Finding Your Passion Later In Life

Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s my passion?”

Ever wondered, “What am I good at?” or “Why does everyone have a hobby but me?” or “What do I want to do for fun?”

I asked myself each of those questions for years.

I wanted to find the magic answer…and for many years, I searched in areas that led me to believe I’d hit dead ends forever.

For quite awhile, I felt as though my whole existence was merely reacting to circumstances around me. I’d see others acting on what I perceived as their destinies. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life for such a long time that I literally gave up looking.

And thank God I did.

With hindsight, I’ll tell you with certainty, that if you’re still looking for your passion, you can relax. It’ll happen if you stop seeking it.

Your passion is deep within, but you can’t embrace it until you — and it — are both ready. I know you want to shoot me for saying that, but it’s the truth.

Don’t worry. Your passion will always be there, and you’ll bring it to the surface if you keep moving forward, trying new experiences and getting to know others. You will wake up one day — possibly frustrated, possibly at peace, or perhaps a combination of both — and look back at the experiences and people in your life…and you’ll put the pieces together and see how things have all been leading up to THIS.

THIS? What is THIS?

I can’t tell you what THIS is…because it’s yours. But you’ll know.

I waited for my THIS to announce itself. I thought that going to a good university and getting a good job and marrying a good guy were all part of the path toward discovering what I was all about. I worked hard. Apologized for the mistakes I was aware of (and prayed to God to forgive me for all the unintended ones).

Still, I never achieved clarity.

Of course I was passionate about being a mother, but for me, parenting is a shared joy with my husband; mothering never fit into my “personal passion” column. Hold up now…don’t call the Department of Children and Family Services quite yet. For me, mothering is rewarding, challenging, mezmerizing…but for me, being a parent is not my own, personal passion. While I’m a passionate mother and I’m passionate about everything related to my children and our family, my own personal passion is a separate entity.

Which leads me to define a passion. I won’t look it up in a dictionary because that may influence the words that come from my heart:

Your passion is what moves you like nothing else can. Your passion is always on your mind and in your soul, urging you to get back to it. The flame of your passion never dies, though it may change shape and color depending on what sort of fuel you’re able to offer it. Your passion provides a light to help you through your darkest times, and an ongoing set of benchmarks by which you can see your own development as a human being. Though others may share a similar passion, your passion is entirely yours. Once discovered, your passion will reveal layers upon layers of opportunities.

I speak from knowledge, not as someone who has it all figured out, but as someone like you, who’s been at the end of her rope, wondering what the point was. I’ve known the crushing feeling of everyone around me seeming to know what they want…yet having absolutely no idea what I was even slightly good at or even partially interested in.

As I mentioned earlier, I stopped searching for my passion altogether. Instead of digging for it, I put down the [pick axe/shovel/front loader] and listened for an answer. I was approaching forty years old, wondering when I’d grow up and figure out my life.

“Until that time comes,” I thought, “I’d like to do some writing. I’ve always loved to write and I’m not very good at it because I never make the time for it. I used to journal all the time until I graduated college and then…I just stopped. Maybe writing will help me figure out what my passion is…” I didn’t even know what I wanted to write.

Memoir? Comedy? A children’s book? A novel? Magazine articles?

Once I gave myself over to a place that allowed so many options to float within my reach, I realized how hungry I was to try them out.

New perspective on an old activity.

Imagine this. You’re at your desk just before lunchtime. You’re starving, but you don’t have an appetite for the sack lunch you prepared last night. You don’t know what it is you crave, but you know it’s not the plain old turkey and swiss you brought. You walk down the hall to the snack machine and stare at the usual offerings. “What’s the point?” you wonder. “It’s just food.” You grab your sack lunch from the fridge, but, instead of eating it at your desk (as usual), you take it outside and eat it on a bench three blocks from your office. The sun warms your face and, as you eat the same turkey on wheat that you always make, you think, “I’m happy I didn’t blow money on vending machine crap, and tomorrow I can totally do better than this.” The next day, sitting in your new lunchtime spot, you eat your turkey sandwich topped with cranberry chutney…and you start thinking about all the other ways you might spice up your lunchtime sandwiches without blowing your budget. Synapses start firing, and you can’t keep up with your ideas. You ask someone for a piece of scratch paper to write down your variations, like turkey/bacon/avocado and turkey/pepperjack/strawberry preserves and turkey rubens and turkey/bacon/swiss/maple syrup and turkey with olive tapenade and turkey with carmelized balsamic onions, only to discover that the person you’ve borrowed the scratch paper from is enjoying a turkey on focaccia with roasted red peppers, garlic mayo and lettuce. You form a friendship with the scratch-paper stranger. The friendship leads to lots of opportunities and people you’d never considered, and the biggest benefit is that all these new people offer fresh new perspectives on life and activities and chances you hadn’t noticed before. Before you know it, you see yourself in ways you’d never thought about. And by stretching yourself…even later in life like this…you’ll feel younger, more excited, more motivated, and more interested in the world around you. Most important, you’ll have a new perspective on how your experiences, your skills and your passions fit in.

There is no magic formula to find your passion later in life. It’s already in you. And, I’ll guarantee you’ve accumulated more life experiences than you give yourself credit for. And, rest assured that most of them (especially the suckiest ones) will come in handy.

It won’t take a life coach to find your passion. Or an analyst (though I’ve loved mine). Or an expensive, contemplative vacation to “figure yourself out”.  Just switch something up…even if it’s as simple as where you eat that same old turkey sandwich. You just might surprise yourself.

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8 responses to “Finding Your Passion Later In Life

  1. Hi Christine,
    You may remember me – Mike’s sister in RI. Saw a post on FB by Anne awhile back linking me to your blog. I am hooked and have been following for awhile. I love your writing and connect with so many of your stories and thoughts. This one particularly struck me. I know exactly what my passion is, yet I have allowed every excuse in the book to prevent myself from pursuing it. It started as a real barrier – moving, packing up all my art supplies, fed by the need to balance my kid’s needs, then adding full time work to the mix. But I now realize the real barrier is me. So many years had passed because of the “real” barriers, I now fear I can’t paint anymore and will fail at it, so I don’t ever get to it and have allowed even more years to my creative drought. Reading your blog made me realize that I have a gift – to know what my passion is. I now need to get out of my own way and do it. Even if it may be rough going at first.

    Happy New Year…may 2012 bring the best in us!

    Sheila

    • Sheila,
      Of course I remember you — and fondly! Thank you for taking the time to write and to let me know the words resonated. You can and WILL rediscover your gift this year. And, make sure you let any guilt slide away with 2011; your barriers were real, necessary and demanding. Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family. Love, C

  2. Great post, Christine. Your definition is pitch perfect. Here’s to all of us late bloomer’s (though you’re ahead of me). Wishing you a new year of joyful connections and beautiful inspiration.

  3. I love this! Although I taught English & Literature, which is what I always thought I wanted to do, and what I studied for my entire life, I am now reinventing my wheel. I have spent the past few years learning more about photography (college classes, seminars, webinars, and learning from my mentors) and have decided to turn what was once a very expensive hobby (but one that I was paying my taxes on) into a viable business. This post hit home for me – THANK YOU!

    • Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words, April. I’d love to go back to talk to my 21-year-old self and say, “Relax. Keep trying out all these different things. You’ll come back to what really moves your spirit after you’ve given everything some time.” I’m 43 years old now, and I’m so pleasantly surprised at how much my writing means to me NOW. It never would have meant the same back then. Thank YOU.

  4. I agree but mind you, its not as easy as it seems. To figure out your passion is one hell of a job. I’ve just entered into my teenage life and m on my arduous way to finding a passion for myself. Still m on the look-out for my passion and I hoping against hope that I may spot it out.

    • I agree 100% it’s not as easy as it seems. Sometimes, in fact, your passion’s right in front of you, but either you’re not ready to embrace it or it’s simply not the right time. My best advice is keeping your heart open…listen to what makes you the least stressed and the most comfortable in your own skin. If you’re doing something that feels like drudgery or a struggle, it may not be be your passion; however, if it challenges you and yet you keep coming back for more, it may, in fact, be just the thing you’re looking for. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I remember all too well what it was like to enter my teenage years. Based on what you’ve just written, I get the sense you’re already on your path to finding your passion.

  5. Your advices mean alot to me since you’ve experienced life more than me.
    I guess it would be a pretty nice idea if you write a write-up about ” How to find your passion” and you can relate yourself with it too. Just a humble suggestion !

    Thanks again.

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