“So you want to find something you are passionate about,” my father sneered at me–his tone dripping with condescension.
Yes. Yes, I do.
During my teenage and early adult years, we would argue–often heatedly–about my career aspirations. Pledging fealty to the almighty dollar, he disparaged my “passion play” as something between naive and irresponsible.
“You can never have enough money,” he would insist. “You’ll want to keep up with the Joneses–you’ll understand when you are older.”
While I understood his money obsession (less his infatuation with keeping up with those mysterious Joneses), it struck me as empty. Who would languish–willingly, I might add–in an unfulfilling career for some extra Benjamins? Kids and student loans, (somewhat) duly noted.
Now batting an eye toward 38, I am reexamining my “passion play”–and whether I am well-served to prioritize passion over profit. My official conclusion: Yes. Yes, I am.
In my professional career, I have stumbled between unfulfilling temporary legal positions. There was the wind energy project; the banking regulatory review; the analysis of squabbling insurance companies. In these aforementioned positions, my mood–sullen with a side of snark– resembled Peter’s in the cult classic Office Space. On my final day at one of these interminable positions, a supervisor pulled me into his office, “Matt, you need to find something you are passionate about.”
He was right–just like I was right in my “naive, irresponsible” teenage years. But here’s the trickier question: How do you figure out your passion?
My hard-learned lesson: trial and error. Lots of trial and error. For years, I have tried on different career hats: the serious lawyer, the questioning journalist, the spirited community organizer, the tongue in cheek writer, the smart aleck sports commentator, and, yes, the embittered contractual employee. There have been employment stumbles (the short-lived stint at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation) interspersed with employment victories (you mean I get paid to dispense advice on mental health). But there has been one constant in my eternal quest: a willingness to try everything–and I do mean everything.
My immediate family views my career sampling with dismay–even disdain. “Matt, why can’t you just stick to something?” they collectively groan. But here’s the thing my dear, old family doesn’t understand: finding a passion is messy and inefficient. It is time consuming and, at times, frustrating. Neither your trusted college counselor–nor your favorite uncle–can figure it out for you.
Finding your passion–like success itself–isn’t linear. It is leaving the National Journal and resigning from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and enduring dreary legal contractual positions before stumbling into a serendipitous Psych Central writing gig. But even more than landing that proverbial “dream” job, it is knowing that you–yes, you–deserve an inspiring job.
And that–more than anything–is something to be passionate about.