“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
If you’re around the same age as I am and have spent any time on the internet in the past five or six years, you are probably very familiar with the frequently suggested notion of following your passion.
Quit your job and follow your passion!
Screw the 9 to 5!
Do what you love!
Etc, etc, etc.
The idealistic, impulsive little girl inside of me wants to jump on this bandwagon of passion-pursuing so badly and tell everyone I know to resign from their current jobs in favor of making whatever kind of art it is they are drawn to make.
Because doesn’t it just sound like the best thing ever?
But here’s the thing: It’s not that simple.
Sure, following your passion seems great. But does the thing about which you are passionate stay that way once you start relying on it to make you money? Or does making your art your livelihood transform it into something you love just a little bit — or a lot — less?
And P.S. Raise your hand if you’re not totally sure what your passion is at this point in your life.
Even though I can’t actually see you all, I would venture to guess that at least half of you have your hands in the air right now. So, if you’re one of those folks for whom identifying your passion isn’t such an easy task, don’t fret. You are in good company.
Because not everyone has this super clear passion highway on which they can jump anytime, with signs pointing them in the direction of all the things that will light them up on the inside.
Some people have this. Sure. But most of us? Not that easy.
And I personally think that all this pressure to leave your job and follow your passion is complete bullshit that has us somehow convinced that venturing off on your own is the only way to be brave or to make a real difference or to create badass art.
My advice? Experiment as much as possible. Explore. Ask questions.
Allow your passion to shift throughout your life if it wants to. And maybe stop using that word altogether. Try something like curiosity or fascination instead. A word that gives you room to move around a little bit more if you’d like.
Also: If the thing about which you are passionate — or curious or fascinated — doesn’t pay your bills, that doesn’t make it any less important to your life.
Because engaging with your creativity and curiosity on a regular basis can absolutely transform your experience of every other thing you do during your day.
Even if that includes sitting in a cubicle or punching numbers into a spreadsheet (which, to be fair, some people totally love doing) or calling insurance companies to verify eligibility for medical services (which, let’s face it, nobody loves doing).
Every morning for the past 42 days, I have gotten up early to write. And even though most of what I’ve written has been read by exactly zero people, the experience of doing so has made a huge difference in my daily life.
Because doing something that taps into the part of my being that just wants to make stuff has been unexpectedly profound.
My boyfriend built a gorgeous workshop in our backyard this summer, spending the majority of his weekends for more than two months teaching himself how to frame in walls and install windows, and create a fully-enclosed building out of a previously bare-bones carport with only minimal prior construction experience.
And even though he and I are the only ones who will really ever enjoy the workshop, making that thing lit him up in such a lovely way and brought him joy that carried over into his day job as a shoe designer during the week.
I have a dear friend who is an artist, and she has been painting like crazy the past few weeks, making brilliant art unlike anything I have ever seen her do before. Outside of friends and family members, no one has yet seen this new work, but I have watched the process of regularly dropping into raw creation transform her in amazing ways.
And it has been beautiful to watch.
All of this to say, I think we should talk less about passion and more about creativity and curiosity.
I think we need to acknowledge that you can be an artist and a maker without generating income from these pursuits. And that you don’t have to leave your job in order to make art that has an impact.
At the very least, you will be transformed by throwing yourself into a project that gives you the space to be messy and creative and inquisitive.
And who knows, you might just find your passion amidst all that curiosity.
But if not, who cares. Just keep making stuff. And trying new things. And surrounding yourself with people who are doing the same.
Because when you make being creative for its own sake a priority in your life, you give other people permission to do the same in theirs.
And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing, indeed.
For more about this topic, I highly suggest watching this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, in which she further illuminates why follow your passion is maybe not the best advice for all of us.