Monday, January 16, 2012

Passion Is The Key

Are you what you wanted to be when you grew up?

My answer? No. Definitely not. And that's actually a good thing for me. :) What did I want to be? I wanted to be........ wait for it....... a paleontologist. Yep, someone that digs up dinosaur bones. When I was around 8 or 9, I would spend much of my day digging in the dirt looking for anything that resembled an ancient fossil. And I would put those fossils in a bucket and keep looking. I started finding rocks that looked pretty and I would bring them into the basement and break them open with a little hammer, my eyes protected by those 1950s style protective eye-wear with the flip-out mesh sides - you know the kind? - and save anything that looked more interesting on the inside than the outside. Pretty awesome stuff. We lived in a small, duplex kind of neighborhood, with lots of other kids to play with, but it was a suburb, with very little land to dig up dinosaur bones. And in a way, that was fantastic because my imagination got a pretty serious workout. :)

Then I got into high school. I still loved dinosaurs, but really - a girl, wanting to be a paleontologist, in an era when most bones were thought to be already dug up - getting into the field ... well, I felt... silly - like a little kid with a crazy, impractical dream - not to mention that I got a lot of looks when I talked about it - especially from my guidance counselors. So, I was left without a feasible dream, and in that absence, my parents suggested to me to aim high - why not? - and move forward, aim to be a pediatrician. I was good with kids, I was good at and liked some kinds of science, and I had a great memory - a good tester - so maybe that would be a great fit? It was something concrete to follow, so I went with it.

Nothing against my parents here - they were truly trying to help me aim high, what any good parents would do, but I wish I knew at the time that way more than that would be required to be a doctor. Much, much more.

For instance - passion! Passion is probably the biggest piece of the puzzle I was lacking. Especially since I am naturally lazy, relying on my good memory to get me through high school, I never really tried at anything very hard. And when you are not passionate about something, I guarantee you will not work your hardest at it - you will certainly not love it. And to be a pediatrician, you'd have to work pretty darn hard. No passion + naturally lazy = a lethal combination for love of any career.

Inevitably, going to a good local college, enrolled in the pre-med program, I totally and completely blew it. I excelled in my English and Psychology courses because, looking back - they were interesting to me - they engaged me. I didn't know that at the time, but the Chemistry and Math courses I did not do well in were because they required serious passion and hard work... they were so very hard for me. I just couldn't care less that when you mixed Sodium and Chloride that you got... table salt. Woo-hooo! Sorry to all the Chem Nuts out there, no offense, lol. It was anti-climactic for me, and I found myself drifting away from class so far that I stopped attending and ultimately flunked out.

Which taught me a great and very expensive lesson about responsibility and ownership, but hey - it did nothing to turn on the light bulb I needed to move forward. I moved sideways for a few years, expensively dabbling in courses here and there to try to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up... Electronics (since I was in a job assembling circuit boards and soldering), engineering (same job), medical transcription (working for a podiatrist at an early age), Business (seemed a great back-up at the time)... but never anything in the artistic field. Why did I not think of this earlier?

It's funny looking back at high school, I remember jealously looking at all the kids who were enrolled in the photography elective classes, the cooking classes at BOCES, the art classes. They were like an untouchable caste of kids that I would never belong to - their side of school seemed so adventurous and exciting, but it was not part of the Regents program, so I couldn't even try it (my mindset) - I had no room in my schedule. They looked like they were having fun, but I thought I was where I was supposed to be. I should have realized back then that it was passion teasing me - trying to let me know that I did belong in an artistic career, I just needed help to find out what I was good at, what I would love, what was actually out there.

Plus, I adored my English classes, but never once did I consider a career as a writer - even in college when I did well and loved every minute of the challenges. Why? Well, I think it's partly because the guidance counselors in school do not do a very good job of identifying, encouraging and matching passion with a possible career choice. They like their standard one-size-fits-all careers - nurse, doctor, fireman, librarian - and do not go beyond suggesting more specific real-world options to struggling kids. But also because I had this mindset that there was a separation between technical and artistic personalities that you could not cross unless you had the talent to do so. The talent that must have been there from birth and would have manifested itself by the completion of high school, honed into a usable career. What a silly girl I was!

My whole point to this long-winded essay is that Passion should be the red flag of an impending epiphany. When you find that passion, you may find out what it is that you were destined to be "when you grow up". You will certainly find out what could be a fulfilling hobby no matter what. I say "when you grow up" ironically as I found this whole photography thing out at the age of 31, not in high school - as much as I would have like to find out then, but it required a more mature shift in perception for me, that anything is available to you - not just what an obvious talent prescribes. Sometime you have to grow into that talent, sometimes you have to learn the technicals and polish your technique before your talent starts to shine through. But passion is where it all starts, the energy that drives you down the road - the something that says to you, "Hey! Wake Up! This is something you could be great at!".

I'll have more on this in another post, addressing passion vs personality and what may make a great hobby may not make a great career, but to save this one from getting monumentally long, suffice it to say that Passion is the key to opening up what is great within you. When you find it, it's worth expending the energy on the journey to follow it, to see if there is something amazing waiting for you on the road to self-discovery. No matter what, you will figure out one more piece of the puzzle of what moves you - and that can never be trivial information! :)

This gives me goosebumps in how much passion it stirs in me. :) My lovely little niece Ella and my experiments in increasing the f/stop with light flare. Now that's an example of an experiment I love to do! You Chem Nuts can keep your bunsen burners and petri dishes, lol. :) 


Laura said...

This is my favorite blog of your challenge so far. <3 I love it, very inspiring. And your totally right about the guidance counselors, they push for the community worker types when they shouldnt.

mima said...

Not to mention a great shot oozing with passion

mima said...

Oh, by the way, I like this Laura!

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