Cult of Passion

According to Cal Newport, computer science professor at Georgetown and columnist for the New York Times, I’m a slave to the Cult of Passion.

He’s right.

Before you click away, fearing this blog has turned into platform for the bizarre and kinky, let me clarify. The Cult of Passion, as Dr. Newport describes in his article “Follow your Career Passion? Let it Follow you”, refers not to amorous liaisons but to that age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Review of my senior play in the school newspaper (I’m the one on the left with the blacked-out tooth).

I, for one, always wanted to be an actress. Sometimes I still feel tremors of disappointment that my life didn’t lead to the silver screen. I love writing, but if asked what job I would be most happy with, I’d still say acting.

That is, until I read Dr. Newport’s article. A small number of people do have an overarching desire to do one thing and one thing only. But not everyone. Not most people. Not, evidently, me.

Life has not followed the straight trajectory I imaged. I’m a meanderer. And reconciling that with my long-held belief that I had but one true calling has been difficult. I face career decisions like navigating a pit of quicksand, certain that one misstep will sink me, doom me to a life barren of fulfillment and joy. And I’m plagued by that vicious grass-is-always-greener mentality and his noxious twin brother “if only I had…”

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

According to Newport, “The traits that lead people to love their work are general and have little to do with a job’s specifics.” Autonomy, mastery of our skill, a feeling that what we do has an impact on the world—these are the qualities associated with job satisfaction (check out Drive by Daniel H. Pink).

I love this because it takes away that fatalistic approach to career happiness (find the right job and—POOF!—I’ll be happy). Put in the work, the time, commitment and engagement and passion will follow.

I still believe in reaching after one’s dreams. After all, I quit my well-paying job to be a (as yet) penniless writer. Life is too short to hate what you do. But the path to job satisfaction is not always linear.  And happiness is less the reward of making the right decision, and more the result of patience and investment.

So adieu Cult of Passion. Goodbye obsession with finding the “right” job, making all the “correct” career decisions, and pining after that elusive “true calling”.  I’m ready to let my passion follow me.

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4 thoughts on “Cult of Passion

  1. I’m right there with you! You won’t regret leaving that miserable place behind, I assure you. Sorry I’ve been a bit AWOL. But I think of you often and hope you are doing well!

  2. Dear Amanda,
    I have been learning about historic trauma and your writing here has given me an insight into what a human being can do if the person can reach mature adulthood without having so much of their innate, zestful curiosity for life quashed by lifelong fear and danger. You are an example of an adult who still knows how to take healthy risks and who still has the courage and desire (and opportunity) to explore and discover new frontiers. I think that what you are doing is an example of making life how it should be. Carry on. It’s fun to know you and exciting to see what you are up to next. Always a surprise. Love, Alice

    • Thank you Alice! I have been very lucky in my life–always sheltered, supported, and loved. My parents are wonderful, Steven is beyond wonderful, you and your family have been so kind and accepting. I hope through my writing, through living life, I can share that blessing with others. You’ve come through a legacy of trauma and oppression and achieved so much, touched so many. That is truly inspiring and feel so lucky you’re in my life.

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