Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dear Summer

Dear Summer,

Things haven’t been the same between us lately, and you have the right to know why. You and I have had the most amazing relationship for the past 18 years. I fell in love with you the day I started pre-school. From then on, when someone asked about my favorite season, I was quick to tell them about you.

Our relationship wasn't always exclusive – you understood that other seasons had a place in my life. You stood by while I went trick-or-treating and built snow forts. You knew no matter how much fun I had with the others, I would always love you more.

I grew closer to fall and winter once high school began – they came with more fun activities than before. Some years I even felt excited as my time with you ended and my date with autumn began. But every spring, I spent most of my days just waiting for you to take me away. No matter what the other seasons gave me, they came with a price. A price only you didn't carry. When you held me, I was where I belonged.

Things changed between all of us once college began. Seasons I thought were my friends turned their backs on me. Fall became more aggressive when it ripped me from your embrace. Spring carried a ritual that was a deal-breaker by default. And winter just kept me too far from you. For the last four years, you were the only one I loved.

I value our relationship as much as you do, but I’m afraid it won’t work out anymore. See, part of my love for you stemmed from my dislike of the other seasons. But I don’t hate them anymore, and I don’t love you anymore, at least not the way I used to. If someone asked me now about my favorite season, I would say that I don’t know, that I need a few years to decide. For in this new life, all of you have a clean slate. I need to carve jack-o-lanterns and go sledding and ride my bike when the snow melts, and see which of you is really the most fun.

Our relationship will never be what it was – we will never again cram a year’s worth of fun into our short time together. I won't push you past your limits to compensate for what the other seasons couldn't give me.

I hope we can still have an open relationship. Please understand that this way is better for me. It’s better to love all four seasons – to not grow ill as our time together ends, to not waste my time waiting for you to come, and to not depend on you for a year’s supply of happiness. Really, it’s better for both of us.

I hope you'll find some new kids who love you as I once did, and that you'll do for them what you did for me. But I will never forget our years together, and the years that you were all I lived for. Perhaps a part of me will always love you more.

Until next year,


Friday, August 13, 2010

Pressure to Be Passionate

We’ve all heard stories of three-year-old kids who saw the Olympics on TV and just knew it was what they wanted to do. Or perhaps they always sang and danced around the house or drew their first masterpiece on the inside of their closet door. But however it happens, it seems like everyone who’s made it big knew their passion from the day they were born.

When I was young, I assumed that everyone had a passion, but I realize now that that isn't true. Although it may seem that way, most people I've met don’t have a clear notion of what they want to do for the rest of their life, and very few have a passion that began in their childhood. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but the focus on passion makes people feel like they need one in order to be happy or  feel worthwhile or find who they are. 

I have changed my mind many times about what I wanted to do with my life, and there was a time between deciding not to enter college as a theatre major and taking my first fiction writing class, when I felt a bit lost about where I was going. I never made this known – I was planning to major in biology and work in a lab someday, so I entered college presenting this to everyone as my passion. But the truth was that I didn’t love it the same way I had loved writing and theatre, and now psychology. I realize now that I was experiencing cognitive dissonance – I had convinced myself that I was passionate in order to justify the fact that I was choosing this over things that I knew I loved more. It was during this time that I became aware of all the pressure to find that niche early on in life. I wondered if this meant that I wouldn’t be especially successful if I did something that I hadn’t wanted to do all along. You just don’t hear success stories from people who changed their mind a million times.

It made me wonder if perhaps this is like any other kind of media pressure; maybe being told you need to have passion is like being told you have to look a certain way. I know these things are different, but the idea of telling people what they’re supposed to be is the same. After my experience of pretending to love biology more than I did, I often wonder if other people do the same thing. Is everyone really as passionate about what they’re doing as they claim to be? Or do they want to say that they are, like I did?

Can a person’s life story be airbrushed just like a cover model photo? So many things happen in your life that you can really pick and choose what you want to say, making the story sound the way you want it to. Think about something you’re interested in and see if you can find general traces of this interest from your childhood: Did you love to read? Did you play outside every day? You can probably cut and paste your life story to trace one particular interest from your earliest memories to the present, making it seem like this was always your number one passion. And maybe it doesn’t feel completely accurate because of everything you left out. Maybe some of us have cut and pasted our passion stories because we want to believe we had the interest all along. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be just as passionate about something that you found later in life. Everything that I want to do in psychology, I discovered this past year.

Finally, people like to tell you what you’re supposed to be. When we applied to college, we were told that we had to be well-rounded and be involved in different kinds of activities. I wasn’t like this, and I wasn’t about to join things I didn’t love to pass myself off as well-rounded. But a lot of people did things just to get into college. Some time later, there was a new rumor flying around the school that it was better to be really into a few things than to spread yourself thin across a lot of things. I was just as annoyed about this, even if it did give me at an advantage. They were still telling us what to be.

The point is that there will always be people telling you what to be and what should matter to you, and being passionate is just one of those things, like anything else. I would not be surprised if being passionate is trend that’s in style right now, to some extent. Perhaps we'll wake up one morning to find that being more well-rounded is in, and people who have intense interests in just a few things will try to get more involved in a lot of other things because they’ll feel like it’s what they should do. In the meantime, we can just keep in mind that passion you discover later in life is just as valid as passion that you had since you were born. If your goal is to find a passion, then by all means keep exploring. But keep in mind there is nothing wrong with not having one intense interest. Whatever you are is fine as long as you’re happy with it. You can still have a passion for life without a passion for one particular thing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Are We Really That Bored?

Have you ever noticed how people use being bored as an excuse for doing things? "I was bored" is in the description of funny videos. "I don't want to write my paper" is the title of chain Facebook notes. Or after someone has spent their night watching TV or playing video games or surfing the internet, they'll say that they did it because they were bored.

There is nothing wrong with doing something because you're bored. And I understand doing things in order to procrastinate that you wouldn't normally find entertaining. But my question is: are we really bored? Are we really just procrastinating every time? Or do we just feel like we need some excuse to do things we like that aren't "cool," productive, or socially desirable? It's like we can't just say, "I did this because I wanted to." We have to say, "I did this because I had nothing better to do."

I don't say that I was bored when I was doing something that I liked, because if I enjoyed what I did, then I wasn't bored at all. I don't want to reinforce the idea that we need an excuse for anything that we do. I do what I like, and it's not because I'm bored.