Recently, I have been communicating with high school students who are going through the same dilemmas that I went through as a teenager—what do I do with my future? As a high school graduate, there were general tips, recommendations, or experiences that I could share confidently. For instance, what kinds of tests there are, how I studied for classes, other activities that may help you stand out, etc. Yet, I still could not answer the primary questions: what do I want and what do I like? Is doing what I like even a wise decision for a career? What is my passion?
To be honest, I still don’t know the answer. And in fact, there doesn’t seem to be a single answer available. Our society, and the media that we consume, idolize those who have one unique passion, which ideally leads to one’s success. Hard work and pain aside, it’s a heroic and envious story of a winner whose passions became a reality. But, in truth, it is an extremely rare tale. Many of us are not as clearly rooted and strongly driven as we want ourselves to be. Not all of us are Captain America or Lara Croft. We do not have one true calling that drives us to move forward, and in retrospect, we do not need to have one, at least not in the definitions we assume it to be.
Hence, I would like to highlight a different perspective on passion. I have never been able to call myself someone with a passion. Yes, I can be passionate about certain topics, but I do not have one major focus of study that makes me feel as if I have found my life’s purpose. My type of motivation and passion seems relatively less ecstatic, or even minor in that sense. And for a long time, I’ve viewed this as a major flaw. It felt as if I could not fulfill my destiny, if there is such a thing. But now I realize, these relatively moderate levels of interests and passions also meant that I could enjoy many things with flexibility and satisfaction. They are important to me no matter what they appear to be.
I have, of course, considered diving headfirst into many unknown paths that appeared ideal in the search of my “one” passion. For instance, I prepared an art portfolio for an art school just because I loved art. I considered majoring in film because films were cool and I really liked watching movies. I studied finances for realistic purposes, and I’ve even considered transferring to a hotelier school for unique expertise. Though I had a real interest in these areas at first, it soon turned out that they were things I did not want to pursue for many years in my life. I first came to this realization when I saw myself unable to enjoy the things I usually enjoyed. Films were no longer entertaining, painting felt like mechanical productions for assignments, and situations revealed that I was not a good fit for certain studies.
As such, I continued to be lost in college, even after high school. I still feel lost even now, but these days, this sense of confusion is less dooming. Before, I had compared myself with classmates who had such a clear vision and direction for their future. I now realize that so many things can and will change despite what one may plan. Hence, I do not feel behind in comparison. I am taking things at my own pace, and I have tried out so many things to at least understand what doesn’t work with me. I may not know what I would love to do for the rest of my life, but I do know what I would hate to do for the rest of my life. And that’s an equally significant finding.
It’s important to understand that passion is not something that pops up in the middle of your life. Rather, it’s something you have to build with effort. I’m not even sure if passion is an eternal sentiment. Even if it is, I bet it’s extremely uncommon and takes constant effort. Hence, the beginning to finding one’s passions would be to practice motivating oneself in doing things that they enjoy without awaiting this pop-up passion to become the savior.
Not having one clear passionate subject may be a disappointing idea, but it’s also necessary to understand that digging deep into a single hole may lead to dead ends. If a passion turns out to be the wrong path, it will feel devastating. And I’m not sure if I will be able to handle such a sense of loss if I were in those shoes. Moreover, passion is not something so pretty as it seems. It’s hard, continuous work, that puts some subject first before anything else, possibly even before oneself. In these terms, having one passion even seems unideal as a narrow experience of life.
I enjoy a day with little hobbies like reading, watching movies, playing games, etc. I cannot let go of these things, and if I do, I often feel like my day was unfulfilling. Besides, I do not want to lose the smaller joys by shoving them into a mold of passion. That did not work in the past. And now, I believe that my mediocre-looking enjoyments, pleasures, and satisfactions are passions of my own. Though they may not turn into careers, I maintain them as hobbies and as my own energizers.
As such, I just wanted to address the fact that passion comes in different forms for everyone, and that we do not necessarily even need to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with it. It’s truly different for everyone, and it takes time and effort to acknowledge our position with passions, dreams, and interests. Life is a gradual process of figuring ourselves out, and we’ll be thrown into various unforeseen circumstances. And no matter what path we take, we definitely end up somewhere. So despite what those around you or society as a whole may enforce you to believe, you do not lack anything, nor are you behind others because you are taking your own steps into your own future. There’s no perfect answer, passion is subjective, and you are not entitled to it.
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