Defining Passion

Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my favorite writers, and a huge source of inspiration to me a writer (and human being).

In anticipation of launching The Signature of All Things, Liz (who I’m sure will forgive the familiarity), has been holding a giveaway. Each month, she poses a question to her dear readers and picks the answer she likes the best.

September’s question “What is your defining passion?” As this has been long been a question I’ve tried to answer, I felt compelled to share my answer here.

“The idea of a passion of one’s life has haunted me for years. I got my bachelors degree because I knew I should and because I do like to learn. But now some eight years removed from graduation, I’m beginning to see that the “passion” I had for my studies wasn’t that intense, and it certainly hasn’t lasted.

“This may be due in part to the fact that English/Latin majors have limited career options if they’re going to live in New Hampshire and be the major breadwinner for their family, or maybe because while I love reading and writing (and dissecting grammar) I prefer to do it on my own time.

“So what now? I’m passionate about my husband and our son, and about keeping them healthy, happy, and safe. I’m very mama bear when it comes to my little family, and I’m overjoyed that my husband gets to pursue his passion for music. I love that we’re striving to teach our son (who just threw a diaper at me) that chasing after your dreams is both important and possible, but where is my passion?

“Liz, I can’t tell you how I’ve struggled with this idea since I was trying to apply to colleges in 1998: I can write, paint, take pictures, sing, make cool cakes. care incredibly for others, beg for money for fundraisers, and sell the crap out of raffle tickets.

“I make the phone calls no one else wants to, and I deal with the upset and frustrating customers when no one else wants to; although those last two are due more to my belief that “the buck stops here” than anything else.  

“I care about women’s rights, gay rights, the environment, and so much more.

“Am I a Jane-of-All Passions? Can that be a thing? I’m 32 years old and still haven’t found the thing that’s just for me, the thing that I won’t just be pretty good at, but the thing that I’ll be amazing at and love so deeply that I can’t not do it.

“I know I haven’t really answered your question, so let’s go with the thing I’m most passionate about right now is diving into another one of your books. Your writings have touched my heart & my mind. and I thank you for being a huge inspiration to me, by just being you!”

A version of this essay was previously posted on the blog “On Life and Other Adventures.”