During my weekly article catch up time, I came across this advice column titled “I’m 25 and my life has been great, so why don’t I have a passion?”
Intrigued, I read on as a seemingly sweet but naive woman described her privileged upbringing, career uncertainty and issues with relationships. Her story is not all that uncommon for someone in their mid-twenties. What struck me as unique about this particular situation is that this is a woman who has had everything thus far handed to her (college tuition, travel, financial support to take low-paying jobs) and still has the same issues as most other twenty-somethings. In fact, “Polly” (the source of the advice) argues that the woman’s privileged background makes it even harder for her to truly buckle down and do the hard work it takes to discover your passion. Instead of hoping passion will arrive at her doorstep during a luxury vacation with her parents, Polly argues that the woman needs to go out and do the work find it. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the article:
“If you want a passionate life instead, you need to walk up a very steep hill until your ass burns and your legs turn to rubber. You need to get up at 5 a.m. every day and stare straight into the abyss and write about it and drink coffee and look through your art books and THEN show up for your crappy, intolerable job that pays a living wage or doesn’t. You need to share a place with a few roommates, some of whom you can’t stand. You need to put all of your bills in your own name, and pay them yourself…You need to do thankless work. You need to show up for your job and be treated like someone who is not very important and not very precious or unique or special. You need to tolerate that by telling yourself, every fucking second of every day, ‘ I have something to give. I am doing great. I am proud of myself.’ And also, ‘This is me, working hard, making it on my own. No one will save me from this. This is me, doing it all by myself. No one can swoop down and make this better. I am not very good at anything yet, but goddamn it, I’m going to GET good at something, because I’m going to work very fucking hard at some things until I figure out what I want to be good at, and then I’m going to work very, VERY hard at that one thing until I’m fucking GREAT at it.'”
Even as someone who grew up in a situation pretty opposite of this woman’s upbringing, I still found the advice helpful. Sometimes, adult life is really disheartening as a young professional. You put everything you have into work, often for a terrible entry-level salary. You do thankless work. You might even move away from everyone you know and love for a job opportunity, where you are still just an entry-level employee doing thankless work. You see the kind of work you want to do and the type of impact you want to have one day, but the path there looks murky. You wonder constantly if you made the right decision.
This is why I especially love this line in the excerpt above: you need to tolerate that by telling yourself, every fucking second of every day, “I have something to give. I am doing great. I am proud of myself.” I personally want to get better at telling myself this, to get through the days where everything sucks and you just want to give up and go back home. I have done that before, and it does not solve the problem. The real problem is not the thankless work or the sucky salary (although that is a close second). It is that you have not found what makes those inconveniences worth it. To find it, you have to do stuff. You can’t run away from real life. You have to try, fail, get back up and try again. You have to actively do adult life. Otherwise, adult life will decide your fate for you.