When I was a kid, I wanted to be one of two things. An astronaut or a competitive figure skater. In the end it didn’t come down to a choice of love or money. My problems with math sidelined the first and, as for the second, let’s just say my center of gravity stopped cooperating somewhere around the age of thirteen. While I shelved those dreams in favor of something more realistic (if you can call being a writer realistic), I still have a fond place in my heart for those two things.
I used to think that if I couldn’t be an astronaut or a skater that there was no other way to enjoy or participate in the those things. To my mind, it was an all or nothing endeavor. And this was upsetting. Depressing, even. For a long time I thought that if I couldn’t go all the way then I couldn’t have those things in my life at all. So I cut those things out of my life and replaced them with things that I wasn’t as passionate about. Then one day I woke up and realized that it didn’t have to be all or nothing. Maybe I’d never soar above the Earth or win an Olympic medal, but there were plenty of ways that I could stay in touch with my passions.
In my case writing was the key. There are plenty of magazines and websites willing to pay for articles about skating or space exploration. There are plenty of technical manuals to be written for companies that work in the space program. Textbooks need pieces on the space program. Every season someone has to cover the local skating competitions for the paper. The list of ways I can write about my passions is almost endless. I just have to be willing to put myself out there and go for the work.
In the case of skating, I’ve also found that I can coach. I can teach other kids what I learned. I can choreograph their programs and help them choose their music. I may never coach a kid to the Olympics, but that’s okay. All I’m looking for is a way to stay in touch with my passion for skating and make a little money at the same time.
If you’ve discovered that your dream has slipped out of your reach, for whatever reason, and all but given up hope of ever earning a living (even a part-time living) from the things you love most, stop and think for a second. Okay, maybe you’ll never win an Oscar, dance in the Bolshoi, or win an NBA championship. But isn’t there some way to keep your passion in your life? Here are some thoughts and examples from several passions/professions to get you thinking.
- Can you write about your passion?
- Can you teach it to someone else?
- Can you coach it?
- Can you commentate about it?
- Can you be the doctor to the athletes you admire?
- Can you open a community theater or dance company?
- Can you become an agent for other talented people?
- Can you design/manufacture equipment for your passion?
- Can you start your own band?
- Can you sing in local groups or at church?
- Can you act in local groups or scale down your expectations and be happy with commercial work?
- Can you become a commercial graphic artist instead of a fine artist?
- Can you become an expert that the media will seek out when they need information about your area of interest?
- Is there a commercial application for your passion, such as writing jingles instead of symphonies?
- Can you work at an animal shelter if you gave up on vet school?
- Can you go into fashion design if your dreams of modeling didn’t pan out? Or vice versa?
- Can you open a catering company if your dreams of being a celebrity chef haven’t worked out?
There are tons of ways to keep your passions in your life, you just have to give up the “all or nothing mentality.” Life’s a drag if you go through it wishing you could do something that stirs your interests. If you settle for an occupation you hate just because you think there’s no way you can remain involved with what really matters to you, you’ll end up depressed and burned out. And that’s no way to live. Rather than settle, take a step back and find some other way that you can get involved with the thing that matters most to you. You may find, as I did, that there are more things available to you than you’ll ever have time to pursue.
(Photo courtesy of Matthew Simantov)