It’s been almost three years since I left my corporate job. And I still haven’t figured out what I want to do when I grow up (other than the defiant response “well, I just don’t want to grow up!”). I’ve spent endless hours visioning, removing blocks, working through books and homework from a coach (or two) trying to figure out what my purpose is and find my passion. It’s been fun, with some painful detours, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I didn’t find my purpose, nor my passion, and my vision sits there on the internet somewhere.
The skeptical part of my brain took a while to get through the popular strategies to point out that maybe there was something amiss here. Maybe it wasn’t that I haven’t tried hard enough. That I haven’t found the right book, coach, exercise. That I lack focus. That my friends aren’t supportive enough. That if only I lived in community, things would be so much easier to implement. Oh, I am so lonely! Why doesn’t anyone support me?!?
I don’t know why it took me so long to see the similarity of this with another myth that I (and many others) are working to debunk: The Soulmate Myth. The idea that there is one person out there who will complete us and we’ll live happily ever after. Actually, this is really a myth cluster. It starts with the myth that we are incomplete just the way we are, that we have to find someone to complete us. And then there is the myth that there is such a person out there, that “all” we have to do is find him or her. Finally, if this happens, we are promised eternal happiness.
Well, you can probably tell from my snarky choice of words that I don’t believe in any of that: Neither that we are incomplete unless coupled nor that there is a perfect mate nor that there is such a thing as eternal happiness. And, of course, I can back that up with evidence (or rather point you to the person who has devoted her life to presenting that evidence).
And yet, I believed that there is one passion/purpose out there that I just needed to find and then I’d be eternally happy! There are people out there who are living this (just like there are people out there who are living the soulmate myth)! Of course, on closer inspection we notice that it’s not quite as idyllic. The most important thing we uncover on closer inspection, is that these people stumbled onto their passion/purpose. They didn’t spent years trying to find it.
What happens if we apply this analysis to the passion myth? It turns out to be a myth cluster, too. First, there is an assumption that we are somehow incomplete or deficient, a failure really, when we don’t have a passion. Maybe because we have lots of things that we enjoy or we have serial passions – we loose interest in something after a while and get excited about something new. That is not the way we’re supposed to live, according to this myth. We are supposed to be married to one person for life, oh, wait, we’re supposed to have a passion for life and only one. This ties in with the second myth as well: That there is ONE thing that will fire us up, one perfect passion, one purpose. And somehow we were born with this, which is a claim that has always puzzled me because it raises the question: Who or what put it in us? A question that is too religious/spiritual for this atheist (I explored this more here).
So, maybe just like there is no soulmate out there, just like we are perfectly lovable no matter what our coupled relationship status, maybe there is no passion out there and we can live a perfectly happy life without pursuing one. Just like I started to invest more time and energy in my friendships, I can invest more time and energy in the topics that I find interesting. And just like friendships change and evolve – and sometimes end – our interests change and evolve. That does not mean there is something wrong with us or we haven’t spent enough time unearthing our passion. It simply means that everything in life changes.