Many of us have heard the phrase “find your passion” time and time again. At some point in our lives, motivational speakers, teachers, parents, friends and even grandparents have advised us that it would be in our best interest to find our “passion” in life.
Passion is a daunting word.
It implies an all-consuming appreciation and devotion to something. But the catch is that no one ever really teaches you how or where exactly you are supposed to find this passion. They just merely tell you to pursue it. It is no wonder why this advice often induces so much anxiety for college aged students.
Many of us are at a crossroad in our lives where the majors we have chosen will most likely impact what our post-graduation lives are like. At a time when we are doing our best to secure our place in the world, the last thing we need is to be reminded of “passion.”
Some students come to college aware of what they may want to pursue whereas others remain unsure of what they want to do with their lives. The honest truth is that for most people, a passion is something that they may never find. That is okay.
After years and years of hearing the repetitive find-your-passion advice, I have come to the realization that perhaps passion is overrated. In our capitalistic world, most people work because they have to. Work is necessary in order to make a decent living in this country and thus many people have no choice but to commit themselves to it begrudgingly.
Very few people are privileged enough to have jobs that they are passionate about. In fact, only a small percentage of America’s workforce actually enjoys their profession.
Approximately 53 percent of the US workforce are disengaged workers, meaning they lack enthusiasm as well as mental and emotional connection to their jobs, according to a 2018 Gallup survey. This is a strikingly large percentage, constituting more than half of the U.S. workforce.
Nonetheless, this statistic reveals a lot about the nature of working. For most people, work is work. It is something that must be done in order to make a living and I think it is about time we stopped preaching the passion speech. Ideally, while it would be nice to love what one does, it should not necessarily be a must. I speak from experience, having once worked in the fast-food industry for a year.
Although I did not love serving chicken to angry customers, I knew and understood that my job was still a necessity and did not necessarily have to be enjoyable. Many of our essential workers during the height of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic did not necessarily enjoy the ridiculously long hours they were subjected to and yet they still showed up to work each day because they knew that their service was necessary.
There is a certain amount of luck that comes with being in a profession where one is able to love what they do while making a livable wage.
As an alternative, I think it would be much more beneficial if we began encouraging people to explore their interests instead of finding their passion. Interests implies flexibility and room for growth. Whereas passion can take a lifetime to find, each and every one of us already have something that we are interested in. It is a matter of merely finding a way to harness this interest so that it is in alignment with your future career aspirations.
The great thing about harnessing an interest is that it does not necessarily have to coincide with a job. Your interest can be separate from your job. The job can be what brings you money whereas your interests can bring you joy. In our fast-paced world, there is so much pressure to consolidate our lives.
From a young age, it is ingrained in our minds that we must love what we do and give all of ourselves to our professions. This does not have to be the case. Not everyone has to have a passion. There are many jobs that are simply not enticing or pleasurable and that is okay. These jobs are still necessary and allow our societies to function efficiently.
So the next time you catch yourself stressing about what your “passion” in life is, just remember that it is not always necessary to have one. Just focus on what your interests are and let that guide you.
Vanessa Darkoa is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and minoring in history and education. Her column, "As It Is," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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