If you asked people who knew me in middle school and high school what type of person I was like, you’d probably hear a bunch of things — ‘weird,’ ‘socially awkward,’ and ‘disagreeable’ would be among the descriptors. But a descriptor you’d probably hear frequently was that I was deeply, deeply Passionate about the things I cared about. Really, I didn’t ‘care’ about things; I Cared about things. And while most of my interests have shifted at least in some capacity since I was a teenager — an affection for computer animation shifted towards videography/photography, a fervor for political debate shifted towards real-world organizing campaigns, a habit of writing overly confessional personal essays shifted towards, well, uh, actually, umm — the underlying passion has never left.
I don’t know why I’m this way. I certainly don’t feel as if it’s something I’ve “earned.” To be perfectly frank, my feelings towards my sense of passion fit somewhere between feelings of responsibility/burden (in the best meanings of those words) and feelings of privilege.
What I do know is that — as a consequence of my passion for meeting new people, building relationships, and attempting to try to get to know people deep down — I’ve had quite a few one-on-one conversations these last few weeks, many of them with younger people (although not all), who happen to be truly passionate about their Thing. And look, True Passion — the type of fervor where you will effortfully spend most of your waking hours thinking about and doing the hard work of taking Massive Action on — is extremely rare… For every Thing — whether that’s chess, guitar, creative writing, whatever — there are uncountable mountains of dabblers; true Passionates are a rare find. Yet it happened that in the one-on-one conversations I had these last couple of weeks, the other similar theme I heard, besides Passion, was Fear.
Which I understand deeply. When I dropped out of college to pursue an organizing career, from an objective lens it was a deeply irresponsible thing to do, both financially and life-wise. When I started my videography/photography business Jolie Media — to be perfectly frank — I was not yet skilled enough to be charging people money, and I was fearful of what I imagined could be the embarrassed reactions from others. (I started charging people money, inasmuch as I did at the time, simply because I could not otherwise justify spending all the time I did developing my skills and purchasing expensive equipment.) Actually, again to be perfectly frank, while I am a thoroughly competent videographer and photographer, dare I say even ‘good’ for an amateur, there are plenty of way much-more-qualified videographers and photographers in Sacramento.
Look, I’m not trying to puff myself up, I’m just trying to make a point: in the past few months, I’ve received offers to do video projects that would pay a competitive compensation relative to professionals in Los Angeles. Most of these proposed projects I’ve turned down because I simply do not have the time to do them given my day job (although a few of these proposed projects, if you’re my friend, you’ll hear about in the next few months).
Like I said, I don’t think I’ve received these offers because I’m a “really good” videographer. Again, I’m not. I think the reason I’ve received these offers is because (1) my media service Jolie Media is branded towards progressive Sacramento organizations who center justice & equity; (2) I am constantly sharing my values as a progressive organizer/artist, values that I not only talk about all the time but fully embody in my actions and life decisions; and (3) over the last ten years I’ve developed a large network of like-minded people in Sacramento through consistent one-on-one conversations. In other words, I think I’ve received these offers because of my passion and my social network.
I don’t know if I deserve the life I have — a life where I get to ruthlessly pursue my values and passions (organizing, art, social relationships, etc.) and be surrounded by like-minded individuals. What I do know is that if you’re like any of the young people I met these last few weeks, passion is a privilege, and it is wrong not to pursue it. Not to pursue the gift of your passions is to take away something rare from the world. Yes, true passion is so rare, and I think this is the thesis I’ve been trying to find by writing this essay: since true passion is so rare, as long as you fiercely, ruthlessly embody your passions and communicate your values to a really large network, it will eventually work out. Indeed, amongst any social network centered around a Thing, there are true Passionates, and true Passionates want to find other True Passionates, and so in fiercely, ruthlessly embodying your Passions and engaging in large social networks, eventually you’ll find the right people and those more experienced True Passionates will help you out and you’ll be fine (again, as long as your passion is True)… I think this is precisely why Jolie Media seems to be working out for me. I think this is precisely why anyone who is fearful of pursuing a True Passion should do it despite the fear.
I think there’s a much larger, more existential point to be made here. I think many people who merely dabble in their interests do so because they are tied to a fantasy of a particular life or a particular outcome or an image of what they’d like others to see them as.
Look, I’m not trying to puff myself up as a model for anyone else — I’m certainly not. But I think what being truly Passionate means is being almost completely unconcerned about any outcomes. True Passion is a fierce and totally ruthless engagement with life — fully embodied values, communicated to others out of pure expression — and that engagement with life, every present moment of it, becomes the payoff itself.
And maybe that’s the limit to a fulfilled life, where one can enjoy all the present moments and be most at peace with it all. Certainly that’s the life, at my best, I want to choose to pursue.
If you’re truly passionate, pursue that, and wherever that takes you is where you’re supposed to be.