“What’s your passion?”
Honestly, I hate this question. I hate the idea that you’re supposed to have one intense interest that you spend your entire life following. There’s a number of things I could technically say I’m passionate about: writing, true crime shows, trashy pop music, matcha lattes, etc. However, none of these answers would satisfy what that question is really asking. What’s the one thing that drives me, the motivation behind everything I am and everything I do, the thing I’m living my life for? To tell you the truth, I don’t have one. I don’t have a passion like that, and it’s okay not to.
I’ve wasted so much of my life desperate for a passion to call my own. Ever since I was old enough to know what medicine was, I claimed becoming a doctor as my passion — it felt natural to me. So natural, in fact, that I selectively ignored just how boring I actually found the subject and how much trouble I had understanding it. I held onto this supposed passion of mine while entering college, where I decided I would pursue the pre-med path. Several chemistry classes and many mental breakdowns later, I realized there was nothing I dreaded more than spending the next decade of my life studying the natural sciences. I personally could not bring myself to care about studying them in the slightest.
I switched my major to psychology and communication, subjects that, don’t get me wrong, I find interesting and enjoy learning about, but I still wouldn’t call either of them my passion. I’ve struggled with the idea that something must be inherently wrong with me if I can’t find just one thing I could be passionate enough to devote my life to. Trying every academic subject and personal hobby under the sun hasn’t ignited some magical spark of interest that would tell me what to do with my life, but that’s okay. It’s kind of a hard idea to come to terms with, but I’m becoming more comfortable with it. It always seemed like everyone around me had found their calling, but I’ve discovered that I’m actually far from alone in this struggle.
Trying every academic subject and personal hobby under the sun hasn’t ignited some magical spark of interest that would tell me what to do with my life, but that’s okay.
College is allegedly the time when we should discover this one elusive passion, and I think this idea adds another unnecessary imperative to the list of things we, as students, need to be concerned about. Pressure is high during these years. The world, and us, wonder what we’re going to do with our lives. I find the idea that you need to, or should, spend your life following your “passion” unrealistic and limiting. It undermines everything that you pursue that isn’t done in the name of a passion, and the value of living without one. Your life can be complete and fulfilling without having that one particular thing that you’re living for.
It’s not often that a person is lucky enough to have always known exactly what they wanted to do with their life and that this interest is really as exciting and fulfilling as they expected. What I was passionate about when I was younger isn’t what I’m passionate about now, and what I’m passionate about now most likely won’t be what I’m passionate about many years in the future. There are things I’m passionate about, sure, but I can’t limit myself by saying that I have just one passion. I like to believe that having a passion is not a goal, or a life plan, or a major in college. It’s a feeling that can change given your circumstances and interests — a feeling that you can’t plan your life around.
I think you can have a purposeful life without passion, by doing things that bring meaning to your life. You really don’t have to have, or eventually find, your one true passion and spend your life pursuing it. I think it’s completely okay not to have one at all. You might discover a passion eventually, or you might not, and frankly, it doesn’t matter either way. As long as you devote your time to endeavors that you believe are valuable, help others or bring happiness to your life, that’s just fine too. A life not dedicated to a strong interest is still a life worth living and one full of important contributions to society. Uncertainty is scary, and uncertainty about something as important as your direction in life is even scarier, but I think it’s okay not to know where you’re going. What matters is that you live in a way that’s important to you.
Veronica Vo is very passionate about not having a passion.