Speaking of figuring out what I’m supposed to be in this world. You think the worst is behind you after you turn 16 and discover that there’s nothing at all sweet about it.
Yet, as I try to tame my 22-ness, and cure my millennial syndrome with gluten free avocado, I slowly realize that all the cliches like ‘Follow your passion’ are tired and I’m tired of them too. So In the midst of a rather debilitating identity crisis this month, I found nuggets of gold in the caramel voice and Buddhist-like wisdom of Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love -The book that became the movie all hopeless romantics gawked over 7 years ago (I was 16. So no, going to Bali to fall in love was not nearly as cool as my party was going to be). Nonetheless, Elizabeth brings forth a unique perspective. Which is to let go of the idea of finding a passion.
One of the ‘hacks’ she presents is to distinguish between your hobbies, your job, your career and your vocation. Terms that up until 2 days ago had been synonyms to me. Find the article here. It’s a good one. If you’re anything like me, burdened with many passions and a self-imposed timer to pick which of them will make you a billionaire by 25, this is a novel remedy.
This new perspective was hinted to me recently by a good friend trying to live his best life in this world as well. He said ‘You’re too interesting to try fit yourself in a box’.
Aha! It is this BOX that has taunted my entire being this whole year. Reflecting on my younger years, as you may recall for yourself, I had the entire world figured out on a glittery vision board. Go to an Ivy league, and maybe become a doctor, or climb the corporate ladder to enviable success, and finally be the one who saved Prince Harry from his perpetual single-dom. And then somewhere in this idealistic process, Pandora’s box is revealed.
For me, this Pandora was revealed through a series of crises. Yet instead of just looking into the box, I picked it up, realized it was too heavy, then dropped it.. Suddenly all the pieces of my person were laid out on the floor. Except, not only did the pieces fall out of the box, but apparently the box broke too. So in typical fashion, I grabbed a sledge hammer and smashed the box altogether. Quit business school, and moved to a different country. Really just crushed it. All in the hopes that somehow along the way, I’d be handed some tape to piece it all together. Only because someone somewhere wrote a blog post reminding me that I am a millennial and I’m entitled.
Well the only thing more futile than this kind of destructive restructuring is the realization that you cannot remember how the box looked before. And so you start to throw things into different boxes hoping that something will stick. Different jobs, relationships, even passions.
The resonating message from Elizabeth is that she understands that we now live in a world that demands a passion of you, fitted snugly into an award winning box. But she also understands that it is a harmful narrative. Next time you feel lost, and try to put the contents of your box back where they are ‘supposed’ to be, realize that perhaps the box is too small for all your new knowledge and experiences. Most of all, begin to accept that it is OKAY to have two boxes. And anyway, what’s the point of rearranging your apartment if you are going to have the dresser in the same exact spot it was in.
So as I battle with my child-like curiosity to find my passion, I wonder if perhaps curiosity IS my passion. The thing about creativity is that when you try to fit it into a box together with the clutter that is life in a gloriously material world, it suffocates and dies. Do I want to talk about economics forever in my life so that I can say I have a passion? No, I’d go crazy. I WOULD like to talk about the economic policy that rebuilt Rome, and I’d like to do so as I eat a tasty lasagna. But then after that, I want to talk about the lasagna. And for now, I need to be okay with that. At least until life cuts me a better deal.
So anyway, I capped off my week by watching Eat pray Love with a slightly more refined and keen eye for good movies, and the movie is still terrible. So there. I’m sure the book was good though. Thanks friend. Thanks Elizabeth.