“All the great saints, in all the traditions, are beings who live absolute passion.” – Daniel Odier
When we meet new people, one of the first niceties that pops into conversation tends to be “So what do you do?”
As if we are what we studied in school, and nothing else. As if our worthiness is inextricably chained to the title on our business card.
And based on our response, lots of implications bounce around: Are you in school? Do you have a Good job? Did you major in something “useful”?
I propose we ditch these limiting expectations and reframe our lives by starting conversations with: “What lights you up? What sets you on fire? What are you passionate about?”
Passion is the key to everything sweet in our lives. Without passion, we limp along unhappily with a goal of surviving – of making it out of this life with as little pain and risk and heartache as possible, always wondering about what our lives might have looked like had we followed our childhood yearnings.
Passion works miracles. Passionate people are alchemists who turn nothing into something, ideas into structures, nightmares into works of art. Substance into matter. Ashes into gold.
When I was passionate about starting a farmers market in Chicago, this fragile little embryonic idea of a farmers market kept me wild-eyed and on fire. It started as a creative dream that barely sprouted out of the soil – a dream that needed to be watered and coddled and believed in, and a dream that involved so many collaborators that it is difficult to wrap my mind around whose dream it was or where the chain all began. One day, the idea was big and real in all of its glory, beckoning strangers to come together and bring it forth into the world.
I worked nonstop in bursts of frenzy that somehow never wore me down, even through the 3 AM sessions of papers feathered all over my dormitory floor and the 100 degree days of wading through broken glass with my mentor, wondering how we could transform a decrepit urban lot into a clearinghouse of peace and beauty. The farmers market gave me strength and introduced me to some of the most big-hearted and ambitious people the world has ever seen – the other creative dreamers who worked their hearts out to write a business plan, who spent their precious summer nights at Uncommon Ground brainstorming ways to expand the market’s reach, who toiled in the sun in the name of community building and sustainable development.
And then life changed, the first season of the market was over, and many of us were forced to move on. It was as simple and complicated as that. The Universe intertwined us together for some of the best days of our lives, and now like shooting stars we have careened apart to continue our work in different dreamy manifestations.
Passion still reigns in myself and in all of the farmers market collaborators, but now we channel it into new adventures. This reality of twists, turns, and bursts of enthusiasm for more than one life goal runs counter to that flat and stagnant question of “… so, what do you DO?”
Passion doesn’t care what you studied in school or how many abbreviations come after your name.
Passion doesn’t care that you helped start a farmers market years ago because passion renews itself. Passion meets you where you are and doesn’t stop beckoning you to follow its call, even if the path is swampy and unfamiliar.
Passion doesn’t care if you feel ready to take on something new, because Passion already knows how juicy and capable you are.
These days, I am lit up by thinking about creative writing as a means to empowerment. I dream about where people’s passions come from and why people choose (or don’t choose) to follow them. I journal about what it would take for someone to live a life of their richest and wildest daydreams, and then I sink deeper and wonder why many people don’t even bother to try.
We must give ourselves permission to change directions, knowing that no matter what we “do,” we are divine channels of endless radiant light.
If something once lit your heart on fire, but is now part of the malaise that mucks you down, you are not obliged to stick with that original dream. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the trappings of your comfort zone. Move on to something more invigorating.
If your heart urges you to change directions, honor that feeling. If you have a sneaking suspicion you have been living out the expectations of your parents, you are probably right. Do something about that. Take one baby step forward into your own power, even if that baby step is all you have in you right now.
Having the gumption to follow our passions is brave and vulnerable, courageous and earth shattering. Criticism and ridicule from a small-minded fragment of the population is certain, as is the uncomfortable fact that we will come face to face with great gloppy layers of our own shame.
Some days, you may clench your fists and plead with the sky and wonder why you couldn’t have just been happy as a Nice Person with a Nice Normal Job like everyone around you that appears to be satisfied. But then Passion will keep on beckoning. Maybe your particular spirit does not care about Nice Normal Jobs. Maybe “happy enough” is not enough for you. Maybe you are more interested in thriving than in merely surviving.
I have so much more to say on this topic. More passion-centered writing to come – until then, please feel free to share your glorious wisdom in the comments section.
Keep on shining,