Note: It’s time to jump in the time machine…I originally wrote this on 8/5/13 and never posted it. I thought it was relevant for today.
I couldn’t sleep last night and I looked up ‘what is the point of blogging?’ and found something even more interesting here. The authors mention you should find your passion and then link to another post that says “follow your passion” is crappy advice. This intrigued me because I have always felt that I have never had a passion. Yes, I’ve been passionate, even obsessed, about many things but I never felt that one thing was the thing that was my passion.
This has always been a source of frustration for me. I often see others who know from a very young age what their one talent is and that is usually their passion. And of course the general media feeds into this idea that the most talented people just know that one thing they were born to do.
I have always been interested in several different things and was led to believe this was the ‘wrong’ way to be passionate. Or, worse yet, that I wasn’t passionate at all simply because I wasn’t interested in one thing. This is a perilous thinking pattern called dichotomous thinking, or splitting: one or none, black or white, all or nothing. For me, this type of thinking leads to a great deal of anxiety provoking cognitive dissonance. I have been plagued with it all my life and have had to teach myself to seek out the shades of grey. (No, not that shades of grey! *wink, wink*) The blog above talks with author Cal Newport and he explains that most people don’t have a preexisting passion. He says it is much more productive to cultivate your passion.
My interests (passions?) usually gravitate toward art and science. I think I am most passionate about learning (cultivating). I was very happy when I was in school and able to learn about different subjects in which I was interested. I was able to experiment with creating art and express my opinions and critical thinking skills through writing and class discussions. That would be my ideal life, being a student until the end of my days creating art and cultivating different passions.
Sure, I would stress myself out over the exams and papers due to my need for perfectionism. I would tear my hair out while creating paintings, videos and photos. I loved it. It was a kind of suffering that I knew would be fruitful in the end and all the while eliciting such intense emotion. I loved pouring my heart and soul into a project and giving absolutely one hundred percent of myself to it. I loved the process of being frustrated and keeping on with it until I broke through the ether and could breathe life into the creation.
There is a special place where my brain clicks over and I find a groove to creating art. Sometimes it takes an amazingly long time to click and when it does it is a great relief. It takes a lot of energy and that is why I liked that there were semesters. At the end, I could have a little bit of a break to recuperate from such a driven state. Downtime was essential after that.
As I thought about my days at UMass, I thought I should explore that ‘passion’ more. I have nothing but time these days and that time needs to be spent productively. The past few days I’ve felt like one of Seligman’s dogs and realize that I have the power to make this time on the couch one of learning and growing or I can lay here and go into a downward spiral.
So today I opened the big blue plastic box full of projects and papers of my time at UMass and even before that. I have decided to go through it and look at what I’ve accomplished in the past. I figure this is much more productive than feeling lost, lonely and lugubrious on the couch. Maybe it can spark some inspiration, ignite some passion and help me find my way down this long road of convalescence with some meaning to carry with me. Would it not be a great thing to realize that I can inspire myself to great action?
Edit for today 8/28/13: Hmm, a bit of a pattern showing in my behavior, eh? I am entering into another phase of not needing a lot of sleep. I believe that it is crucial to pay attention to my patterns of energy flow. If I am feeling prolific, I work a lot. If I am feeling slow and lethargic, I need to rest without guilt and get the essentials done. Although I am not always able to set my own schedule, it is important to listen to my body and follow the cues for what it needs. Ultimately, if I don’t, I get ill.
I think we would all be happier to live at the pace we each need for optimal function. The 9-5 work paradigm is not a natural work pattern for humans. And these days it seems no one really works 9-5, it’s more like 8-6 or they are expected to be on call or available all the time. A quick Google of ‘ebb and flow productivity’ shows many articles agreeing with me. I like this article from Martha Beck that explains how to deal with ebbs, as those seem to be more of a challenge than when you are in the flow. I think Martha Beck is pretty fantastic and she, along with my friends and family, helped me when I was ebbing the last few weeks.