I hate my job but I can’t leave it. I work full time and go to college part time just to knock out my core credits. People told me I’d eventually find my passion in life, but I still don’t know what that is yet. How do I find it?
Ah! This is my younger brother! So. there are some very noteworthy individuals in this world who aren’t household names. Pepin Garcia worked in his uncle’s tobacco factory from the tender age of 11 and then spent the next three decades becoming a master cigar roller. He would then establish the boutique Don Pepin Garcia brand of cigars. Peter Giuliano was a co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee, a wholesale coffee roaster and is a coffee cultivar advocate. His career has spanned over 25 years, from serving as a humble barista to serving in the Coffee Corps, a program which fostered deeper relationships between the coffee industry and local producers at factory farms worldwide. Daigo Umehara is a professional fighting video game player, placing in international tournaments for nearly 20 years. He has gone on to publish a book on his experiences called “The Willpower to Keep Winning” and had the story of his childhood adapted into a serialized comic called “Umehara: Fighting Gamers!”
Basically, these aren’t the kind of people you’re going to hear about often, but that’s fine. In their own respective esoteric communities, these men are legendary for their accomplishments. Well, anyway, passion. This is about more than just your hobbies. To be passionate about something is to be invested in it, physically, mentally and emotionally, to the point of obsession. Obsession isn’t a word I’m using lightly here; you’ve got to breathe it, speak it, and live it. That means you’ll have to sacrifice a lot for it, and as romantic as that sounds, it’s really not for everyone. Passion requires a single-minded focus on your subject of choice to the point of nearly alienating your social circle. It also usually means sacrificing most of your time, money and relationships to it. Then, there’s the kind of state you need to be in for you to actually be willing to do all this.
Flames are the imagery most often conjured up when people describe passion. This isn’t just poetic language. Passion often emerges from destruction and hardship, and there are many more anecdotes of other visionaries who had to hit major ruts in their lives before they could emerge. Your passion is what you run toward in order to survive, the one thing that makes a difficult life bearable for you when your friends, career, family, and significant other either don’t suffice or are unavailable. Basically, as painful as it is to admit, you have to scrape rock bottom and reach your most desperate hour. You have to have demons to either confront or accept. You have to be in pain.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to be alone. You can surround yourself with other like-minded individuals who share what you’re passionate about to learn and grow from, and the people you share your life with might actually want to take that hard journey with you. If that’s the case, then you’re incredibly fortunate. However, I think the single best motivator to push someone towards what they’re truly passionate about is to be broken. Not defeated, mind you, because I consider defeat a different concept altogether, but to be broken and on the edge of oblivion. That’s when you finally retreat from a dead end career or a toxic lifestyle and slowly heal yourself. Not everyone is able to make it out of that tunnel though, which is why passion is such an important, fragile thing.
Calvin, as far as your individual passion goes, I’m not sure what it is. I know you loved doing a bunch of things growing up: soccer, RPGs, boxing, singing, um, preaching… but do you still care about any of these things? If, in the span of a month, you slowly lost everything you cared about, would you be comforted by any of these things, to the point where it saves your life? Look, after, uh, my troubles from 2010, I was a wreck. I won’t elaborate on that here. But I did retreat into art, learning new stuff in digital graphics every day, and applying what I learned to illustrations and 3D modeling. I made some really personal, vulnerable work after about a year of denial and reluctance and it helped me cope. Then my luck turned around and a few years later I’ve become a workaholic.
You might be able to discover something you’re passionate about and thrive at it without a ton of existential pain. If you do, you’re incredibly lucky. But I think you’d appreciate just what it is you’re passionate about all the more if saves you, you know?