On Passion

I’ve heard it said that there is an elusive sweet spot you will enter into during various times in your life, in your work, in your self. That when your duties and your dreams are in perfect alignment, you’ll take notice. The world will, too. You’ll find yourself smiling at your inbox, high-fiving the security guard, humming in the hallway, walking on air.

We call this finding our passion.

Do you know what passion means, really and truly? It’s a strong and barely controllable emotion.

Barely controllable.
An emotion.

And this is the part I take issue with. We are convincing each other to follow our dreams, to chase after the illusion, to plan a life around a single, fleeting emotion.

But emotions are notoriously vapid. Once we catch them, they float away.

No, we cannot run after passion.
But we can run after a passionate life.

I used to believe I was unhappy simply because I hadn’t found my life’s purpose. I loved most of my life, but not all of my life, and sometimes it all felt too heavy, too hard. Where was my sweet spot? Why wasn’t I humming in the hallway yet?

When would I walk on air?

There is a common disbelief that what we love will automatically love us in return. That we’ll know our life’s purpose when we see it, that the world will unfold for us and the sweet spot will appear.

That we will walk up to a dream and curtsy, and if it’s meant to be, our dream will bow.

I was raised a competitive swimmer. From dawn until dusk, I’d find myself either submerged in a pool perfecting my stroke, or thinking of such. I wore Speedo shirts. I rinsed the green out of my mane with Ultra Swim. I grew my leg hair to create drag, shaving it only before sectionals.

I was ever passionate about swimming.I loved it. But it did not love me in return, or more specifically, it did not love my body.

A series of recurring ear infections rendered my left ear legally deaf by the time I hit 30.

My passion arrived with a choice:

Do I quit swimming, or quit hearing?

What I’m saying is this: the sweet spot is not void of conflict. Our passions do not materialize without tension, our dreams are not delivered in tidiness.

The beauty, then, is not in finding our passion.
It’s in choosing (or not choosing) to live it anyway.

That is the sweet spot, the glorious mess of it all.

The children we love who drive us insane.
The job we’re crazy about, except for that commute.
The relationship that arrives with emotional baggage.
The nation we yearn for, all faults and furies.

Passion is not absent of pressure.
Significance is not absent of stress.
Love is not absent of loss.

Hum anyway.
Smile at your inbox.
High-five that security guard.
Go ahead; walk on air.

You don’t need to live your life’s passion to live a passionate life.

The sweet spot isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

But life?

Life is.

  • Very well said! What a wonderful way to wake up and have this be the first thing I read.

  • I enjoyed this post so much that I emailed it to my boyfriend – I know we’re going to need to talk about it tonight when we get home from work! :)

    Thank you for the reminder, and the nudge to embrace and appreciate the job, the relationship, the plans, the passion – with all their stresses and baggage and everything else! I feel so good after reading this, thank you.


    • Oh thank you so much for sharing this one, Flora – so encouraging to hear it resonated for you! :)

  • I agree!! What a wonderful way to wake up and have this be the first thing I read.
    THANK-YOU! Can’t wait to read your book!

  • Thank you Erin for this beautiful post! Sometimes when I’m on this author path trying to crank more children books out into the world and getting bogged down with edits, it is easy to lose sight of what matters. Your words rang true with me. Now must go hum while I check my inbox ๐Ÿ™‚

  • as my children are driving me crazy and my writing career hasn’t exact taken off the way I imagined, I needed to read this. Thank you for sharing. I am headed to the library today- my reserve on your book is finally available:)

  • What a wonderful post Erin. It’s so true about passion vs a passionate life. I really needed to read something like this today as I am at a crossroads with all sorts of ideas and emotions swirling. Thank you.

  • I so needed this. And I’ll likely return to it over and over. I constantly feel this pressure to find my passion and to find a job I love. It’s difficult, and this really helps, at least to relieve a little of the pressure.

    • Ginny…wow…Thank you so much for sharing that link. Thank you, Erin, for this deeply honest, and frankly, comforting, post.

      I arrived on this website by somewhat of an accident. I saw something on Instagram that I wanted to research, so I clicked the link in the profile. The link had since been updated, leading me to the wrong page where I stumbled across a “Must Read” list featuring Erin’s “Chasing Slow” as the first book on the list.

      “That sounds like what I want for my life”, I thought to myself as I woke up for the countless morning in a row with my heart beating out of my chest thinking about the intensity of my job.

      Clicking on Erin’s book from that website, I began reading reviews. So many reviews spoke about how wonderful Erin’s blog was, and I became more curious about her and her blog as well. (p.s. I’ll be buying the book today too)

      So I wound up here, scrolling through this wonderful content – (and just like that, Erin, you’ve acquired another loyal reader!), and this particular post struck a cord.

      For so many years I thought I knew what my life’s passion was…until one shattering day (or series of days)…after putting in a good 8 years building it, I realized it wasn’t my passion anymore. Despite my business’s growing success, I could feel my gut-wrenching passion for it slipping away. I was yearning for a slower, more intentional, personal life, and I made the decision to close my business in the summer of 2016. Since that point, I have been feeling like a lost soul…Feeling this pressure to get a handle on this mindfulness thing (I must become an expert if I gave up my business for it, right!?), and also to find my new passion that fit perfectly into my new life goals so that I could get to work on it…you know, before too much of my life slipped away to aimless wandering.

      What I now recognize from this post and from the link you shared, Ginny, is that it’s a constant journey. If we continually put this “sweet spot” on a pedestal, we will continually make ourselves believe it is out of reach. it’s abundantly clear to me now that I’m in a “hummingbird” phase… And maybe it’s not a phase, maybe it’s the new direction of my total life, and that is OK! For 8+ years I was a “jackhammer”, hammering away at what I thought was going to be a life-long pursuit of a single passion. So this hummingbird thing has been feeling pretty uncomfortable – that darn unicorn of a “sweet spot” has been feeling so far-off in the distance waiting for me to first, even find my perfect, singular passion, and then, start driving toward it.

      So this morning before I begin getting ready for work, I’m choosing to make the present my “sweet spot”. I’m choosing to relish the little things about my work and my life that I do truly enjoy – and be grateful for the smaller passions I get to exercise in the everyday. I’m choosing to chase my curiosity – not live life waiting for the next big “life’s mission” passion to hit me on the head, but rather filling it full of little passions and interests along the way. Maybe one day I’ll wind up in a new big passion, and maybe I won’t. It will be a messy, and complicated, and sometimes stressful process, but I’m betting I’ll find lots of little “sweet spots” to enjoy, and have a pretty cool journey to share as I go.

      Thank you to both Erin & Ginny for this eye opening morning – and to think it all began from mindless Instagram scrolling!

      • Oh Nicki, welcome! Thank you for sharing a bit of your story with us — I’ve been there many times. It’s a pleasure to have you here! :)

  • I just stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago, and I am so refreshed by it. Thank you for your beautiful writing, your thoughtfulness, and your real perspectives.

  • Erin
    Thank you for this post and thank you for your book! I have loved reading it–it is spurring me on to take a step back from the fast-paced, crazy world around me (that is so easy to get swept up in). Most importantly, your writing has encouraged me to embrace where I am, flaws and all, and BE present and grateful. I love this line from Chasing Slow — “we are doing ourselves no favors when we look to the crowd to tell us where we are.” Bravo for being you, Erin, and sharing with all of us!

  • This is an extraordinary piece. We are often told to live our passion and chase after it – that is the career and our calling. But many times our passion is not our calling or purpose. We can find passion in something but not pursue it as our purpose and that doesn’t make either the passion or the purpose less significant.I am passionate for singing. When I sing alone or for others, it fills me with a joy and fullness like nothing else does (except, perhaps, my children). But singing is not my purpose in life. Laura Garnett wrote a great article in Inc (http://www.inc.com/laura-garnett/do-people-keep-telling-you-to-follow-your-passion-heres-why-theyre-wrong.html) discussing just this a couple weeks back as well. Glad the message is resonating with so many!

  • So Good! I wish I had the clapping emoji on this keyboard… I would have filled the whole box with that!

  • This could not have come to me on a better day.
    Today I was laid low by disappointment about my blog–wondering if I was really cut out to be a writer. I can’t tell you how good it feels to choose to regroup rather than give up.

  • Thank you for this beautiful message! I appreciate it and recognize the truth of your words in my very being. I’ve struggled with the notion that you should find your passion to find the perfect career for you — and ultimately, happiness and contentment. HA. I’ll follow all my little passions in day-to-day life and I won’t have to wait to find happiness. Thank you for sharing.

  • Wow. These lines really hit home for me in my current season of life:

    “Passion is not absent of pressure.
    Significance is not absent of stress.
    Love is not absent of loss.”

  • “The job weโ€™re crazy about, except for that commute.”

    Yes, a thousand times yes. At 30 years old, I am blessed to work my dream job. Simultaneously, we bought a house in the country that we love. But the one-hour-each-way-commute is taking it’s toll… I remind myself regularly that this was our choice, and, really, which would I give up?

  • Thanks for sharing this! I like the idea of “running after a passionate life”. I also loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk about following curiosity instead of frantically searching for “passion”. As a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to feel purposeless with the everyday mundane activities. I am constantly trying to find gratitude, and remembering the advice to “work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”. ๐Ÿ’œ

  • I’ll need to ponder this one a little more. I think it may be exactly what I need to hear. I struggle with living in the moment, without being burdened with the heavy-laden responsibilities of life. And yes, sometimes even the good stuff in life comes with it’s share of pain or stress. I guess that’s why we need to continually be grateful for all that we have. Thanks for sharing this~

  • Wow! Well said. I’m just transitioning into enjoying life instead of focusing on what I should be doing with it. I love what you said about running after a passionate life. I LOVE it! I think that might be a personal motto. Thank you.

  • So much to love here! As I wade through the bumps in my road, waiting for that moment when my story begins on the other side, I heard Him whisper just today, this IS the story. This right here is the journey. These bumps are it. It’s not one or the other, it’s all of it. Your words were confirmation to me today. Thank you for wiring them. <3

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