I contemplated writing something a little happier for this week, but happiness can wait—at this age, it seems to always be something like that: an oscillation between trying to live in the moment and trying to posture ourselves to thrive in a inconceivable next-fifty-years, for-the-rest-of-our-lives future. Unless you’ve had a prophetic vision, or you’re rigidly pre-med, or you’ve had your soul beat out by your parents, anxiety is the natural state of being in terms of future prospects. And even if anxiety is too strong a term, uncertainty is certainly looming. We’re doomed to walk through life in one direction; there is no backspace in life. How do we make it count?
I’ve come to resent, to a certain extent, the modern, romantic notion of doing what you love, pursuing what you’re truly passionate about—as if humans were made to fall in love with one or two or even three things in life that will carry them to the grave with a sense of fulfillment. As if love even exists in the oh-this-just-completes-me-as-a-person sense. I’m sure for some people that is the case; but is it even tenable in the mind to expect or encourage this line of thinking for everyone? A lot more people love literature than the number of people who are going to write the next Great American Novel. More people start businesses than there are companies with multi-billion dollar revenues.
When I say I’m “against passion,” I don’t mean to discourage the pursuit of genuine interest or ambitious goals. But for me, dream jobs are for dreamers who’d rather be untethered from reality than work hard and accept limits. Belief in the indestructible power of passion is a great path to disillusionment. Think of it in terms of relationships: who hasn’t loved someone only to find out that they were—well, only human? Finite and flawed. Incompatible, perhaps. That doesn’t stop us from loving though (except for maybe some of us extra jaded). We just change what it means to love: to something more nuanced, more understanding, more mature.
With passion, unlike relationships, it may take ten, or twenty years to find its inevitable cracks, not a few weeks or a few months. It can be harder to find our particular passion’s faults and where we ourselves fall short. Too often I’ve heard of stories (even at my young age) of people retiring and lamenting that they’ve spent a lifetime doing what they did not love. I do not think the remedy to this malady is passion. Quite the opposite. We can only be tragic if we expected something better; regret comes from what could have been.
I’m not quite there yet (nor will I ever be, I think), but in my mind there is not really a could-have-been, or a I-hope-so-one-day. I love music and literature, politics and people. But I try not to expect too much from these apparent passions. I try not to let these things, these nagging thoughts we call hope, cloud and crowd into what my future might entail. Would you call me afraid then, fearful of failure, trying to protect myself from the all too possible shortcomings of reality? A coward of sorts? Perhaps, but if I wasn’t, could I even be human?