How important is lifelong passion for a career?: A sad story

You know the stereotype of the, “ze’s always wanted to be X ever since ze was a little child.”  You know it and you’ve always been envious of it.  Wouldn’t it be a dream to know WHAT you’ve always wanted to do, to pursue it, and to have a job that feeds your daily passion?  Every moment at work a joy!

We knew one person in high school who was like that.  She had a specific all-consuming passion that she’d had since she was three years old.  It drove her.  She got a fancy high school degree, a solid undergraduate degree, and got into graduate school at the best program in the world for her field for her area of interest.

But within her larger passion, she didn’t end up doing her dissertation on her passion subset.  Apparently everybody shares her passion subset.  Like getting an English degree on Shakespeare or Jane Austen or something.  Instead she did her dissertation on obscure author X, related to the obscure author area of her thesis adviser.

She married a man that we, frankly, disapprove of.  He has made her cry on multiple inappropriate occasions and snipes at her in public.  He’s a jerk.  We also heard him say once that he had no intention of moving cities for her job.  He’d moved for graduate school and that was enough, thankyouverymuch.  His bachelor’s degree is pretty portable, so it’s not like he’d be making impossible sacrifices.

We lost touch… but after working as a post-doc/lecturer at fancy graduate school for a couple of years, and having a passel of babies… she did a stint as a high school teacher… and now is trying to get freelance editing work.

None of this has anything to do with her passion.  Did graduate school kill her passion?  Did her husband manage to kill her self-esteem?  Did she decide babies were more important than career?  We don’t know.  She might be happy, but given what an emotionally abusive jerk her husband was the last time we saw them together, we kind of doubt it.

We hope that someday she gets to do something involving her passion again.  Maybe not being a professor traveling from archive to archive… but maybe as a communicator sharing her joy with young three year olds as intense as she once was.  Writing children’s books… working for an archive or museum… something.  Maybe after the kids are in school…

I know of one other person with an all consuming passion… movies.  He’s in pharmaceutical sales now and keeps movies as a hobby.  Even though he lives in Southern California.

And yet, many of our friends who had no driving all-consuming passion growing up are doing amazing things that they just sort of fell into.  Several are now independently wealthy.  Many are entrepreneurs.  Some have degrees in things they discovered in college.  Some enjoy high salaries and flexible work weeks.  Some work for game design companies combining multiple interests… maybe not writing the great American novel, but coming up with plots and dialogue for children’s video games.  Things they’d never thought about at the age of three.

Maybe passions are better left for hobbies, and it’s ok for work to be interesting and stimulating, but not all-consuming.

Do you know anybody with an all-consuming passion where it worked out?

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50 Responses to “How important is lifelong passion for a career?: A sad story”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    My friends sister has always loved animals and ever since high school has always had a job pertaining to animals. She started as a dog washer in high school, then worked the jockey support circuit in florida. Now she works at some kind of animal technology company. I forget the details but it’s like those dog log locator chips or something like that. She’s so animal focused, I can’t picture her doing anything else. I think that’s good and bad. On the one hand, your life path is pretty clear, but on the other, it’s also very limited.

    I’ve had jobs that I’ve really loved during my career and it is all consuming. The problem with doing your job passionately is that it’s very easy to do it at the expense of everything else. Yeah, you can get wildly successful but there are a lot of divorced executives out there too. I had the opportunity to sit next to a guy who’s now on the board of one of the biggest companies in the world and I asked him “what are your hobbies”. Hobbies? He looked at me like I had 3 heads. He said he can’t imagine doing anything more interesting than working. He finally said his family is his hobby.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      For the first couple of years of DC’s life, my family was my hobby too. I presume if we have a second that will become even more true. But these days I have other hobbies. :)

      That’s great that your friend’s sister found a job dealing with animals. I do have a friend who is a veterinarian who has wanted to do that all her life. She was incredibly persistent at it too, getting an MA in animal science when she didn’t get accepted into vet school the first two years out of college.

      A lot of my professors in graduate school are definitely married to their work. I don’t know if that’s love or habit or the knowledge they’re doing something important that very few people can do, or in some cases the pleasure in getting 6 figure consulting fees.

  2. Everyday Tips Says:

    I have often heard of those people that just ‘knew’ what they wanted to do at a young age. However, I don’t really know anyone personally that was driven so young. (Probably because the people I knew growing up didn’t have a passion for things other than alcohol and other ‘hobbies’.)

    I think you raise a very good point though about sometimes passions are best left to hobbies. I think it is great if you love your job, but if your job truly is your passion, then you may just miss out on other things in life

    I am sorry for your friend. I have seen men tear down the self esteem of many women (and actually, I have seem women destroy men too). I have never understood how anyone could even get to the point of marrying someone so cruel.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The really awesome guy who was one of her best friends in high school and obviously carried a torch for her for many years after, finally got married himself to another one of our friends from high school (yes, our high school class was/is VERY incestuous). Her siblings married supportive spouses (and are rocking their respective careers), so I can’t think it’s something about her parental role models, but who knows.

    • Z Says:

      “I have never understood how anyone could even get to the point of marrying someone so cruel.” It is hard to see, yes, but I see it because I almost did it. It is because things happen incrementally. I had made several concessions because The Subject alleged to be in such pain; moving in would have been the next and then….

  3. Perpetua Says:

    I think the problem with an all-consuming passion is that it narrows your vision for yourself. People often get a specific vision for their lives at a young age – and it’s not just about career, it can be anything. They want to be partnered, or be married to one specific person/true love, or have babies, or live in a certain city, or have a certain job, or a certain kind of house/car/lifestyle. From very young, we can form these ideas – I want my life to be X; I need X in order to be happy. And then what if it doesn’t work out? It can be devastating, or more like quiet desperation. But I think a lot of the problem comes with not realizing that there are many ways of being happy or fulfilled, and that we often have to adjust our expectations along the way. I mean, a lot of people do this naturally, unconsciously – they adapt and adjust as they go, as they encounter difficulties or snags. Or sometimes the thing you think you wanted turns out not to be what you expected. It was rougher for me. I thought it would be easy for me to attain my vision for myself, because it was very simple; and everything turned out, kind of catastrophically, not to be what I thought. It took me a long time to recover. That’s okay, too. Sometimes we need to mourn this vision of our lives that we can’t have before we can embrace our new opportunities.

    I am passionate about my work, my family, and having a rich (not affluent, but meaningful & textured) life. Unfortunately, I spend most of my time these days with my head in hands, because all these are in conflict in one way or another. It sounds like your friend was ground down by the realities of her choices (topic but mostly the non-supportive husband). It happens to a lot of us, especially women, especially working mothers.

  4. scantee Says:

    What is it about animals that inspires such passion? My partner’s sister wanted to be a specific type of vet from a very young age. She focused on care of that specific animal for her undergraduate work, went to vet school, took an internship in the same niche field, and now works as a vet in that field. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for her. She works insanely hard, like 80 hours a week, and will go several weeks without having a day off. She travels for months at a time. Her career is such that having a family is almost impossible and having any sort of relationship with someone from outside this field would be close to impossible as well. She was quite miserable for awhile and considered leaving it all but has decided to stick it out. If she can make it to the next level she’ll be rewarded with a much easier schedule and oodles of money.

    As for me, I’ve never been passionate about my career, which is sort of odd since I do love to work. I guess I just like the work itself and not the end goal of climbing a ladder or being recognized for my amazing intellect and skill. I’m not sure if this is unique to Americans or not but there is a general sense that either you have a career which is fulfilling and stimulating and pays well or you have a job that is soul-deadening that you only do because you have to. The reality is much more complicated though as lots of folks have “just” jobs that they’re passionate about and many careerists despise what they do and are looking for any way possible to escape.

  5. Spanish Prof Says:

    Movies are my all-consuming passion. I did an MA in Film Studies. I wanted to do a PhD in Film Studies, working on Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai. My MA advisorsaid that I didn’t speak Chinese and that there was an overproduction of PhD in English, so I would have a hard time finding a job. He advised me to go to a Spanish department for my PhD, and I would be much more marketable. I took his advice, and I don’t regret it, even though Wong Kar Wai is still my favorite director. As Perpetua said, “the problem with an all-consuming passion is that it narrows your vision for yourself”.

  6. bardiac Says:

    I have a friend who’s a professional musician. I guess that sort of counts, since s/he had to practice for hours a day as a kid (and still does).

    When I was growing up, my family knew the family of a young man who grew up to be a professional tennis player. As a kid, he was spending hours before and after school on the court, practicing and practicing.

    But that would be it for people who “knew” and followed through. Both of those things are things you can’t really do with a late start, so I’d guess a lot of athletes and musicians “knew” pretty early.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      And with a lot of athletes they’re done with their careers in time to start another career in something like Hawaiian real estate. My career is starting right about the age when theirs is ending.

  7. Cloud Says:

    I think sometimes people get too specific in their passion, and that’s what limits them. I really like what I do, but there are also lots of other things that I could do that I would like equally well. When I think about the common thread, it is that I love to organize information. And there are lots of different careers that allow a person to do that. I happened to land in the one I’m in based on following subject matter interests in college and grad school.

    I also agree with your comment up thread about how family becomes your main hobby when your kids are young. That is hard when you’re in the thick of it, especially the first time around, because you think that your hobbies are gone forever. But they come back. Or new ones take their place.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s nice knowing exactly what your destination is, but it’s probably a bit nicer knowing the general path and being willing to take time to sight-see and discover along the way.

  8. Zee Says:

    I’ve wanted to be a scientist since I could speak. They got lost in the various moves, but I used to draw pictures of myself as a scientist, from a very early age… maybe 4 or 5. I wasn’t even sure what I scientist did, I used to think it involved rubix cubes and test tubes, but I knew their job was to “know stuff” and that is what I wanted to be. I am now a scientist. I am very happy, (although graduate school did suck balls).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I wanted to be a scientist ever since I was little too. A biologist, then a genetic engineer. Then I did an internship in which I was bored stiff, found out more about the day-to-day minutia of being a scientist more broadly, and figured social science was a better fit for me in terms of figuring out how the world works. Graduate school also sucked balls. Though I think if I went back and redid it (which I would NOT want to do), I would totally rock at it.

      • MutantSupermodel Says:

        Forgive my ignorance but I’ve seen you mention it before and I’m clueless. What exactly is social science?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        um… Social science includes: anthropology, archaeology, business administration, communication, criminology, demography, economics, education, government, linguistics, international relations, political science, cultural geography, psychology and sociology.

        Scientific methods used on people, who don’t really fit scientific methods as well as say, chemical reactions do.

  9. Debbie M Says:

    I wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid. I taught my little brother how to read. I saved all my best dittos. In high school I realized that teachers don’t make any money, so I tried to choose another career. I eliminated every career I could think of. Twice.

    I was a camp counselor and worked in a day care center. I was an assistant Girl Scout leader and a Red Cross trainer and a trainer of Girl Scout leaders. I worked toward certification in elementary teaching because I wanted to teach all the subjects (to 5th- or 6th-graders). They had me observe in a 3rd-grade classroom and assigned me to a 2nd-grade classroom for student teaching. I knew already that 2nd-grade was too young for me; long and short e had gotten old for me years ago, so I didn’t do the student teaching. I knew my future employer could make me teach first grade, and they could wait until the day before school started to tell me.

    Then I went to grad school in sociology (which incorporates lots of social science fields plus statistics and biology), thinking I’d teach college instead. But the stuff I’m good at (statistics, theorizing) and the stuff I like (scary subculture-infiltration work) are very, very different.

    So then I got high school teaching certification in social sciences. I could not get a job (I’m scrawny and do not look like a good disciplinarian, plus I do not coach football). So then I got certified in math and still didn’t get a teaching job. Well, I did tutor (grade school and college kids) and I was a TA in grad school.

    Now I’m a bureaucrat, but it’s at a college, so I’m NEAR teaching. Also, I do some data entry but also some training and some technical writing. I’m also kind of a liaison between the system programmers and the system users, interpreting between them. So I definitely get some of the fun of teaching, but what I teach is incredibly boring and useless outside of where I work. I do like explaining very complicated things to people though, and there’s plenty of room for that here.

    And I learned that I’m much better one-on-one than in the classroom setting anyway.

    Ironically, after 20 years with this employer, I get paid the same as a first-year teacher.

    Teaching was not an all-encompassing passion for me though. I’m interested in loads of things, just not things that people want to pay for. I’m settling for a job that requires only 40 hours and for only 3.5 more years before I can retire and do whatever I want all day long. Including tutor kids and otherwise help out at the local junior high (between 9 and 5 which I can’t do now).

  10. Debbie M Says:

    To answer your question, I don’t know anybody with an all-consuming passion where it worked out. Virtually all of my friends have many, many interests and, of these, picked the most profitable one for a career: computer programming. [I'm some sort of computer programmer groupie. They have very nice brains. They all think I should be a programmer, too. (Uh, which is like teaching a computer to do what I want. But computers are a lot dumber than most people--and I have a low tolerance for frustration--plus you have to teach them to do really boring stuff like sort money or register students, so that's not working out for me.)]

    My dad sort of has a passion to not have to work for anyone else. He’s had his own business for decades now which has led to wild ups and downs in income, but he doesn’t mind. (And my mom has adapted by getting her own job, so she doesn’t get ulcers anymore.)

  11. Historiann Says:

    I don’t read this as a story about being passionate about one’s work. I think it’s a story about why it’s extremely important for heterosexual women not to marry and/or have children with douchebags. Perpetua makes a good point about les idees fixes that many people have about lots of aspects of their lives, not just their professional lives, and you and others here make good points about the value of flexibility and being open to different opportunities.

    How could your friend think marrying Douchebag Deluxe would facilitate her career goals? And then having children with him seems to compound the error tremendously.

    Maybe in addition to a cautionary tale about choosing a partner, this is also story about how your friend wasn’t passionate enough about pursuing her professional interests.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We certainly don’t understand that choice and strongly suspect it may be a major factor, but we don’t know for sure. We also don’t know when or if her passion dampened– was it because of douchebag or because of graduate school or just some other growth factor? Her sisters married non-douchebags, had children, and are highly successful, though at least one of them works in a field that didn’t even exist when she was three. When she was sobbing (at my wedding) the week before her wedding because he wanted to hang out with his friends in another state rather than make sure he could get the wedding license on time, more than one person hinted that it wasn’t too late to back out, but since then I don’t know if anybody has brought it up. Neither of us, definitely. When did she become the kind of person who would succumb to a douchebag? Was it emotional abuse and isolation in college too? She had so many nice guys vying for her attention in high school that she utterly rejected.

      I would argue that homosexual women should also not marry, enter into long-term relationships, and/or have children with douchebags. My friend the vet’s career ambitions survived her long-term relationship with a particular female douchebag, but douchebag’s first long-term girlfriend was not so lucky (though now happily in a completely different field). Really douchebags should not be allowed to breed and should live alone.

      • Spanish Prof Says:

        Also, with all due respect to your friend, she comes out as a kind of a “pushover”. IT’s not just the husband, but also the fact that she did her dissertation on obscure author X because it was related to her diss. advisor. We’ve all negotiated topics with advisors, and compromised, but if she ended up doing what it sounds her advisor dictated, I would say her problem goes beyond marrying a douchebag.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        She used to be very self-confident. Maybe she still is…

  12. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I’m sort of dubious of anything that begins with “life-long”. I think it’s overly romanticized. People like it because it’s comfortable and square– So and so has always loved such and such and that’s what they have and ze is happy. It’s too linear an equation and not, in my mind, what life is about. I prefer jacks of all trades– renaissance persons. The only thing I can personally claim as a life-long passion of mine is reading. I’m not really sure how to translate that into something practical. I’m not really sure I want to.

    Also, I really think I’m getting more and more jaded and cynical of the opposite sex. If things with Friend wither and die, I think I might just let go of that part of me that wants anything from them. They’re such assholes more often than not. Your high school friend’s husband is more typical than not.

  13. bogart Says:

    Honestly, I don’t think your friend’s story is sad because of her lifelong passion/career but because of her DH. I mean, if you’d written a story about how she had grown up and gotten (e.g.) a degree that would allow her flexibility in the workforce because she wanted to have the option of staying home with her kids and she was doing that but oh, by the way, her DH has made her cry on multiple inappropriate occasions and snipes at her in public, I’d think, oh man that stinks (and I’d BTP, rightly or wrongly — I mean, presumably there would be jerks even without a P, but still).

    But that’s not what you asked, is it? I don’t know, I mean, isn’t Gladwell’s Outliers more or less about this, and he pretty much finds that maybe there are a very few for whom it works out but they are, well, outliers (also that other people who become experts/geniuses/etc. don’t meet the mold you describe but rather have an interest or ability or experience that happens to land in the right place at the right time … not a lifelong passion, just a good fit). I buy his argument (and, no, I can’t offer counter-examples).

    As for me, I was a passionate equestrienne as a kid, but two summers on a farm as a teenager convinced me college (for me by far the path of least resistance) was the way to go. People laugh at that and think I minded the hard work but no, I didn’t (and don’t). I minded the fact that pretty much everyone on the small farm where I was was working hard from dawn to well past dusk daily (some on the farm and some in the white-collar workforce generating income and benefits that supported the farm and others on the farm) and at the end of each month, trying to figure out how they were going to pay the bills. And hoping another vet bill didn’t hit, or the well didn’t run dry, or …

    And I learned that something I did for joy and fun, the outcome, the question of whether your horse did or didn’t, say, knock down one rail when jumping over one fence in one round of competition, came to matter in a way that was just absurd (and also unpleasant) because — see Gladwell on the randomness, on the one hand — one rail, which could easily be the question of whether your round occurred early in the day or late, after other horses had torn up the footing, really might make a difference in whether you could or couldn’t pay the vet bill (or whatever).

    And, to be honest, in retrospect, there were/are so many other things I didn’t know about out in the world and might never have found out about had I spent all my time on a horse farm (I had a HS friend who had a similar realization about his passion — basically, spent HS chained by his choice to a violin, then realized after going to a good conservatory that — hello? — if this was really the life he wanted, he was going to spend all of it chained to a violin and never have the chance to do other interesting stuff. And he quit.). Which is among the reasons that kids who arrive at college knowing what they want to major in make me really nervous and sad.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We BTP too. That’s a good point about Outliers– people with passion + talent + going for the job + luck are the ones we hear about, but just a subset of that isn’t enough, though it can probably lead to a satisfying career in the minor leagues for some.

      A job that loses money is a pretty expensive hobby! Much better to relegate it to a smaller hobby where you can control the $ outflow and not take on the risk.

      • bogart Says:

        Yes, it did occur to me after writing my first comment that my hobby wasn’t necessarily fiscally representative of all hobbies or passions (“It’s easy to have $1 million and horses. Just start with $5 million … “). But in defense of that general claim, actually, I guess one problem with a “passion” is that you’ll do it no matter what (presumably). Not to say that never works for anyone, anywhere, ever, but I think it’s a bad general model, the sort that leads careers to being treated as “callings” and, yes, underpaid.

  14. Dr. O Says:

    I always wanted to be a doctor, although I was thinking the MD sort of doctor. I still ended up in medicine, sort of, doing biomedical research. Of course, medicine was never a passion – it just seemed like something I should do since I was good at math and science. My true passion has always been kids – and now I have one of my own :)

  15. Z Says:

    Born to learn foreign languages and to travel / acculturate. Love to transcribe, decode, interpret, design. Intellectually oriented, like archives. None of this *has* to mean I *must* be a lit prof, though. And, counterintuitively for all but me, or so it seems, it does *not* mean I like to teach foreign languages.

  16. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    My passion was getting f*cken wasted with my buddies and chasing girls. About halfway through college, I was called into the office of the director of a special scholars’ program I was assigned to when I matriculated that directs undergrads into original research in humanities, science, social science, whatever (based on having read some absurd number of books while in high school, which we were required to list on the application to that college; my high-school grades were very mediocre).

    The dude asked me what I was interested in doing research on, and I go, “Well, my major is philosophy”. So he goes, “What kind of philosophy do you like best?” So I go, “Philosophy of X”. So he goes, “Well, if you want to understand X, you need to first understand Y. So go to the lab of Dr. Z that studies Y, tell him I sent you, and get to work.”

    So I did. Broadly conceived, I still work on Y, and it’s been a total f*cken blast.

    • Comrade PhysioProf Says:

      Although, I should add in the interest of narrative completeness, I did take a multiyear detour into something almost completely unrelatedin the earlyish stages of my career studying Y, but found myself drawn back to Y via a series of very unlikely fortuitous circumstances. It’s actually a pretty interesting story, but if I tell it, I’d totally be blowing my cover. (Such as my cover is…)

      • Zee Says:

        You are a philosopher, that explains SO much! I married a philosopher sometimes a discussion about who should mop the floor turns into how we really know the floor is there.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a good point, for all we know she discovered how amazing “obscure author X” is in graduate school when her adviser introduced them.

  17. Rumpus Says:

    I don’t know anyone who had a passion and ended up in that specific area. I know some people who are passionate about certain aspects of their personalities (like being laid-back) and ended up in jobs that let them be that way. I chose not to follow my passion as a career so that it could stay a hobby to which I would always look forward, but now I doubt it matters (for me and given enough time). Internal passions can change and I think (my) job satisfaction is more about personal outlook, the general job requirements, and details like salary/commute/boss…and less about exactly what is being done. Though, I didn’t get a PhD for nothing…I remember those days working at a fast food restaurant.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yes, there are a lot of general things about jobs that can match well or poorly, even if there isn’t a specific passion involved.

      There is some research saying that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses, and the most important thing about career satisfaction is interpersonal relations.

  18. FrauTech Says:

    Interesting post. We had a theme week a couple months back over at Engineer Blogs and I talked about how I got into mechanical engineering (http://engineerblogs.org/2011/02/stumbling-into-sprocketry/) and there’s a recap with some of the other writers’ experiences as well.

    I have to admit in engineering I know a lot of people who will say things like “I’ve always been taking stuff apart” or “I’ve always wanted to know how stuff works.” But sometimes I think that’s a narrative we create for ourselves not necessarily one that is linear. A lot of people went into engineering because the pay is decent or because they are good at math and science. And I haven’t known these people to be any less happy than anyone else.

    I know personally I’d be just as happy being a programmer or an accountant. I don’t think I figured it out until I started working (I used to think I was a people person) but I do know that for myself and others we could be happy doing a whole range of occupations and it’d be fine. I think the same way homeowners tend to think housing will go up, those who stayed out of the market think it will double dip, those who paid a lot for college say they think it was worth it and wouldn’t change it…we tend to justify our own decisions after the fact by a variety of methods. I think that’s a very sympathetic quality for helping yourself to be satisfied with what you have and the choices you made.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My sister has always been taking things apart. I started putting things back together about when she hit crawling. Her Caltech essay was about her trail of destruction and how she thinks about physics when she dances (she got in, but decided to go someplace with more balance). Definitely for both of us, employabilty was a big factor in our chosen careers. Our parents nurtured a love of math and science, both because such things are inherently beautiful, but also because they’re employable.

      Back in the day I used to think I’d be happy as an accountant… I was much more OCD back then. These days I don’t think I could actually handle it. I’ve lost a lot of my ability to pay attention to detail and I need more varied mental stimulation.

    • Rumpus Says:

      With respect to engineers-to-be taking things apart, I wonder how much of that correlation is due to the experience. I used to take things apart as a kid, and I think that is why I’ve always felt comfortable figuring out how things work. But of course, maybe it’s the other way around.

  19. Grace Says:

    My sister and I both had passions that began in childhood–I wanted to write science fiction and she wanted to be a nurse. She could never pass the tests to get into nursing programs (remember, this was 30+ years ago, when nurses went to hospitals, not colleges to be trained) so she came to the state college with me. Then a professor got her into a graduate business program with a school that was ordered to stop discriminating against women (not that they admitted they ever did, but for the next year, they enrolled a bunch of women in who did not have to take the GRE) and she headed into the world of banking. She retired this year from JP Morgan after years of making a seven figure (yep! seven figures!) income. She now sits on the boards of two university nursing programs. In the meantime, I discovered an adult passion for adopting children, who, as it turned out, needed to eat on a regular basis which couldn’t be done on the average science fiction writer’s salary. So I wandered into the more regular work world. But I still love SF and I still hang out with SF writers. I even write the occasional (very occasional, lately!) short story.

  20. squirrelers Says:

    Honestly it’s sad to see people who have a deep, iifelong passion for something but don’t fulfill those expectations. It can be career related but also personal. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, so it’s great to do what you set out to do. Sometimes other parts of life interfere, as seems to be the case with your friend.

    I have known a few people that seemed to have passion for something and set out to do it. A friend of mine wanted to achieve long-term corporate finance career, where he reached a vice president level. It’s just what he wanted to do. He was also extremely heavy as a kid, but as a high school kid set out to get in shape. Over 20 years later, the guy is phenomenal with nutrition and looks like adonis. It’s what he wanted to accomplish. On both career and personal levels, he’s done it. Also has great marriage, kids and financial successful. He’s achieved his goals, and I’ve seen him work hard at it. Success came, I think, due to his passion.

  21. celebritysilliness Says:

    This is really an area that I struggle with. I love acting, and I love working in the theatre. However, as we as people grow up, we make choices that tend to be more of the “either/or” situation than the “both/and” variety. I got married (to the most superlative of women) a few years ago, and now we’re getting closer to the reality of starting a family (which I’m excited about). However, my wife and I both kind of think that one parent should stay home with the children, and this is something my wife has looked forward to for much of her life (one might argue it’s a lifelong passion). When we have children, a part (or even full) time theatre life isn’t going to keep much on the table.

    While I am excited about having children, I know that they seem to come at a personal cost in terms of life goals. Nearly every decision in life is a trade-off, and lifelong passion’s are frequently untenable in response to other competing goals.

    I am reminded of a favorite poem that I read while I was in high school. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote the poem “Maud Miller” about (as I recall) a man who has an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a beautiful woman, but opts not to. One of the last couplets of the poem is something along the lines of:

    Of all the sad words of tongue or pen,
    The saddest are these: it might have been.

    While those words border on being too precious or sentimental, their truth (and power) come from the fact that nearly all of us have considered what might have been in our own lives. Would 19 year old me be happy with where I’m at? Would 9 year old me?

    In short, I guess I’m saying that it is a cruel, beautiful aspect of life that childhood dreams are at odds with adult realities. But that’s growing up, eh?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      oh I dunno, Robert Frost suggests we’ll brag about the road we took as being the one less traveled by even if really they’re the same… happiness is all about the rationalization and faulty memory

      You can always do community theater as a hobby. Or save up to become financially independent. Or the wife might change her mind about the staying home.


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