If I could count the number of times I've been asked in some form of another, 'what is your passion,' or told to 'live my passions' oh a rich woman I would be. It's a question coming from the likes of family and friends to potential employers, recruiters, and admissions counselors. I even sometimes get it from semi-strangers on first dates.

While the intentions are rarely ill, the reactions such a question or suggestion elicit are never ones I enjoy. Instead of feeling energized or inspired just considering the matter evokes a  profound sense of inner turmoil.  'My passion(s),' or lack thereof, is a heavy weight, burdensome and onerous in its ubiquitous presence.

So of course I react as any self-aware, well-adjusted, mature 30 something would. First with avoidance, then with denial, and subsequently by drowning myself in a healthy dose of self-deprecating guilt. I'm frustrated at being answerless and even more so because I'm scared to admit it. Down the rabbit hole we go. My life coach would be proud.

But instead of continuing to drown in my sorrows (I'd need chocolate for that), I share this because the first step to acknowledging your problem is admitting you have one, and I'm guessing I am not the only one. The way I see it, as much as I wish passion were the cure I more often feel like it is the disease. How easy life would be if it were the simple answer to my boredom or the solution to an unrelenting sense of restlessness? Unfortunately usually just thinking about it hurts.  

I'm filled with frustration over something I can feel but can't identify, as though it were an internal condition. I've experienced the energy before, but can't  quite diagnose the source.  I know I like reading but does that count? Languages were my favorite classes, should I be studying these still? Do I actually even enjoy cooking or has it just become my thing? I feel hung up, defeated, and exhausted. Why can't I find my passion or at least feel confident I can recognize the signs? Do I really need someone else to name it? If only in this case a doctor actually could help. My therapist certainly tries.

Like any dormant virus my passion may lie hidden for days, weeks, or even years. Sometimes the slightest irritation can cause it to reemerge. My friend cajoles me into volunteering, a past-time that I realize used to bring me joy. I hear the sound of my temple choir, and remember the force of my voice as a child. Activities forgotten or ignored that I could, should, may, easily revisit. But I hesitate nonetheless, not quite sure they would be enough, scared to discover they might not elicit the sense of purpose I crave.

My passions can make me feel completely alone. Isolated by a personal affliction that requires constant attention. I must dedicate myself to practice, mustering all the self-discipline I can find. I pass on my favorite beer, abstain from a night out with friends. Some of them don't understand. I make painful sacrifices so I can treat my favorite morning passion, a long and early run. Fortunately when I sign up for my first race, it renders me more more connected than ever. I find those who share the same interest, and even my skeptical family members show up as I cross the finish line.

While I strive to conquer and control them I'm almost certain I never will. My passions feel chronic in nature, threatening disturbance and causing hardship, whether I live with or without them. So instead I look for the symptoms and struggle to discover their roots. Then I must be brave, brave enough to bring them to the surface, treating them with attention and care. One day I hope I will be able to harness them. Perhaps they could even be the cure after all.

 

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Sam is a native New Yorker, but not a die-hard. She did do stints in Illinois, North Carolina, and Arkansas after all.  When Sam is not searching for her passion she may be found draining her bank account at a local Brooklyn bookstore or consuming ice cream and beer, two of her favorite food groups.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Passion.

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