This idea of following one’s passion has never sat right with me. Today it’s particularly stressing me out and so I’ve given it some thought and upon a certain amount of introspection, I’ve decided that there are two parts of this idea that are faulty.
1. The singularity of it
This idea that is supposedly so freeing is, in fact, extremely restraining, namely because it makes the terrible and silly assumption that we only have one passion. It’s very nice and good to focus on one of your passions for a short or extended period of time, maybe even for your whole life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you’re passionate about. It’s just that we need to make a decision about what to focus on or else we’ll never get anything done. That’s all.
2. The damn word
Also, the word “passion” irks me. Maybe that’s because it gives the impression that the subject of your passion should cause you great feelings of meaning and enthusiasm on a constant basis when, in fact, that thing, when broken down, is as mundane as anything else in life. Not to mention the important fact that the reasons we are driven to focus on certain things is not only “passion.” For me, for example, it’s also out of trying to find something that works with my personality as a highly sensitive, highly questioning person.
Yes, there might very well be moments of passion but it is far from the only factor in our decisions to do what we do.
The new way to say it?
Point being, I think instead people should say:
“Follow one of the things you feel drawn to if you feel and believe that’s the right thing for you right now.”
That’s it. I’ve entered my 35th year (that makes me 34).
And I need a change, I know it whenever I get this urge to chop my hair off (I’m not joking).
The good and bad news is that none of my problems are new. The things that are bothering me are issues I’ve been talking/writing/thinking about for years.
The advice from a rabbi in 2007
I’ve been going through some old diary entries. For the most part, they bore me. They are repetitive and a little whiny. (Thank God I didn’t publish that stuff!) But the good thing is that after all these years, I am now able to pinpoint (the?) two major issues in my life:
I’m scared of my life, the future and failure.
I’m almost never writing as much as I want to be.
One of these entries, in January 2007, wasn’t too boring because I wrote about the advice I got from a rabbi. This is approximately what he said:
Your bad feeling is self inflicted. You cut yourself no slack. You aren’t responsible for everything. Not everything in the world and not everything in yourself.
When you start being negative about yourself, say: “Sorry, I don’t have time for that right now. I’m busy.”
Contemplate things at the end of the day. Slowly, through giving yourself love, you will begin to really love yourself.
Most of what he said is true. I inflict pain on myself. I’m too hard on myself.
Besides reading old, embarrassing diary entries, I’ve also been doing embarrassing self-help research online about success, birthdays, why 30s are great, how to make a truckload of money from writing and how to totally change my mindset and become an entirely different person.
Well, I didn’t mean to research the last one. It just happened.
Here are some of the interesting things I found out:
My creative source is not finite! by The Oatmeal
As is often the case, The Oatmeal “verbalizes” what I’ve been thinking all along. And so now I know that I’m not the only one who is always convinced that the next piece I write will be the last because I will never have another idea again. The Oatmeal wrote:
Wait. So, it isn’t true? Well, who knows. Maybe I really won’t ever have another idea, but either way, I should push myself to put out that supposedly last piece.
Some motivational talks make me shrivel up inside. That doesn’t make me a bad person.
Often we think there is something wrong with us because of how we react to things when really it might just be faulty expectations about who we are.
I came across a post about the characteristics in highly successful people. It’s supposed to be motivational but it made me cringe. The writer lists all these traits that make an ordinary person extraordinary but the ideas are so lofty that it made me laugh just reading them. Like, that nervous kind of laugh.
The terms include:
Definite aim, vision and purpose (ugh, kill me now)
The amount I’d need to change in order to fit those descriptions, let alone the other 26 (!) mentioned in that piece is probably plain impossible. Maybe I could get a personality transplant but that’s probably expensive.
But I’m sick of believing that being an extroverted, go-getter, fast-working, multi-tasking, power house is the only way to succeed. I’ve been introduced to the book about introverts by Susan Cain which I’m itching to read and I’m going to work on seeing what environment I need in order to succeed. I being a slow, creative, thoughtful, detail-oriented person.
What Augustus did at the age of 34
Even though 34 is so young, we’re used to thinking that it’s already “older” and if it’s older, then maybe my chances of fulfilling my dreams have passed.
And so I looked up what others succeeded in doing in their 35th year. Here is one small success by Augustus:
After defeating Antony and Cleopatra’s forces in a naval battle, Augustus became the master of the Roman world.
Not quite as great as me but nobody’s perfect. I guess I could still try to do something with my life. :)
I’m not over the hill yet
And then I wondered what some really old people have succeeded in doing despite (or because of?) their serious advancement in years. This was with the purpose of inspiring me to go and do what I want.
And it all comes down to pushing! (Once you know what you want to be pushing yourself to do.)
Out of everything I’ve read or seen over the last few days, there was one piece that really stuck out for me more than the others. It truly inspired me.
Maneesh Sethi wrote so honestly about how he actually sometimes pays someone to sit next to him and slap him whenever he goes on Facebook. A professional slapper. Or he promises a friend lots of money if he doesn’t finish an article when he says he will.
What a breath of fresh air. I could have used either of those tactics the whole way through school. I often need a good slap to get myself going and focused (sorry motivational writer). I often know what I want to be working on but my unproductive inner voice makes me into a bum.
Sometimes you don’t have to psychoanalize that voice, sometimes you’ve just got to give it a good smack and do your work. Because doing your work in itself is what will help get some sense into your brain.
I love honesty and real-ness. Thank you, thank you Maneesh.
Just just just just just
Really none of this is a big deal. I just need to accept who I am and push myself to succeed in whatever I lay out for myself.
This is the song I “wrote” to express my exasperation at the way people always seem to use the word “just” for the hugest of tasks!
My one-week experiment
OK, easier said than done. But I really think that to a large extent, the heavy feeling in the mornings is due to the fact that I often have an idea of what I should be doing and my fears, etc., stop me.
My current theory is that if I push myself to do more of what I want to be doing, then that feeling will improve.
And so, in honour of my birthday and my life, I’m running an experiment.
For the next week I’d like to force myself to do stuff when I know what I want to be doing (which is often the case).
I know it’s possible it won’t make me feel better but at least I’m testing the theory. And if it does make a difference, amazing! And if it doesn’t, at least I’ve disproved that theory and can move on to the next.
Meanwhile, happy birthday to all. I hope that my new year is great for all of you, my dear readers. :)
Some 29 year old guy (though maybe then he was 28) started a twitter account where he writes the crazy sh*t his 74-year old dad says. I remember hearing about it from a co-worker last year and since then it’s only continued to grow. It’s great! For example, right now the top tweet is:
“Don’t focus on the one guy who hates you. You don’t go to the park and set your picnic down next to the only pile of dog sh*t.”
Now it’s become a book and a tv show, so it seems.
A famous Israeli writer, David Grossman, wrote a whole song (a rap, actually) based on Israeli bumper stickers. Israel is an intense place and so the politics are intense and yes, even the bumper stickers. The idea of writing a whole song based on bumper stickers… genius, if you ask me.