The old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect,” but recently I came upon a new saying, “Passion makes practice”. The idea of making the thing that gives you a reason for living become the way you make a living. Some industries prove to be harder than others. The state of our economy can make most young millennials nervous about not being happy and being rich. But I have reason to believe there is a way to be comfortably living while doing what you love as a career.
I came across this phenomenon reflecting on the mentors I had when I was in college. One of the many mottos TLU had to offer was “find your passion.” As students, we were strongly encouraged to deviate from majoring in something just for the sake of becoming rich to adopting a rather organic way of learning and life. Organic in the sense of letting our passion be our link into our education and our careers.
What was so enriching about attending such a university was that the faculty practiced the very pedagogy they taught.
I think of Dr. Robin Bisha, professor of communication studies. I took a class with Dr. Bisha called “Leadership for Social Change”. A rather unique college course, Dr. Bisha incorporated her passion for animal welfare into a course focusing on applications of leadership, ethics, citizenship, common purpose, and teamwork.
Our class included several weeks of learning how to clicker-train dogs to increase their chances of adoption. Many of the dogs we worked with in fact did get adopted. One thing I will never forget about the class was that Dr. Bisha’s passion for animals was front and center every time we met. She could weave her love and knowledge of animal welfare into our lectures almost seamlessly.
I think of Dr. Steve Vrooman, professor of communication studies. The class I took with him was called “Film Studies: African American Directors”. A self-proclaimed nerd, he could incorporate his love and knowledge of rhetorical and cultural studies into creative and comedic lectures on Disney movies, Star Wars, and anything and everything in between. He certainly made the experience of never watching “Shaft” and “Fruitvale Station” the same way again.
With these two professors, I remember more than just their lectures. I remember the conversations we had in class, I remember how their own perspectives enhanced our research papers, but I also remember a genuine passion for how they taught and how they lived their lives in and out of the classrooms. From them I saw the joy in learning, the joy in doing research, and the joy in waking up every day to go to work.
These two are my “case studies” in the phenomenon of making your passion a practice. Of course, for them I’m sure there was an opportunity cost in exchange for the lives they lead. But as I mentioned before, they made it possible to be happy and make a decent living.
There was never a moment in my undergraduate career where I wasn’t thinking about my passion nor was I trying to implement my passion into my degree plan. I’ve continued the same routine as I develop my own career. At times, it proves to be difficult because in a world so heavily defined by revenue and income, it becomes an anomaly to live such a life.
One main lesson I took with me when I graduated was that your passion can sustain your career and life for years to come. Having two professors who have had over twenty years experience in their field without any sense of burning out proves this to be true.