Monday, April 14, 2014

Pursuing One's Passion

I'm at this unique and privileged point in my life.  Due to good career opportunities, our family's frugality and my husband's gainful employment, I'm in a position that I don't have to work for a paycheck.  I'm staying home with my kids and pursuing projects that are meaningful to me. 

I'm well into my 40s, and there is so much I want to do with whatever time I have left.  I wish I had several lives to live! 

I'm sure if we all reflected on it, we'd all have things we'd love to do if earning a living were not the primary focus of our time.  Everyone would have a different list, but to give you just a sense, here (in no particular order) is a non-exhaustive list of things I'd love to do now that I'm no longer having to work for a paycheck:

  • work as a missionary abroad or in an underserved community in our own nation
  • develop an LGBT ministry within my church community
  • become a foster parent
  • adopt more children
  • hike El Camino pilgrimage in Northern Spain with my husband and/or my kids
  • backpack around Iceland, Ireland and Great Britain
  • cultivate an abundant vegetable garden to share with people in my community who are food insecure
  • get my Ph.D. in gender studies
  • become a realtor serving in underserved neighborhoods to help revitalize communities and empower families to become homeowners
  • host an exchange student
  • start a nonprofit business to provide jobs for marginalized people
  • minister to people in prison
  • do pro bono work with people in custody for immigration law violations
  • participate in more protests
  • write a novel
So, this may not look anything like your list.  My passions are not yours.  I only share this list with you to give you a sense of the kind of dreams I have, and to encourage you to have dreams of your own.

But I personally have found it hard to mix pursuing my passion with earning a paycheck.  I went into teaching originally with great idealism, but my own self interest caused me to view it differently than I would have otherwise.  I had to please my principal and vice-principal to avoid getting fired, so I had to tow the party line and not rock the boat.  I had to play politics instead of focusing on helping like I wanted to.  Eventually I became disillusioned with the whole thing and left for law school. 

Something similar happened when I became a lawyer.  And I've seen the same thing happen to others.  People initially go into a profession with the thoughts of helping people, but they get caught up in workplace politics and preservation of their own economic interests such that doing good becomes secondary, if not tertiary or worse.

But I've noticed something different happens when you are doing nonpaid work.  During my hiatus, I've been doing some volunteer work through my church.  I've worked hard, enjoyed it and feel I've made important contributions.  But I'm completely liberated from the worries of pleasing those in charge.  If they don't like everything I do, I frankly don't care.  They cannot fire me.  They cannot give me a bad performance review.  They have no economic carrot to dangle, no economic stick to threaten.  How incredibly liberating!!  I can just focus on helping and doing good.  How wonderful.

Note, however, that I didn't get to this point by winning the lottery.  More on that later.  But for right now, I just want to make the point that in order to pursue your passion, you may need to simplify.  If you want to spend more time on your passions--whether that is doing good in the world, pursuing creative endeavors or spending more time cultivating relationships with loved ones--then it is unlikely in my opinion that you can expect to be well-compensated for those activities.  You may need to live a simpler life in order to pursue your passion.  That may seem daunting to many.  But I don't think it is out of reach.  And one of the main reasons I'm writing this blog is to encourage you to make it happen.

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