The One With Passion

A co-worker and I were chatting near the water cooler about what we’d done over the weekend.

Me: Then I looked out my apartment window and saw a kestrel perched on a building across the courtyard. Did you know these birds can hover over their prey in mid-air? (Visual: me making strange motions, using my arms as wings.) Amazing!

Co-worker: Cool. How did you know it was a…what kind of bird?

Me: A kestrel. I’ve been learning a lot about birds. I bought a bird field guide and I’ve signed up to volunteer at a wild bird refuge. So many fascinating species. Have you ever heard of a bower bird?

I was about to launch into a description of how a male bower bird attracts females by decorating his patch of land with objet d’art when my co-worker raised a hand.

Co-worker: Now it’s birds? Weren’t you just telling me about some constellations?

Me: Well, yes. There’s a night sky festival in September. But I’m not sure what that has to do with birds.

Co-worker: Exactly. And a while ago you were interested in painting?

Me, suddenly seeing where this conversation was headed: Painting is fun, but well…I’d still like to take a class someday.

Co-worker: And before that you were into…oh, what was it? Find something and stick with it. You know what they say: jack of all trades; master of none.

I slinked away from the conversation feeling like a huge flake. Here I thought I was being a “well-rounded person.”  If something catches my attention, I dive into it and see how deep the core of my attention goes.  Sometimes I find that I don’t enjoy an activity as much as I thought I would. And sometimes I do enjoy it, but the expense and/or difficulty in pursuing it pushes it beyond feasibility. (Tennis in NYC!) Besides, it seems like a good idea for a writer to have a wide variety of experiences and interests.

Or maybe these are excuses. Maybe this is just a way to avoid the commitment and dedication required to devote myself to one thing. Even this blog is representative of that—me flitting from idea to idea without a specific niche, which all the gurus tell you is a big no-no.

Speaking of gurus, it’s hard to open a web page or a magazine without being told to Follow Your Passion, a phrase my grandparents wouldn’t have uttered. I think that it’s important to do things that make you feel alive, things that captivate you. But how do you know what those things are unless you try different options? I guess some people are lucky: they know from a very early age that the horn or surfing or drawing is it for them. And some people seem to have no hobbies or interests, which, in my opinion, is the much scarier option. For the rest of us, I think all we can do is stoke our curiosity.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”   ~Joseph Campbell

What do you think? Is it better to stick with one or two interests? Or taste different interests like desserts? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

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42 comments

  1. Personally I like it your way… I have had many different interests over the years. As you say, it’s important to do things that make me feel alive, pursue things that captivate me. I suppose part of it may be how we’re hard wired, but I’m so very glad that I’m a curious person drawn in a lot of different directions!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I heard Elizabeth Gilbert say this: “Interesting people are interested.” Maybe that’s not so profound, but it does make a good point. People who are interested in different things tend to be interesting people. Right now my main interest is a pint of peanut butter-chocolate-pretzel ice cream that I can’t put down. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I agree with Julia! I think it’s wonderful and smart to follow your curiosities. Who says you have to become an expert on one thing? How boring. Much more fun to chase what sparkles.

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  2. Shame on your coworker for dousing the “fire” of your interest in birds. I totally disagree with the belief that passion needs to be focused in one central area. Some great minds (da Vinci for example) had wide ranging interests were able to make staggering creative contributions to mankind in several fields. And thanks for sharing the video on bower birds. I never knew that! Like you, some of my passions are sequential. I was intensely interested in cooking for a long while, but now I’m more interested in photography. I think we need to give our creativity room to grow. That’s just the way some minds work. (Thank goodness!)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Patti! There are so many interesting things to explore, why limit myself to only one or two of them? I love what you wrote about giving our creativity room to grow. It’s a great analogy to a sapling. Creativity should be nurtured just the same.

      P.S. The bower birds are fascinating. The satin bower bird likes to decorate his area with blue objects. He’ll even use blue bottle caps and ribbons if that’s what he finds.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I hope you blog about that experience at the bird sanctuary, Patti. I’d love to read about it. I’m planning to go on a walk with a guy named “Birding Bob” in a few weeks for the fall migration. Hope I’ll get some good photos that I can share with you.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a free-ranger in my interests, like you, Jackie. And I second Patti’s comment above; your co-worker’s attitude and comment are unfair. There’s nothing wrong with trying new experiences to see if we like them. I love the way you put it: “see how deep the core of my attention goes”. That struck a cord of familiarity with me. Some pursuits draw us deep into the experience and we may enjoy them for years, others maybe only a day, week, or a season; but we still enjoy ourselves, and learn from the experience. No reason to live life playing only one note. Kudos to you for being such an adventurer!

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    1. I did second guess myself after that conversation, Cynthia. I wondered if I should channel all of my energies into a single interest. Maybe that would be more productive. Thanks to you and other comments, I realize that is exactly the opposite of what I want to do. I have enough hours in my day when I need to be “productive.”
      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A wide variety of interests lends to greater perspective. I’ve always believed it strengthens your writing too. A writing instructor once encouraged me to dabble in pottery, painting and other artistic endeavors and then come back to page – I can’t say I’ve ever regretted following this advice. You shouldn’t either. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rudri, that’s wonderful advice! I do believe that all of these interests serve my writing in the end. Things will bubble to the surface and show up on the page in the most unusual ways. Who knows maybe my next MC will be a bird watcher? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One could argue that your “singular passion” is the written word, and you are gathering the wide-ranging knowledge you need to tell colorful, arresting stories. Now you can write about a painter who takes her inspiration from the stars until a kestrel lands on her windowsill one day and completely transforms how she sees things.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I always tell my creative writing students to move through the world as writers. We’re not just writers when we sit down at the computer. it’s a 24/7 job. 🙂

      I think you’ve described the makings of a great story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We humans are a curious species. It seems to me that to limit that curiosity means to limit our humanity. How can you “find your passion” if you don’t look for it? It’s a sure bet it won’t come and find you! Creativity has been defined as making disparate connections, so it makes sense to explore disparate interests (and who’s to say what’s “disparate”?) in search of that passion. I agree with “KJ” that you’re passion is the written word, and it makes perfect sense to pursue that passion through a wide variety of venues. I’ve enjoyed many of your posts — this one, especially, resonated with me — and hope to enjoy many more. I’ve explored many varied interests from spiders to cooking (but not cooking with spiders) over the years and feel I’m a more rounded writer for it; Besides, one never knows what will come in handy or when. -S-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Steve. Thank you for making such a great case for pursing a variety of interests. After that interaction with my co-worker, I was concerned that not sticking with one thing would dilute my focus and therefore any expertise I hoped to gain in the process. But I think you’re right — limiting my curiosity wouldn’t serve me well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You know I’m sorry to hear that your coworker thought gaining experience and making life interesting fit into a Jack of All Trades Master of None expression. I’ve always known the stuff that I liked, the stuff I was passionate about, and The Happiness Project I did a while back just confirmed those thoughts. I kind of knew what realms they fell under … Sports, closeted-adventure seeker, 80s lover, mob movie watcher, comedy enthusiast, writer, baker, seeker of Namaste moments, but that didn’t mean I stopped exploring interests outside of that. I always like to hear about people’s interests whether they master one or dabble in many. Sometimes the dabbling makes for an awesomely funny, fun, and happy experience and I’m trying to get as much of that as I can in life. Don’t let someone’s ignorance of your quest get you down. Keep on exploring.

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    1. I’m always so impressed by your adventures. I think you need to add sky diver to your list of awesome moments.

      I love that you call it dabbling. That makes it sound less serious and easy to “test drive” different interests. I’m using that word from now on! Thanks for the vote of encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yup, I’ve tried most things and I like it that way! Harmonica lessons, wine tasting, tennis, badminton, various gym classes, and now German – which is becoming essential and not just a hobby! But then, every time I go to write a CV or letter or application, I’m like, um, what exactly are my interests?! And then I feel like a weirdo 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I always thought the interests section of my CV was where I was supposed to pretend all my interests revolved around the company.

      “My interests are punctuality and spreadsheets!”

      Your German seems to be coming along lightning fast. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I found a tandem partner at the weekend so going to do that once a week now as well 🙂 Should really help! It’s not coming along quickly enough for my liking but I guess maybe I’m impatient 😉

        And yes, I love spreadsheets too… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Your co-worker sounds like a great big barrel of no fun. I completely agree with you that “it seems like a good idea for a writer to have a wide variety of experiences and interests.” I appreciate learning about the male bower bird. I thought that was hilarious when Attenborough said, “Flowers have an obvious appeal to a bird who has a passion for interior decoration.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David Attenborough is terrific. I’ve watched several of his programs and he always pops up in the most interesting locations. Suddenly he’s on a snowmobile rumbling across the Antarctic tundra or on a zip line in the jungle. He doesn’t do this much anymore of course, but it’s fun to watch him in his younger days.

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  10. I’m with you on this one, Jackie. There aren’t enough lifetimes to master all the things I’m interested in. I firmly believe that collecting experiences is the key to a happy life. Studies have proven that it’s good for the brain.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve definitely been guilty of jumping around between interests. I once counted at least forty different classes I’d taken at some point in my life. (By the way, I just started a juggling class.) As I’ve gotten older I’ve done better about focusing on a few primary interests but I do think there’s a lot to be said for the enthusiasm that comes with learning something new. We get excited for a new skill or exercise program or life philosophy or a new relationship, and we can’t be disappointed in ourselves when something new draws our interest away from what excited us yesterday. The mind has an incredible ability to adapt and make the exciting seem commonplace. Yes, I think it’s valuable to stick with some things but I also think novelty keeps us young and curious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A friend shared the same sentiment yesterday. He suggested that we should have a couple of primary interests/hobbies that feed our soul and smaller interests that feed our curiosity. I like the way that sounds.

      Juggling! When do you graduate to knives and flaming batons?

      P.S. Love your new avatar. Did you perform at Gotham?

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  12. Love this post! There’s nothing wrong with having a variety of interests and trying out different things. And it’s not a matter of “flitting from one thing to the next” – take birds and astronomy: you’re interested in nature, and you’re exploring different facets of it. As for the blog – you’ve been blogging for years, so that’s hardly a passing interest, and nor is writing. And to feed your writing, pursuing a passing interests is essential.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the encouraging words. I was starting to think I was doing myself a disservice by not focusing on one thing to the exclusion everything else in the dogged pursuit of a goal. But I enjoy following my curiosities. There’s too much out there to explore.

      Oh, you forgot one thing. I’m also very interested in cake. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m with you. Yes, it’s fabulous if you’ve got a passion and can focus on that, but the rest of us flit between interests, taking up new hobbies and dropping others as we learn of new things or meet new people. And there’s nothing wrong with that! xx

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    1. Great point! It does seem to make life more interesting to follow our curiosity as we change and grow as people. To have to “commit” to only one or two interests to the exclusion of all others would be so limiting!

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