I distinctly remember having high hopes and expectations for my future as my senior year of college came to a close, and to this day I maintain those same expectations and have retained many of the same goals I set myself before and after my graduation. Unfortunately, I have allowed myself to become complacent over the past year, and sadly, I’m no closer to reaching a majority of my post-graduation goals than I was when I had walked across the stage with my pseudo-diploma in hand.
Almost immediately after I returned home, I resumed my position at my old job and before I knew it I was working six to seven nights a week in an understaffed kitchen. What did it matter if I took some time off from sharpening the skills I had obtained during my college career if I had a decent job that paid decent money and took up a vast majority of my free time?
If I had known at the time what taking a major role at this job would do to me both mentally and physically, I wouldn’t have willingly stepped up to the plate. The wiser course of action would have been to focus on finding a job that related to my field (English) and could eventually lead me into a career. I opted for the easier, readily available job instead, and while I loved where I worked, I regretted the amount of effort I put into it, for the reward was never equal to the work I did.
I grew tired and bitter the more that I worked, my friends came around less and less, and eventually everything I had previously enjoyed doing in my spare time began to lose its luster, and I even stopped writing completely. Despite the encouragement from friends and family, the discipline to write for the sake of writing and attempting to hone my talents had dissipated entirely. It had nothing to do with a lack of motivation or inspiration, for lack of either one is merely an excuse people create when they fail to accomplish the goals they claim to be passionate about, and this was my reality. Writing has always been one of my few true passions, and it was painful to recognize that the desire I once had to write was slowly but surely beginning to die out.
Following that which we are passionate about is rarely easy, and it is always worth it, but when we lose our way while pursuing our passions, how are we to get ourselves back on track? What are we supposed to do when we begin to realize that the fire which used to burn bright inside us has begun to flicker and fade? I believe that working our way up to rekindling our passion in something, regardless of what it is, is a constant work in progress, and keeping the fire lit is an incessant trial that refuses to end and presents us with the most grueling challenges we can imagine until we’ve met every goal that’s been set by ourselves. But if you’re up to the challenge and you’re fed up with groping your way through the dark in search of some divine miracle that will instantly renew your faith in that which you’ve always loved doing, I’ve come up with a few steps that can be taken in order to rejuvenate your interest in pursuing the activities that make you who you are.
The first and most important step is this: Never. Stop. This step may also be the most difficult one to undertake, despite how simple the concept of it is, especially if you are a recent college graduate. While we’re in the college environment we are constantly surrounded by peers whose interests are similar to our own, and so we technically always have someone around whom we can bounce ideas off of or seek criticism from. Classmates and professors are great examples of this, for we meet and interact with them multiple times a week for three to four months. Sadly, unless we’ve played our cards perfectly and took that internship and did those extracurriculars that were related to our field and attended those networking seminars that nearly put us to sleep, odds are this environment of readily available peers will no longer be realistic after we’ve graduated and returned home. And when little to no people are intrigued in the same things that we are, we begin to lose that drive to pursue what interests us. Where’s the point in pushing ourselves to do the best work we can if it goes unnoticed?
This mentality is easy to develop, but it’s also easy to overcome. You simply never stop pursuing that passion, no matter what. The refusal to stop the pursuit of the activities we love takes a tremendous amount of discipline, and in order to build such discipline, we must strive to become the masters of ourselves. If you know yourself inside and out and are content with who you are, you’ll have the strength to keep moving forward, even when there’s no one behind you to encourage you.
The second step is much easier to accomplish than the first, but it consumes a greater amount of time. When we’ve hit our lowest point in regards to our passions and we need to find our way back into the loop, we must start by re-immersing ourselves in whatever it is that we may be passionate about little by little. Taking things too fast and trying to accomplish too much when we’ve been out of the game for a while will only lead to frustration and lackluster results. If you’re a writer, start by reading some new books, or even revisit some of your old favorites and take notes; you’ll be surprised by how many new ideas a good book can inspire. Fallen out of favor with your favorite sport? Try taking the time to truly analyze your favorite team while they play, and make sure you get involved in some physical activity at least once a week. If you draw or paint, keep a pad of paper and a pencil handy for quick sketches no matter where you are, and make sure you use it when something pops into your head. Starting small allows us to rebuild our confidence and our love for that which we’re passionate about, and it also decreases the risk of potential failure. Failure often leads to discouragement and a desire to quit, but it also allows us to realize what areas of ourselves need the most work.
While we’re on the subject of failure, allow me to present to you the final step for preserving your passions: do not be afraid to fail, and do not try to be perfect. I’m sure each and every one of us knows what it’s like to fail, and it often makes us feel inadequate. This feeling is terrible, and it is this feeling that causes many of us to develop a healthy fear of failure, but I implore you to rise above this fear and allow yourself to fail, and fail hard. Every failure is a learning experience, and if we ensure that we learn from our mistakes, our failures will eventually make us better than we ever thought we could be.
Our resistance to failure ties into our desire to make things perfect, for if we don’t achieve perfection, many of us feel as though we’ve failed. The thing is, perfection doesn’t truly exist; it’s just an idea, a notion that consistently changes and shifts its form so that it is inherently unobtainable. Yet some of us chase after this elusive idea hoping that we can be better than everyone else if we achieve it. There’s nothing wrong with trying to do our best, especially when it comes to our passions, but we don’t have to do everything perfectly. We just have to do it.
If you allow yourself to fail and you recognize that not every aspect of your passion that you try your hand at will leave you satisfied, you will be well on your way to ensuring that you never lose sight of that which makes you whole again.