Unpopular Opinion: On Finding and Following Your Passion

During my junior year of high school, I was confronted with a big, scary question: what is my passion? In truth, this abstract “passion” would somehow determine the fate of my career and aid me in making crucial decisions such as the choice of my college and even my major of study. I had to become deeply interested in a subject that I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life, or tailor my crucial life decisions around a career in mind. However, I didn’t fall into either of these categories and, as a result, continuously questioned why I didn’t already have a well-defined, meaningful passion?

My story is far from unique. Most of us are fortunate and thankful to truly explore our interests at Colgate and find stimulating areas that engage and propel us to find meaning in our lives. However, I still feel that most of us often have nuanced struggles with “passion” and that the last sentence might be a little too far-fetched. 

Regardless of our interests or career choices, the struggle to find a career that is as engaging as it is monetarily rewarding unites many of us. In order to resolve this conflict, I think we should first start with context-based learning. A good starting point might be realizing that our interests shouldn’t be strictly defined or confined. 

Exploring a diverse variety of courses may even refine specific current interests. For example, I was very passionate about economics when I came to Colgate. When I started learning economics, I was absolutely thrilled and engaged by it. It almost felt like I was born to be an economist. I wanted to be enrolled in all required courses for economics and even take economics electives in my freshman years. Required CORE courses were such a pain! But a course in data analysis allowed me to gain the technical expertise and background to appreciate quantitative modeling. Hoping to use my background in economics to work in public policy some day, my coursework in CORE: Middle East has allowed me to understand social construction of identities and complex qualitative socieoeconomic complexities of policy that are not captured by quantitative economic models.

Finally, interests and passions may not be a direct result of the qualities and skills we possess. The risk and burden of finding meaning through one major, one specialized area of study or even one career choice is even more prominent in an ever-changing world. When I learn about consistent changes in the workplace and the complexities of the market, I question the simplicity of economic models. In fact, I question if I want to contribute to an area of study that I may not fully believe in. At these points, the diversity of courses and my broad liberal arts education have allowed me to explore what I was most interested in.

This process of questioning my major, or “passion”, was painful and frustrating. But I learned to tailor my courses in a way that would leverage my passion with real-world skills. Essentially, an awareness of both the world and of myself allowed me to reinvent myself until I was able to find one thing, or many things, that I could label as my “passion(s)”. In this way, we may be able to find careers that engage us and also reward us in monetary terms thus resolving our common struggle.

So, please don’t follow your passion. Passion is neither something you find among the pages of a textbook one day, nor something you grow up to appreciate. Rather, it is something that is deeply cultivated and developed through a meaningful understanding of the world and oneself.