It took failure at accomplishing some of my past dreams to realize how important it was to recognize the difference between pursuing a true passion or a romantic idea.
Do you know how to tell them apart?
I’m being vulnerable here, so don’t judge me too harshly, okay?
After becoming a single parent with two teenage daughters who were quite capable and willing to do most things for themselves, I felt a driving need to find purpose in my life. I wanted desperately to feel like I was making a difference—somewhere.
Questions plagued me. What did I want to do with my life? What was I supposed to do?
I thought about my interests. I’d loved the theater since a child, and I raised my girls on old musicals. One developed a true passion for them; the other was completely bored by people singing in the middle of a scene. I began to dream about finding a paid position where I could become immersed in the arts. I joined a board of parents involved in children’s theater, and I volunteered as an usher for weekend matinees at a professional theater in the Seattle area. I discussed job possibilities with management there. The reality—I would need to work nights and weekends, and the pay wouldn’t come close to the sum needed to live on. I would have to keep my day job too. With daughters still in high school, that couldn’t be considered. So, I dumped that notion.
You see, I was caught up in the romantic idea of working in the theater. If I’d had a real passion for it, I would have found ways to make it work—or I would have pursued it again after my daughters were both in college.
However, my oldest daughter participated in church dramas and musicals, and she also acted in community theater and high school productions. She went on to major in theater in college, then continued to take small roles in plays until she proved herself and got cast in lead roles. She pounded the pavement in New York and continued to take acting, dance, and vocal lessons while she worked other jobs. My daughter has a true passion for the theater, and she’s willing to take her lumps and make sacrifices to make things happen in her career.
Again with drama . . . I worked with a friend at our church to produce full-length plays—some were well-known productions, but some we wrote ourselves. At one point, I thought it would be wonderful—and cool—to have an after-school drama ministry in the inner city. A friend who had a lot of experience in theater was really interested in pursuing that idea with me. Others were intrigued by the project, and I formed a board. But ideas got carried away. Before I knew it, we were exploring starting a charter school that would emphasize the arts. Heaven knows—I was in way over my head. I didn’t know what I was doing.
My friend, being level-headed, went to pastors in the city for advice. They told him an after-school drama program didn’t stand a chance with outsiders coming in to run it. We’d only be looked at as do-gooders with no street sense. We’d have to move into the community and develop relationship first.
I disbanded the board. With no clear vision of what we were trying to accomplish and with road blocks (based on common sense), there was no reason to continue. I’d failed—but I’d also learned some valuable lessons. If I’d had a true passion for starting an inner city program, I would have done better research and been willing to make some life changes. But, I’d been romanticizing the idea of what it would/could look like instead of facing the reality of what it would take to make it successful.
My husband and I have been blessed with a beautiful home, and as empty nesters, we have two extra bedrooms and a guest bathroom. They come in handy when family comes to visit from out-of-state or we have the grandkids overnight. But, most of the time, those bedrooms remain vacant.
My heart goes out to children who have experienced painful situations in their young lives, and there was a period of time when my heartstrings were played whenever I heard about the need for foster care. I began to dream about how wonderful it would be to give a child a home—save a little one from more heartbreak. But as my husband and I contemplated what having a child in our home would involve—the responsibility, the challenges—we realized that we’re not in the right place to make that kind of commitment.
On the other hand, friends of ours who have been foster parents in the past are eager to jump back in now that they’ve recently retired. They have a large home, the time, the wisdom, and the love to offer children. They know what they’re getting into, and they’re willing to do what it takes.
More than ten years ago I began to seriously pursue a writing career. This journey can require working many hours a day for years (sometimes seven days a week to meet deadlines), ongoing study to improve one’s craft, the willingness to risk rejection from publishers and face criticism from readers, writing—then rewriting, networking, marketing, becoming more tech savvy, attending workshops and conferences, etc. with no guarantee of success.
Yet—it’s all still worth the hard work. Because it’s my true passion.
It’s one thing to think about how awesome it would be run across the finish line at the Boston Marathon. It’s another to care enough about it to train—despite awful weather or injuries.
So, if you think about it . . . are you pursuing a true passion? Or a romantic idea?