An Argument In Favor of Your Passion

(clearing throat)

Ahem.

Let us say there is a man named… Fernando. Fernando knows that his passion is to paint. That’s what he wants to be. He doesn’t doubt it. Many people around him don’t know what they want to be, but he does. Also, it is important to note that Fernando is broke. He is not an heir to a large fortune, he has no other marketable skills, he hasn’t won the lotto. He’s just a painter. He majored in art. That’s what he does and as we have said, that’s all he wants to do.

The good thing is that Fernando does have an education, so luckily, he has many options. Fernando often hears that he needs to be more “practical” about his life. He cannot make a living being a painter at this moment, so he needs something else to help him get along financially–a safety net if you will. Fernando sees the facts and finds that yes, these people seem right about being “practical.” So, Fernando decides to apply to law school, because he has been told that this is the “practical” thing to do.

As a lawyer he will gain wealth and enough security to buy a house, a car, and to take care of his future family, who will not love him if he is not able to provide for them. This future family will in fact disown Fernando if he does not continually do what is “practical” for him and for them. This future family, home, car and income is of course what Fernando is supposed to want. Who wouldn’t? After all, there is no third option presented. No option where Fernando can have the family, the home, the car, the income and still pursue his passion, no. The choice is always framed as an either/or: either you pursue your passion and are broke and miserable for the rest of your life or you do what’s “practical” and have the financial and stable future you always wanted.

Not believing the third option exists, Fernando graduates from law school and after three years becomes a slave to his work. You see, Fernando didn’t realize that being “practical” would mean he would have to dedicate his whole day to this pursuit, and that he would have little time to do what he really wanted to do, which is was to paint. You see, painting gives Fernando a brightness he doesn’t have when he’s not painting. Painting gives him energy, joy, and purpose. Without it, he feels useless and empty inside.

Even now that he is a very wealthy lawyer with the home, the car, the family and the stability he always wanted, he often feel lost. Out of place. He often gets this nagging feeling in his stomach that says: I am not supposed to be here. He has panic attacks. He gets dizzy. He’s angry and he knows it’s because as the days go by he never gets the chance to paint. He knows he is alone in his feelings. The other lawyers he works with, aside from feeling a bit overworked, still enjoy their career. For them, being a lawyer is their passion.

Sitting with these people, his co-workers, he feels like a fraud. A sham. He pretends to love what he does, but he deep inside he knows he doesn’t. He is sometimes very good at what he does, and his boss commends him often for his hard work. He does his job so well that he even gets a raise. But Fernando is surprised by his own indifference to this raise. He is amazed that the money doesn’t make him feel happier as he thought it would. He still finds that the more money he makes, the more he needs. That the more he earns, the more he has to spend. The more he gets what he wants, the less satisfied he feels.

He floats around life, like a ghost. Just moving through. Checking out in the middle of work, allowing his body and mind to go on autopilot. He is surprised that no one notices. No one notices that he feels like he’s shrinking. Well, that’s not entirely true, there are people who do notice. His family does. But they do not really know what is the matter. Because Fernando doesn’t talk about it. He comes home angry and upset. His wife doesn’t understand. They fight. His children don’t understand. They fight. He is unhappy. They are unhappy.

He sacrificed all of his life for the “practical” life he never wanted. Little does he know that his wife and children would trade this “practical” life for one in which Fernando was happy. They would give anything for him to be happy. But Fernando was told long ago that his family would abandon him if he ever pursued his passion.

At night, when everyone has gone to bed, Fernando will find it hard to sleep. He will walk into his stainless steel kitchen and take out a glass of milk from the refrigerator. He will drink it and wonder how he ever ended up living someone else’s life.

Rewind.

What if, instead, Fernando did what was “impractical”? Let us say he puts all of his energy and time into pursuing a career as a painter, instead of going into law school. After 3 years of painting, he probably wouldn’t be making the same amount he would have if he were a lawyer, but he still would be immensely happy. No, things would not be perfect. There still would be many challenges, many drawbacks, many hard times. But generally, as a whole, Fernando would feel like he was being useful, like he was on the right track. He would no longer “check out” from the world and instead would increasingly want to be more and more a part of it. He would feel more genuine, more like himself. He wouldn’t have to constantly pretend like he was someone he wasn’t, which would mean less anxiety and less stress for him.

Painting would bring Fernando great joy because he would no longer be resisting his true nature–this in turn would improve and solidify the relationships with those around him, including his now fiance, who believes in him and supports him 100%. In this alternate universe, Fernando and his fiance decide that they will wait until they are fulfilled and happy with their own lives before having children. They would never want to burden their children with the task of living the life their parents never had. It would be unfair and counterproductive. It would force their children to satisfy their parents dreams and desires, not their own, and that would make their life miserable. For Fernando and his fiance, this scenario just isn’t practical.

Instead, when they are ready, Fernando and his fiance will have children and encourage them to pursue their own interests at whatever pace and in whatever manner they choose to decide. Their children, feeling less pressure and stress from their parents, will go out into the world more joyful and confident in themselves then they would have been otherwise. Fernando’s children will never have to wonder: Am I doing what’s “practical” right now?

No. Instead, Fernando’s children will understand that when all things are considered, it is FAR MORE practical to pursue your passion then it is not to. You are better for it. Your family is better for it, and the world is better for it.

(clearing throat)

At night, when everyone has gone to bed, Fernando will still find it hard to sleep. (Life still has its challenges, even as he pursues passion.) But in this alternate universe, after Fernando gets up and out of bed, he will walk into his studio. There, he will take out his brush and paint. The painting helps wipe away Fernando’s troubles and brings a smile to his face.

much love,

Ollin

>>> Novel Update: Ch. 11 finished. On to Ch. 12.

>>> Reading Update: I will be reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Thank you Jenny for the recommendation! In fact, thank you all for your wonderful recommendations. I’ve not read most of the books you mentioned, but I will be reading them in the near future thanks to you!

>>> Blog Update: I received two WONDERFUL birthday gifts, and one of them has to do with this blog. But I’m going to keep that surprise until later on in the week.

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19 comments on “An Argument In Favor of Your Passion

  1. Ollin says:

    Ah, and yet the had the “financial means” to afford law school in the first place? Couldn’t the energy trying to find money and support for their law career be moved over to their true passion? It might take longer, might take some innovation, you might be paid less at first, but you would be a lot happier? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, this is only my argument, but aren’t our short lives spent better following our passion at all costs?

    Sure there is risk. But we drive on the freeway everyday knowing we can get killed any second. We seem to be prejudiced about what risks we are willing to take and which one’s we aren’t willing to take. We seem to be afraid to put our energy into what we really love and seem to believe we will not be given the “financial means” to do so.

    Why is that? But maybe that’s a subject of a different post.

    Thanks for the counterpoint.

  2. Ollin says:

    I completely understand. Often society agrees with you. There are plenty of people who argue against your passion.

    But I thought it would be nice to hear a different argument this time.

    Certainly I cannot speak for somone who has kids or who owns a home (I have neither), but I am speaking for those who, like Fernando, have yet to be married, and I guess have not fallen in too deeply in the “merry-go-round yet.”

    However, I would hesitate to say that your passion is not an important tool for survival. Your passion may not give you bread right now, but it sure gives you a reason to live, and motivation to go out and get that bread.

  3. jannatwrites says:

    Alright, now I’m with you🙂

    Circumstances do play a role in the argument, and I can appreciate your…er-Fernando’s circumstances. Taking a path for monetary reasons and ignoring a true passion is never a good idea.

    • Ollin says:

      Hehe. Thanks. But I do appreciate reasonable disagreement once in a while. I don’t have ALL the answers! I think people with kids and a house do find pursuing their passion harder. If I were in that situation I would think of a way to make an argument for them as well, but, I’m not. Maybe someone else can pick it up from there?😉

  4. I’m lucky to have found you. This was brilliant my friend. I read every single word with hope and despair. Forwarding this to my sweetheart. You made my day (Now how do I quit my job??)

    • Ollin says:

      Hehe. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think it’s important to remember that Fernando’s life isn’t perfect as he pursues his passion. There are still life challenges and I wanted to make sure I didn’t paint (pun not intended) his life as totally perfect after he decides to pursue his passion. There will still be enormous challenges, but I think with your passion who have an endless amounts of energy in store to deal with these challenges, and your passion acts as an outlet, a safety valve, to let all that out. Anyways, I hope you think about things long and hard before you decide to make any change. Good luck to you!🙂

  5. Fernando made an impractical desicion by going for law. He could’ve done something with art – applied to art schools as a TA, applied to elementary schools (in my part of the world, we all learn mandatory drawing until 10th grade), applied somewhere as an illustrator, and applied until he got a job.

    But, I know. That’s never the way our perfect (!) world works.

    • Ollin says:

      WHAT!? You are REQUIRED to do art until 10th grade? I’m so jealous Maimoona, art in the U.S. is never mandatory. It’s always extracurricular which is such a shame. It should be mandatory, I think, even through high school. Let’s hope things change.

  6. Hello Ollin,
    First off, thanks for the mention. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you with the name of the translation I have. I just dug it up. Let me know if you would still like to know. I can’t wait to hear what you think. I just received a book that I will be reading for a book review and as soon as I’m finished I’m going to start re-reading Les Mis! You’ve also inspired me!
    I am with you on this thing about passion. 100%
    I work in the arts industry, have struggled a lot and would like to move on to a different career, but never, never will I take some practical 9-5 job that rots my brain out and leaves me drained.
    You can’t be a musician in a symphony, or a dancer, or an actor, or a set designer on the side…
    The other thing is, that to truly live ones passion requires much skill and skill requires an investment of time that usually cannot be made outside of work hours. Especially if you have a family.
    Security is a myth anyway. Traditionally secure jobs are disappearing, left brained work is being outsourced and we’re still pushing people into these positions. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
    I think that part of the problem is the fact that we still believe that the money, the house the car will make us happy, and they won’t.
    I swear, that those in my industry, who have less, but are by no means starving are much happier people than those who live in the rat race.
    Thank you for a lovely post!

    • Ollin says:

      You are right. I think that is my point, the money, the house, the car aren’t the guarenteer’s of happy that they once were. Many people have all those things and are still miserable.

      I think true happiness lies in being our authentic selves. Go you for following your passion!🙂

  7. Ollin says:

    Hehe. I see that now! Sorry to have misunderstood. I’m going to read all those articles.🙂 Thank you very much.

  8. Ollin says:

    Again, thank you for your clarifying words. I look forward to reading more on the subject on your blog. This is very intriguing.

  9. Classic says:

    I’m in love with this post! Mostly because more than once have I wondered ‘what if, what if’ I do the ‘smart’ things that my mom wants me to do (I’m 16) the usual arguments always come about that I’m too young to know what I want; even though I’ve known what I want for a long time (to make a career as a psychologist in Criminal Justice.) Indeed, an inspiring post🙂

  10. Barb says:

    This sounds a lot like a (prose) bit of Poison Elves, the Sanctuary miniseries I think, where he spoke about the artist giving up his artistic life to be practical and losing his will to create… I read it in my first day-job years and swore I’d never allow it to happen to me – and it didn’t, I still have a day job and I still write. OK, I don’t have a family, but who says it’s totally necessary to be happy?😉
    Barb the Lone she-Wolf

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