This post is in response to Emma, who gave me a suggestion for a topic to write on. So, anyone reading this, feel free to leave a comment with any and all topics you'd like to have discussed. I'm always looking for some direction to take with my posts. Maybe then I'd write on here more often.
The question posed was about what my "ideal" job/lifestyle/career would be. I'm going to expand that to also talk a little about choosing a career path for yourself and maybe some other things.
I've blogged a lot about the things I'm naturally talented at, mainly writing and music. There are numerous poems and songs and a few short stories on my blog and they are something I take a fair amount of pride in. As far back as I can remember, I've had a need to create. My mind has been imagining and creating ever since I had toys in my hand. I set up elaborate battles with my Great Adventure toys, Imaginext, Legos, and Beanie Babies. Each character and animal and weapon intrigued me to no end.
That thirst for creating took a new form when I found out that reading and writing existed. My mom tells me that when I came back from my first day of Kindergarden or first grade, I was upset because they weren't teaching me how to read yet. Something in me wanted to read and when I was finally able to read, I immediately began writing. There are old totes in storage areas where some of my first writings are. I specifically recall a short, fairly plot-less story about people finding a dead elephant in an alley. It was written on that old grey/tan paper with gigantic spaces between lines and scrawled in large, sloppy letters. Granted, I was in first grade, but something inside me had this inherent need to create. To form something out of nothing but the raw thoughts in my head was empowering and fulfilling.
Skip ahead to 8th grade. I'd been listening to my own variety of music for a couple years, choosing to mostly do away with the southern gospel quartet tunes I was raised on. Sum 41 and Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin were all the rage. Hearing and experiencing that music was a shock to my senses in the best way possible. It was similar to how my brain reacted to being able to read stories. It wasn't long after listening to rock music that I felt a deep longing to learn guitar. I fantasized about having a rock band with my friends and we all talked about how much fun it would be. At some point, I asked my dad to teach me on his old Harmony guitar and he, not having an extensive musical knowledge, taught me what he knew. He showed me how to read chord diagrams, some basic strumming, and most everything else I learned was on the internet.
The common denominator with my writing and music is that once I experienced something, a huge part of me absolutely had to create it. I suppose it's like planting a seed. Once a story sunk into my brain or a riff worked its way through my ears, it began growing into a need for self expression. That's the best way I can explain it off the top of my head, anyway. It's hard to put into words, but there's really only one word needed. It's what's at the core of this topic: passion.
It might sound like old hat, but passion is important. The word might bring romantic images to mind, but even a simple Google search tells us it's more than that. "Strong and barely controllable emotion." Passion is that thing embedded in each of us that has no rhyme or reason. It just is. Many people go their entire lives without ever finding it. It's locked up inside somewhere, just waiting for a catalyst to set it off.
I suppose it could be compared to an addiction. Some people are alcoholics or shopoholics and those addictions might hit them early in life or later on. Passion is similar. I was blindsided by my passions at a fairly young age. First grade for my writing and eighth grade for music, though I didn't realize they would become such intricate parts of my being back then.
The hard part, for those who don't know their passion, is finding out what it is. Many of my friends are in that boat. Most of us are at that college, early-to-mid-twenty age where we're trying to figure things out. At this stage of life, we're trying to maintain stability by paying bills, getting sleep, fixing our vehicles, etc. while also moving forward in our education and self discovery. It's hard to balance all these things we have to do while pursuing the things we want to do. But is passion just the things we want to do? Maybe, but not necessarily. I remember talking to a Holmes Lake park worker and he said that he wanted to make a living by sitting around drinking beer. Beer is great, but I don't know if it constitutes a passion in that context. Perhaps brewing his own beer or touring the world tasting all the different varieties would be more of a passion. Note that I'm not going to tell people that their passion is stupid or that it's not really a passion. I don't understand or relate to some people's passions, but that doesn't make it any less close to their heart. Just know that it is important to distinguish the difference between a pastime and a passion. Pastimes do just that: they pass the time. Passion, ideally, adds meaning and fulfillment to life.
However, there are people content to work a job for their entire lives that they don't absolutely love, but it pays the bills. Then in their free time, they delve into their passions which are also pastimes or hobbies, and they are fine with it being that way. This leads into me answering Emma's question for myself.
I've always wanted my passions to pay the bills while also giving me fulfillment. I don't thrive well at jobs and never have. My natural ability of talking to people and communicating has been useful in past jobs, but it is not a passion of mine. I don't get excited about talking to people, but I can do it. Whereas my dad can talk to people and is passionate about sales, I can sort of do it, but I hate it. As a youngster, I wanted to be an actor, a director, screenwriter, a novelist, and a music artist. I guess those desires haven't left me. I've always been told that those things are unreal desires, but they still nag at my mind. Can't help it. However, recently I've decided to pursue opening my own small business (more on that some other time). But basically, there's your answer, I guess, Emma. My ideal career paths are somewhat unreal, though I still plan on pursuing them. Thankfully, everybody else is not me and there is hope for you.
As I've said, it's often difficult balancing the things we have to do with the ones we want to do. Add to that this quest of discovering our passion and then deciding what to do with it. Is your passion something you want to make a living out of? Or is it just something to do on the side?
My best friend Thomas is a great example. He can work a monotonous job he hates because it pays the bills, but he's still searching for his passion. He loves playing video games, but he doesn't think it's quite his passion. I'm the opposite. I know my passions, but can't seem to work a job for very long before finding myself in mental and financial turmoil. He's an extremely talented guy, both in the things he's naturally good at as well as the knowledge he's picked up at jobs, school, and his free time. He knows what he likes doing, but doesn't know how those things translate into a fulfilling career. He's tossed around the idea of accounting as well as being a college professor and maybe other things I can't remember. The thought of being an account makes me ill, but I know he would do well at it. I also know he would be a damn good college professor and probably enjoy it.
That's the thing about passions and talents and such. Everyone is so different in what they like and what they're good at. One thing I know about passion: You can't hide it. You can't deny it. You see it in people's eyes. You hear it in their words. You feel it. Even my slower-spoken friends reveal immediately that something excites them. That's passion. That's what you're looking for. But maybe you don't know what that thing is. Don't worry just yet.
Start by asking yourself this: What is it that I enjoy doing? If it's sitting around drinking beer, great, but think harder. Come up with the top few things that you love doing. Are they things you couldn't imagine life without? Again, if it's sitting around drinking beer, I understand, but push that aside for a second. Really, if for some reason you could never, ever do that thing again, what would happen?
Is there anything you do that other people have said you are talented at? Even if it's been something small, think about the compliments you've received. Lots of people say "I'm not good at anything." Maybe you're not good at anything... yet. You just haven't found it. Is there something you've been wanting to try that you haven't got around to doing? Do it. Stop saying you don't have time and find the time. Even if it's a little bit of time somewhere in the chaos of the day.
Now think about this: You have about 80 years on earth to live. In 2013, The World Health Organization said the average life expectancy for people in the United States is 79.8 years*. If you're in the 20-ish range, think about how much time you have left. Yikes, this could get depressing quickly, but it's not meant to be. What do you want to look back on your life and see? Is it sitting on the couch every day drinking beer? Is it working hard at a well paying job that you despise? Why waste anymore time? Whether you know what that thing is or you're still searching, don't give up. It's out there.
P.S. I'd love to hear responses as well as any topics you'd like me to write about. Just post them in the comments section. Don't agree with something I said in this post? I wanna hear about that too. Thanks for reading.
*Thank you, Wikipedia.