as I was- just ask yourself this: Who do I want to be? What do I want to achieve in my life? What goals should I have to make me feel as if I’m living and not merely existing? Answer those, by being as honest to yourself as possible, and you’ll find that following your dreams- or rather following your heart- has never seemed easier.