In my experience, people in their late teens and early twenties have quite often got it pretty sorted. Sure, they have their insecurities and aren’t particularly formed as individuals. But essentially, they’re often in touch with their interests and passions in a way that older people are not.
Perhaps their passions have been sold to them by big corporations, but while the specifics of what the passions attach to might be superficial (skateboards, computer games, looking cool, or some awful pseudo-rebellious band), the passion itself is real.
As we get older, we realise that the thing we were mad for wasn’t maybe what we were really mad for. Not only that, we don’t get the sponsorship deal, or the record deal – or we do and realise there’s not quite as much glamour and money attached as the Disney channel led us to believe – and we start to think about careers.
We get a career, the money bit is sorted (enough) and our minds move to other things. Perhaps partner, perhaps kids, shelter, retirement, whatever.
On and on the mind wanders, trying to ‘sort things out’. Being sensible. Being grown up.
Before too long, we’ve spent so much time being ‘sensible’ we can hardly remember what that passion felt like. We put it down to ‘being young’ and try to carry on with the plan, such as it is.
But something’s missing.
We try to fill that need. We drink, or get interested in fine wines or whiskeys – you know, grown up stuff. We start collecting something. We have an affair. But that doesn’t quite do it for us.
We start to think that maybe we picked the wrong career after all. Maybe we should retrain? But that would mean a cut in pay, and we do like our pay.
So we scrabble around, trying to work it out, trying to fix it. We make plans and cultivate distractions. We forget who we are. We forget even that there is a ‘who we are’ to forget.
Time passes. We get into nostalgia for the 70s, 80s, 90s or whenever the hell we were last excited about something. We play the old music. We buy the car we couldn’t afford back then. We plan for retirement.
What a strange life we’ve lived. But how do we choose a different path?
There’s a lot of money to be made helping people figure that out. I guess that’s because people value it so much.
Re-connecting with your passion
Here’s a couple of tips for free:
- Look at what the threads have been in your life. Try to find a pattern.
- Look at what you find yourself doing when you aren’t getting paid and you don’t have to.
- Try to remember the things that gave you pleasure, whether or not they were sensible and whether or not they fit in with who you think you currently are. What was it about those things that gave you pleasure? How could you bring that into being in your life again?
- Find cool people. One of the greatest pleasures in life is a good conversation. Take a class. Join a group. Go to meetup.com and do a random search and just get out there.
- Practice mindfulness – particularly mindfulness of the body. You’d be amazed at what you can realise about yourself by tuning into your body and listening for a while.
- Practise Buddhism – in the end, you’re looking for something to do because you want to feel a certain way. If you could feel that way without doing the thing, would that be enough? Probably not! But it’s a good start. Feeling happy is liberating. You’ll find yourself enjoying what you do while you work out how to do what you like.
Dispassion, emptiness and Buddhism
In Buddhist texts, there’s a lot of talk about ‘dispassion’. This isn’t the same as boredom. There’s also talk of ’emptiness’. That isn’t the same as a gaping hole where your joy should be.
These kinds of words in Buddhism have specific meanings and connotations. I’ll go on to talk about these kinds of words in future posts, but for now take it from me and Joseph Campbell – follow your bliss!