Passion is a funny word…

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 22 September, 2004 at

Please bear with me as I work through some thoughts that have been floating around… This entry is a few days in the making. As work has come back to a normal pace after last week’s hellish rush, I have been able to take a little more time and update with something a bit more meaty than the few posts previous.

Webster’s defines passion as (abbreviated):
a : the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death
b : EMOTION : the emotions as distinguished from reason
c : sexual desire
d : intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction

I have had all forms of passion invade my life at one point or another. Some good, some bad, but always strong. For the course of the musings below, I will be using the last of the definitions above. Passion for the next few lines will be known to mean the intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.

I have been thinking of “passion” a bit in recent weeks; wondering what drives people to excel in their chosen professions, or to stop doing what they are wasting their lives doing and quite literally “follow their passion” and do what they long or desire to do. Obviously, I have been trying to find that one thing which would give me the most enjoyment from life. That profession which I would enjoy devoting so much of my time to, which would cause me to wake up and look forward to going in to work…

And I think I have realized that none of my passions will translate into a good career for me. Not that there isn’t a way to make them a career, but rather, I am simply not passionate ENOUGH about them to desire any amount of devotion required to making them into careers.

Let me illustrate:
I love wine. I have a passion for great wine and great food. I also enjoy writing. I have opinions and enjoy spouting them to anyone that will listen. I am a constant critic. By this definition, I should excel as a Wine and Food critic for a local magazine or paper, right? Perhaps. But my love would quickly dwindle if I was required to dine out 5 days a week and eat the best the world had to offer. My love for the finer things in life is based on a balance which would be tipped off kilter if the finer things were all I had. My passion for wine and food is balanced and not all-consuming. I could probably dine out and write about it once or twice a month and be fine, but any more would be excessive.

More to the point, however, would be my passion for photography. I had, at one time in my earlier life, been working towards a career as a free-lance or studio photographer. To the extent that I had gone up to Santa Barbara to scout out Brooks Institute of Photography as the place I wanted to attend once out of high school so I could learn all there is to know about lighting and design. Needless to say, things changed and my life took a different direction.

Thinking on it now, I could probably still go and follow that dream from years ago. The problem now arises from the fiscal and practical side of needing to sustain my family where we are now. Second to that is the fact that I simply do not have the conviction and desire required of me to do what would be necessary to follow through with that dream. Especially since I am not much of a risk taker when it comes to finances and change in general. I like sure bets, and this would be by no means a sure thing.

Though it is both a secular and sacred term, I have also come to think of passion as nearly synonymous with “fundamentalism” and blind emotion. In my book, these things have come to symbolize all that is wrong with the world. I have come to see “passion” for something as a blind or misled emotion and weakness in particular. Some which holds such a devotion, that any nay-sayer is immediately wrong. I am too much of a pragmatist to be this passionate. I am indeed the devil’s advocate to any argument, regardless of my beliefs.

Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” is a perfect example. I recently had the opportunity to watch a bit of this “film”. While I found myself agreeing with a good portion of what he was saying, the movie was done with such passion that I found it irritating and elementary. In trying desperately to make his points, he succumbed to the worst offense of passion: poor leaps in logic. Such that if “A” equals “B”, then “C” is the obvious next step. This type of logic is inherently flawed, EVEN if it brings you to the right conclusion. It is Michael Moore’s passion which has seemingly blinded him from any other possibilities in the arguments he makes. Like I said, I agree with him, but his method for persuasion has all but put me off to anything he does.

Take photography as another example. I have run across those people who are very passionate about their hobby or work in photography, who are always seen as “the camera guy”. You know the type. Everywhere they go, they have their cameras and are “focused” (yes it was intended) on getting great pictures of whatever event they are attending, rather than actually enjoying the event. I don’t want to be known as the camera guy. The Camera Guy always seems to be so passionate and devoted to the film, that they miss a large part of the event and people are often seen shying away from him for fear of having their picture taken. People see him differently because of his passion for the camera.

Passion to me has come to mean an emotion which consumes your life. While I enjoy taking pictures and drinking wine, and eating, and even riding my motorcycle, I don’t wish for any of those things to consume my being to the extent that other things are pushed to the back or forgotten completely. In order to succeed at any profession, that passion would need to be at that level. Otherwise, the job I have a passion for becomes just another day job which I no longer wake up looking forward to. Why would I want to leave my relative and current comfort, only to create the same state for myself which I had left that comfort for in the first place, at the same time ruining one of the things that once held my interest and enjoyment?

I do have a certain level of passion for the work I currently do. I am indeed passionate about helping other people overcome actual problems and am passionate about solving puzzles in the best way possible. This does not mean, however, that I enjoy it or wake up excited for the day ahead of me. Conversely, my passion for helping others has taken a more viscous turn against me and I no longer enjoy talking to customers to help them past their issues. I would much now rather not be bothered by them, and would prefer to create training or help documents without that contact.

I can’t say that I wish to be stuck as a tech writer for the rest of my life either. With this and all the above in mind (along with bits that I am sure I have failed to include) you may be able to see how I have come to a place where any true passion as I see it, has left my life. While I can recognize a level of passion still with me, the passion and dreams I once retained have seemingly vanished as I have aged and become more pragmatic and centrist. I still hold my opinions, but the passion that once backed them is no longer as strong as it once may have been.

I enjoy too many things to be truly passionate about one. I am a jack of all trades, and a master of none.

6 Responses to “Passion is a funny word…”

  1. Another danger of devoting passions to one thing (oh, like the SCA for example), is that I got so burned out, and missed the other things in my life that I could no longer make time for.

    Balance is key.

  2. geez…. make me look bad why don’t you!

    Leave it to you to sum up in one sentence what took me about 12 paragraphs to attempt.

    You have in fact captured exactly what I was trying to say. Thanks 🙂

  3. Re: geez…. make me look bad why don’t you!

    LOL – no problem, man!

    I’m “big picture” girl, remember?

  4. Re: geez…. make me look bad why don’t you!

    Ok, both of you… out of my head damnit!

  5. My 3 cents.

    I think we all have that same dream…..to make a living doing what we love and feel passionate about. However, don’t confuse interest with passion, or passion with obsession. If you let any one thing consume your life, that’s obsession and it’s unhealthy regardless of what it is. The fact that there is no one thing that consumes your every waking thought does not mean you aren’t passionate. The fact that you have multiple interests is healthy and means you’re well-rounded – that’s the way it should be. So one particular interest doesn’t stand out above the rest…so what? Indulge in all of your hobbies as the mood strikes and set things aside as interest in something else temporarily moves to the forefront. Variety is what keeps life interesting. It’s okay to be a jack of all trades and explore all kinds of interests, hobbies, and activities. Not only does it make your life more interesting, it makes YOU more interesting. It’s no fun to hang out with someone who has only one all-consuming interest – there’s nothing else to talk about. The jack of all trades is a lot more fun than the master of one.

    I’ve actually come up with a solution to your problem. I have the perfect career for you:

    You need to publish your own wine & food newsletter, focusing in on only a small number of wines & restaurants at a time. You could eat fine food and drink fine wine, write on a regular basis, spout your opinions to your heart’s content, and even take your own pictures……but not so much that you’d grow bored and uninterested, plus you’d get to indulge a variety of your favorite activities. And your dining expenses would be tax deductible. Make it a web newsletter and you wouldn’t even have printing and mailing expenses. I would even buy the first subscription (minus my 50% fee for coming up with the idea in the first place of course). You aren’t exactly an expert food or wine critic, but perhaps that would be a better perspective for the masses anyway. The more I think about this, the more I’m convinced that A) you should do it, and B) I am brilliant (and a Goddess!).

  6. Re: My 3 cents.

    And I’ll be his editor. I wield a wicked red pen!


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