How do you know what’s your Passion? How do you know you love something so much you’re willing to give it your whole life? How do you recognize the most fulfilling thing to do, the thing that’s worth it all? And how do you find it?
I wish I could give you an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to finding your passion. But the truth is, there probably isn’t one, and me finding my passion was more or less a stroke of luck… or destiny? Depends on what you believe in. I myself don’t know. Either way, I’ll attempt to answer the questions posed above.
I started volunteering at races three years ago. I never planned to. Only four months before my first day volunteering, I didn’t even know races like that existed; races longer than a marathon and on trails. I hated running, and wouldn’t do it even if you paid me, and I sure didn’t know there was a whole community of non-professional runner-people who did it voluntarily.
Oh, how fast that changed. After only one event, I was… mesmerized? Enchanted? Simply gone? There isn’t a word that would accurately describe it. I volunteered with the same company again and have been stuck with them ever since. You won’t pry being a part of that community from my cold dead hands.
How do you know you’re passionate about something?
I give up my sleep and get up at ungodly hours. I have to rent a car, and a single day of volunteering can cost me as much as $200, which is an entire week’s salary. I’m out there rain or shine — which, in NorCal, can mean both below zero and hails and above hundred and wildfires. And no matter how the day went, I’m always looking forward to the next race.
I came to the conclusion that I probably couldn’t and wouldn’t do this if I weren’t really passionate about it.
When you’re willing to sacrifice your comfort, sleep schedule, or vacations, when you’re looking forward to the next time even before ‘this time’ has ended, when you’re so happy that you don’t even notice the flow of time, when you’re feeling so alive and get so carried away that everything else but the task at hand fades into the background… That’s how you know you’ve found it.
This doesn’t mean it won’t suck sometimes; it will. There will be times when you’re tired, hungry, or just plain miserable. But those times won’t stop you from coming back or feeling fulfilled at the end.
Because no matter how miserable some of my experiences were, I was always looking forward to the next time even as I drove home, cold, wet, hungry, exhausted, and ready to fall in my bed and sleep for three centuries.
How to find YOUR passion?
Do stuff. Simply do stuff. Do stuff, whether you think it’s a good idea or a bad one. Whether you think it’ll be worth it or not. Whether you think your grandma would approve or jump out of her own skin at the very idea of it.
Is this not what you were hoping to hear? Well, it’s what you get. I warned you earlier.
As I said, I never ever thought anything related to running was a good idea. But I gave it a try anyway. And it turned out to be the best thing in my life.
One thing you need to be careful about are outside influences. Everybody is different, therefore, everybody will be passionate about and fulfilled by different things. The fact that your best friend or the person you’re looking up to loves one thing doesn’t mean you’ll be passionate about it, too.
I look up to many people. One of them is a great pianist. One of them is a great photographer. One of them is a great choreographer. And they’re all passionate about what they do. And while I do enjoy playing the piano, taking photos, or dancing — and I enjoy it so much there were times when I thought those things were my passion — they aren’t the things that are the most fulfilling for me.
I look up to a woman whose greatest passion are herbs. Growing them, making teas and tinctures out of them, and educating a small group of like-minded people. She’s not big on the internet, she doesn’t make a lot of money out of it, there’s basically no “practical” side to her passion. But it makes her so happy, so fulfilled, that she’s one of the most successful people I know. (I could write a whole lot on the perception of success but this isn’t the place for that.)
Your passion doesn’t have to be “out there.” You don’t have to have “results” to show or prove to anyone that you’re really into it. It doesn’t have to be grandiose. It doesn’t even have to be practical. The only thing it has to be is fulfilling.
What to do once you found your passion?
Don’t let go of it. You’re fortunate you’ve found your calling; not everybody gets to do that. Hold onto it as you would hold onto your own life.
It’s okay if the passion lets go of you. That happens; we change, and so can our passions. A different one can take its place. But you, my friend, must not let go of it first. If you find the thing that makes you feel the most alive, hold onto it with all your might.
And what if you lost your passion?
I know life happens. You love to play volleyball, were on your way to getting drafted to a team, and you sustained an injury that put you out for the rest of your life. You can’t follow your dream, the reason you feel alive.
It feels like dying when this happens. It feels like the world is ending — or at least your world. Friends or family can try to offer words of encouragement but “you’ll find something else” or “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you” doesn’t cut it. And why should it? This is your life.
But as much as it hurts, as much as it rips you apart… eventually, it’ll be all right. You’ll learn a few new things and become a manager of the volleyball team where you hoped to play. Or you become a physiotherapist or an athletic trainer to help others. Or, years down the road, you manage to somehow let go when a new passion finds its way to you.
It will probably hurt forever, those could-have-been’s and could-have-done’s. You will probably remember the times you were so happy on the court that your heart nearly jumped out of your chest. But, eventually, instead of making you sad, those memories might make you smile.
And once, whether a new passion finds you or not, you might discover that all the pain has gone away and left only gratitude. Gratitude for having been able to find your passion at all.