When Passion is a Requirement

Have you ever had the impression that people would like you to be more passionate about things than you can realistically be?

For many of us, it may seem like this, and all the more so we consider the media an important point of contact with the world. Morning shows, ads, life-style blogs, ads again, job offers, and for the final time, ads – all of them promote the images of passionate, energetic people who go about their daily activities with a smile running all the way around their heads.

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…Or throw books around themselves in a frenzy. Photo by Lacie Slezak

But it’s a silly approach where you show excitement as the only acceptable state to be in, tell your readers to boost their energy like it’s the only thing they can possibly need, or require a steadily exorbitant level of passion from job candidates.

It probably won’t be a surprise to you if I say that being in low spirits from time to time is only natural, that low-energy people can be happy in their lives just as well, and that a lack of passion doesn’t entail being no good at what you do in life.

The fact is that those periodically miserable, low-energy, unenthusiastic people can be just as good as friends, partners, parents, teachers, construction workers, artists, dentists and whatnot.

We are the way we are, and that’s okay.

Still… there’s always this shade of doubt when we think about ourselves, isn’t there? Whatever we do, it just doesn’t seem good enough when we compare it to the enterprises of the ideal, passionate people we’ve been trained to look up to.

Let me tell you a secret: I’ve struggled with my self-image as a writer for many years. Me writing + other people reading it + us together talking about me writing? No, that just doesn’t compute.

Why? Because I’m not passionate about writing, and how am I supposed to tell people that?

Let’s give it a try: I haven’t felt all my life that I should write. Holding a book with my name on it is not my biggest dream. I don’t wreck my sleep to write. My life is not defined by the stories I’ve written. Sometimes when I want something written, I force myself to write it because I have no enthusiasm for it. In fact, I suppose I’d be just fine without writing.

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Photo by Green Chameleon

It’s just that I like to write, and some people like my writing. But when I think that, panic enters the stage because it sounds so terribly insufficient that I want to withdraw all the signals I’ve ever sent to the world outside that yes, I want to be a writer. Because if I’m not passionate about it, I’m not a real writer, no?

This doubt has its effects on the work itself. As with writing, so with other hobbies and endeavours. Every so often, one gets discouraged by adverse circumstances. Or one lose interest in what one does, and may even forget about it for long stretches of time. Very often, one’s lack of passion translates into a lack of motive to develop your skills.

If you add this self-doubt to the fact the world favours passionate people, it’s easy to call oneself a good-for-nothing, lie down and be sorry for oneself.

But don’t do this just yet! Because I’ve some important things to tell you. Here they are:

I. You are fine the way you are. You don’t have to be passionate about something to “count as a valuable person”.

II. You can be good at things even if you’re not helped along by passion. Without it, it may just be slightly more difficult in certain respects.

III. After you’ve admitted that you don’t feel passionate about things, it’s time for you – not for anyone else who may see your lack of passion as a shortcoming – to decide what to do with your time, skills, and energy.

But I can’t help you with that last one. Too busy writing.

Learning Not to Take Chances Away

You know what I like about therapy?

The fact that the therapist I go to does not judge me. And even more than that: she does a thingy thing that makes me forget the concept of judging people as such. It makes me stop being hard on myself and, at the same time, stop worrying about how other people judge me.

How does she do that? No idea. It’s probably a professional secret.

The kind of judging I have in mind here is the negative one – one that takes something away from its object. When we say to ourselves “I’m hopeless”, “I’m good for nothing”, or “I will never succeed at anything”, we take away from ourselves the chance to prove ourselves wrong. All said and done, no point in trying any harder and searching for new paths towards self-realization if the current ones indeed do not seem to lead anywhere.

I am giving examples of self-judgement here on purpose, because I know that many people judge themselves harshly and nullify their chances for improvement all the time.

Do they do that to other people as well? I don’t know – I probably belong to the lucky few who do not have to face such shitty behaviour. If they do, that’s too bad. What I do know, though, is that we should not readily assume that other people keep judging us negatively in their minds. Without getting us any closer to any kind of truth, it may only make us nervous…

There is another, positive kind of judging, though – one that gives us something. In our interactions, we do that all the time: we judge whether the person we just met is worthy of our trust; whether we want to talk to them, find out more about them, hang around with them some more. This is normal; were it not for this kind of judging, we would probably drown in all this wide inter-human sea…

But what am I driving at? I am definitely driving at something.

Here is the thing: if you already know the difference between the positive and negative kind of judging, give up on the latter. Don’t take chances away from yourself. Don’t take them away from others.

This is what I keep telling myself, and therapy helps me maintain this attitude of not taking chances away, watching myself and others with interest, and learning something new about ourselves every day.

And you know what? It is much more interesting this way.

P. s.: You can read a Polish version of this post at uczesiemowic.blogspot.com.

Fixing

Once again it took another blogger’s post to motivate me to post something myself… and here it is.

Some people think I’m awesome. Some even think that because I work at a company people generally associate with phone making, I know how to fix their phones. The latter couldn’t be more mistaken.

I have a phone that keeps switching off at random moments during the day. Low or fully charged, it just keeps doing that. I thought about replacing it with a new one but then again, it’s a good phone. It works like a phone should, it just switches off sometimes. Also, it cost an amount I’d never paid for a phone before. And you know the story about sunk costs.

As I find it switched off for the n-th time during a day, I usually just think “oh, well” and don’t go on with any heavy rant about life, coping with difficulties and stuff… but let me have it just this once.

In the ideal world where I am a highly skilled phone fixer, I’d fix that phone myself. I like fixing things. It gives me an incredible sense of pride and power, greater even than any little neo-Nazi piece of shit can imagine.

But it rarely happens: I’m no phone fixer, and as far as other things go, no one ever taught me how to fix them either. So my skills are rather lousy, and my attempts at fixing things — clumsy and frequently inefficient.

Still, I believe in fixing. Don’t know where that comes from — if I was a diligent student of life, I’d be happy to accept things as they are without trying to fix them. But some time ago, I decided to fuck this and be a creative student instead.

A creative student deals with problems by trying a variety of solutions and inventing new ones if the old ones don’t work; gets into uncomfortable situations due to this silly inventiveness; fails exams that are easy to pass for anyone with some degree of self-neglect.

There are things that nettle me much more than my silly phone, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix them. Simple things, all of them. I think about how to make getting out of the bed in the morning easier. Where to find enthusiasm for my translation studies. What to do to stop feeling low.

These are all simple and private things, which is one of the reasons why I won’t share any of my solutions with you here. Chances are they wouldn’t fit your problems/personality/temper anyway. The other reason, hinted at above, is that they’re not very good solutions.

So this post won’t be about sharing my awesome experience with self-fixing. It will be about one fundamental principle of fixing anything, which I finally formulated for myself some time ago after much self-reflection and people-watching.

There are two ways of fixing a thing that makes you dissatisfied, both generally recognized as valid paths to improvement. One is to try and actually fix that thing. It requires a hell of a lot of thinking. Before you do any fixing, you need to identify what it is that makes you so unhappy. Is it the weather? Come on, it’s never really just the weather. Is it a shortage of positive experiences? If so, why is that the case? Is it too much work? Then think about why you are doing this to yourself. Is it someone who promised to call but didn’t? Just coming to an answer to the “What is wrong?” question is extremely hard work in itself.

Then, there’s the fixing part, which may turn out even more difficult. Try to find a non-stupid, effective and long-lasting solution to your dissatisfaction that doesn’t make anyone else unhappy in the process. Ha! Shit’s difficult, there’s no denying. So you find a stupid one, one that doesn’t really work in spite of all your effort, one that works only for a while, or one that hurts somebody. I guess that’s the necessary risk to be taken when you decide to fix something by yourself: your solutions are shit.

The other way to fix things is to replace them with new ones. It’s quick. It’s in the ads. You can do it if you don’t know any better. Sounds perfect, huh? The drive to acquire new stuff, aggressively encouraged by everyone who has something to sell… The “dump him” advice that a friend gives you off the top of her head… The objects, careers, hobbies, courses, people and fucking aquarium fish [*] that you throw out of your life to quickly replace them with new ones, hanging on the promise of their novelty…

I’m not saying it’s all bad, or that it doesn’t ever work. I suppose replacement might be the best of possible ideas in some cases. But I’m suspicious of this idea. I’m afraid of rushing to something new to replace the old too quickly. I feel bad about the unused resources we all have at our disposal to try and really fix the things that make us unsatisfied.

So the principle I’m holding on to is to avoid replacing, and focus on the possibilities that are there to fix things. To fix ourselves, too.

And believe me, it’s not so difficult to hold on to that principle. For me, the things I most often feel the need to fix, the ones I’m most often dissatisfied with, are my lousy mood and lack of concentration. So there’s not much I can do other than trying to fix myself. What can I do, buy a new brain? Come off it man, that’s illegal and wouldn’t work anyway. Plus, there’s the pride factor that I mentioned earlier. So be warned, neo-Nazis, I’m trespassing your domain. Feeling more and more pride every day in my shitty fixing skills.

And a final word to the readers: sorry if I let down your expectations of something more conclusive to come at the end. Hope I gave you food for thought, though.

Have a good day,
Mulan

[*] My father threw my brother’s aquarium fish into the toilet when they were ill. It happened some ten years ago but I still can’t forget it.