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Passions: How to Be Happy Despite/Because of Them?

Long and Windy Road

Lorraine wrote about this topic first in her post called “Passions: How to Put Them To Use?“, and while this post takes a decidedly different journey than her post does, it does follow in her footsteps and was indeed inspired by her post. Feel free to write your own chapter on your blog!

My heart has always been pulled in several directions. As a senior in high school, I was seriously considering at least three different career paths: I wanted to be a doctor, a virologist, or a teacher. At the heart of all these interests was a deep-seated belief that no matter which path I chose, my family would be most important, and in the end, my career choice would have to make sense with who I wanted to be as a wife and mother. After being accepted to UMKC’s unique 6-year medical school program and receiving a full-ride scholarship to what was then Southwest Missouri State University, I had a very difficult decision.

After weighing the evidence around me, after considering very carefully what I knew about relationships, parenting, and being a child, after getting advice from my father, a family practice doc, about the direction in which the medical field was progressing, I turned down my admission, my one spot out of the 100 accepted each school year, to med school and turned instead to SMSU and a career as a teacher.

I have never looked back. The human body never ceases to amaze me, but I know that being a university instructor provides me all the freedoms I will want as a mother and will continue to challenge me day after day, semester after semester, year after academic year.

But that hasn’t stopped me from questioning other career paths.

I love working with technology: explaining how to get the most from Microsoft Excel to fellow colleagues; coaching my grandpa in using a flash drive, sending emails, or troubleshooting; and discovering and exploring the emerging social networking sites (like Orkut, Twine, Twitter, Plurk, and others) and web applications (Google Calendar, I Want Sandy, Diigo), then making them work for me and sharing them with my friends who are also excited by all of the possibilities that technology gives us. But this is a hard market to get into and with two degrees in English plus wanting to settle down in Springfield, Missouri, the likelihood of me switching to this career seems slim.

I love figuring out how to be organized, how to be efficient with my space. I have not yet achieved it, but I am enjoying determining how I work most efficiently, how my brain works in order to eliminate most procrastination, how to get things done. I have come a long way in that department in two years, and it will only get better. I would make a good secretary to an executive who needs a warm, friendly, focused, organized person to keep all his ducks in a line. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would get a job like that in Springfield, Missouri. Apply, I guess? But no summers off and a very set schedule, unlike teaching.

I love learning about, thinking about, observing space. I read NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day every day after learning about it in an astronomy course in college. I’ve read Black Holes, Wormholes & Time Machines twice and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, all on my own accord. I stay up all night to wonder at eclipses and meteor showers. But getting into this field would require, at the least, a move, and definitely more schooling.

I love taking pictures, love learning about cameras and how complex they are, love discovering that I have taken a breathtaking image, even though this doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like. Yet. I could be a photographer I suppose, but it will be years before I have the skills and equipment necessary to make it a career.

Of course I love writing, but dreaming of making money on writing is like dreaming that I’d make it big in sports or music.

I need and want the stability of the life I’ve chosen. I am, despite all dreams of the opposite, very ready to settle down in Springfield and live the life Rob and I are imagining right now, one that will begin when we step off the plane on September 10, or maybe sooner.

All those other dreams are always beckoning me, the What Ifs haunting me at night when I can’t sleep. I imagine I’d be happier as a techie, an astrophysicist, a writer. But I know that “the grass is always greener” and that I cannot imagine right now what might disappoint in those professions, only what is disappointing in this one.

I must continue to find happiness in what I have chosen. I love working with students, I love being challenged on the first day by a new mixture of personalities and needs. I love being challenged by trying to explain something that has always come so naturally to me to people who have other strengths and talents. It is beyond rewarding to hear a new spark of passion in a student’s voice once they have understood a concept or been hooked on a new idea, by me nonetheless.

I enjoy the long breaks from the classroom. What other profession affords summer, Christmas, and spring break, plus weekends and holidays off (or mostly off, as grading or planning often intrudes into that time reserved for family)? What other profession will allow me to schedule my classes around the combination of when my children have school or other activities and when Rob has to work?

In then end, while I will always derive pleasure from my job, it should never compete for the passion I have for my family, my extended family, my friends. Those people will always be more fulfilling than work. They will always bring more joy.

I am convinced that most PhD candidates (and 20-somethings, and 30-somethings, and mid-life crises people, and . . . ) have this same mental struggle. The work ahead seems endless, monstrous, monotonous at times, so why not change, try something new? Surely something else will be more fulfilling than this, and easier. But I’m sticking to it.

There are other ways to pursue my passions, but they just don’t involve a career change. I think they will be–and are, in some cases–hobbies. I write every day. Sometimes here or on one of my other blogs, sometimes creatively, and sometimes only in my journal. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go and have renewed my photoblog as incentive to work harder at composition. I read, observe, wonder to satisfy my curiosity about the heavens. And I write and teach about technology whenever I get the chance.

Hm. Sometimes I wonder why all that doesn’t fulfil me. I think it’s because it always leaves me wanting more. No matter which interest I pursue, I want more than than hobby status allows.

What interests and hobbies do you have that you wish you could pursue as careers? Or just pursue more regularly?

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Image from Andrew.R.W. Thanks for releasing it under a Creative Commons license!


8 thoughts on “Passions: How to Be Happy Despite/Because of Them?

  1. ww

    07 Mar on 2009 at 6:27

    How blessed you are to have the ability to do so many things. I think life can be dissatisfying for people like that sometimes because you can’t do everything at once; you have to choose which talents to develop and which to leave untapped (at least for a while). I think you have the right perspective by considering what will be the best for you and your family. Hopefully later on you will find the opportunity to do some of the things you’ve left by the wayside for now!

    • xgravity23

      09 Mar on 2009 at 20:48

      @ww: Thanks for your kind words and the confirmation. It means a lot, coming from you. You are so wise, beyond your years.

  2. lifestudent

    06 Mar on 2009 at 22:53

    I love how college students always find the ability to find others to blame for their weaknesses and failures. They didnt do their homework because the boss kept them late, failed an exam because of family problems at home … and I especially love when they blame ME. That the teacher is at fault somehow for their low performance :)

    Ah, students.

    • xgravity23

      09 Mar on 2009 at 20:40

      @lifestudent: *sigh* I hate that too. But I think it’s a mark of their immaturity, an immaturity that unfortunately some people never grow out of.

  3. Sarah Jo

    06 Mar on 2009 at 19:26

    Linden, I had no idea you were accepted to UMKC either! That’s crazy! I totally feel your pain in having so many passions that yearn to be pursued. For me, it was a career in athletic training/dietetics vs. a career in writing. I know I made the “write” choice (so, so, so sorry about that pun), but some days I can’t help but wonder…

    Maybe I’ll craft a follow-up blog post on this…

    • xgravity23

      06 Mar on 2009 at 21:24

      @Sarah Jo: Ha ha, love the pun. :) I do think you would be good at athletic training/dietetics, and I think I’ve benefited from that passion of yours (and hope to again in the near future). I would love for you to write a follow-up post!

  4. Lorraine

    06 Mar on 2009 at 18:21

    Wow, Linden: I never knew you got accepted to UMKC’s prog! That’s a big deal! I actually had a similar struggle when I was choosing a college, only my other option was the University of Nebraska where I could do German and actually minor in Czech (Czech! usually schools just have a “slavic studies” minor that lumps it in with everything else).

    Anyways, I think in this post, you’ve perfectly expanded on and summed up my love-hate relationship with my various passions. And then, to complicate things even more, you can break each passion down into smaller fragments. For example, in sticking with Graphic Design as my career, should I pursue designing bookcovers or branding (logos, etc.)? Working with the music industry or the movie industry? Or should I start my own wedding invitation/stationary business? When reading up on geology, should I choose to study mineralogy or volcanism? etc. etc.

    But I figure I can have my cake and eat it too with what I choose to do in my “freetime”. It may never be enough to satisfy my craving for these other topics, but then I guess I don’t really want to. And who knows where my career will lead me… Right now, my dream job is to be Robert Osborne’s assistant on Turner Classic Movies.

    • xgravity23

      06 Mar on 2009 at 21:17

      @Lorraine: I’m glad you chose MSU! And that is quite surprising that Uni of Neb has a Czech minor! Maybe you can do an online course or something?

      You are very right: I need to be happy with maintaining these passions in my free time. And I guess the point isn’t to satisfy our cravings for them, but to deepen them and mature them, right? They are what makes work worth it?

      P.S. I’m so glad you wrote that post!