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Are You Living Your Passion?

”The Art of Seeing”

I have been considering this question regarding passion lately.

What is your passion?”  is something I have been tuning into more and more.  Perhaps, this is a query people of a certain age begin to ask as we look back over our past, hearing strains of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” playing on a loop in our minds.  Or maybe it is the question of the moment and is asked of everyone, newly minted, popular in the same way sundried tomatoes were the gastronomical item du jour a couple of decades ago.

Passion is a big word, you know? It summons up images of Latin lovers, Mt. Everest scalers and five-star restaurant chefs; big feelings with big responsibilities.

It is a word which falls on the top end of a scale beginning with like and including in an ascending order interestedattracted and enthused.

unnamed-61I believe we come into the world with a seed (or seeds) of passion within us.  In some cases, that passion is undeniable and grows quickly, seemingly without much effort. Think: Mozart, Fermi, Thomas Man and Picasso. One is undeniably lucky for their passion to bloom early, before outside influences steer is in other directions.

But most of us, I think, discover our life passions as time goes by.  I imagine the seed I am talking about is something untouched by the opinions or hopes delivered by family, friends, well-meaning counsellors or our priests or rabbis.  

That seed is ours and ours alone, to find, to nourish, and to pursue.  Seeking out our passion is an opportunity to embark on a journey into our spirits.  And I firmly believe that our passion does not have to be the thing we make a living doing.  That’s well and good if the two conjoin.  Still, I believe there are as many passions out there as are imaginations yearning to travel inwards and discover them. 

I was lucky.  I discovered one of my life passions when I was in junior high school.  It was after lunch.  I was in the cafeteria which doubled as an assembly room. The air was still redolent with the odor of the Sloppy Joes we had been served an hour before. 

A nearby high school was touring the district with a condensed production of the H.M.S Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan.  I was hooked from the very sound of the screechy violins and out of tune brass.

But then, to seal the deal, out onto stage came people-- some of whom I knew-- wearing costumes, singing, dancing, doing funny walks and even talking to one another with odd but riveting accents!  I never knew this sort of communication existed! The actors were able to put on invisible masks, becoming someone other than who they actually were.

For years I wondered if I was drawn to musical theater because I sensed it was a place for a young gay boy like myself to hide out behind a character.  And though I knew little of my sexuality back then, I can’t deny that feeling different somehow and yearning for a place to hide was very likely a draw.  


I was already equipped with some special radar that signals, “There are folks here who are somehow like you,” whatever that meant for me back then.

Still, I was truly passionate about this art form, as well.  Of course, I have since heard talk that there exists something referred to as a musical theater gene, one found most commonly amongst gay men.  I’m here to tell you no such thing exists.  I have gay friends who wouldn’t know the difference between Liza Minelli and Barbra Streisand.  In the same way I don’t know the difference between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

Still, not knowing Barbra from Liza?!  Pleease.

I ran home that day from school and discovered that my folks had four musical theater albums; South PacificMy Fair LadyMan of La Mancha and Fanny.  Back in those days, the liner notes were not particularly detailed.  Still, I was able to do a fairly decent job imagining what was going on between the songs-- except for Fanny, probably for the simple reason I wanted the to be about something else ... 

(Maybe I did know a little more about my sexual self then).

In any event, I listened to them over and over and began to use my paper route money to start what became a fairly vast collection of my own albums.

I continued my romance with musical theater through high school and into college.  I auditioned for local theater shows and was often cast.  I told my folks my “passion” was law school when pressed for an answer on the subject.  My uncle was a successful lawyer with a beautiful home and I finally realized that my real passion was for a beautiful home minus the lawyer-ing part of the equation.  That was when I dropped out of law school and began to get cast in semi-professional shows.  


Early on, I received my Actors Equity card and was even to make a living solely off performing for the next ten years. 

Honestly, I wasn’t a fabulous performer.  I guess performing itself wasn’t necessarily my passion.  And there were two drawbacks to continuing with my passion for musical theater on the stage.  One was the amount of travel required.  I loved my home and didn’t like being away so often.  And the other was that I couldn’t depend on a specific income from month to month. 

I’m a Capricorn, what can I say

Still, good fortune was with me.  Around the time I was wondering what to do next, I received a call from a well-known producer of musicals in New York who had read a piece I had written for The New York Times and liked it.  He and his wife very much liked it and asked me to come work for them.

I stayed on for twenty- five years.  I realized gradually the ways in which following my passion served me.  I knew far more than I ever thought.  I had an encylopedic memory of all the shows I had listened to over the years, who wrote them, directed them, starred in them.  I knew front of house matters, could speak easily with set and lighting designers and I certainly knew actors’ needs and all forms of backstage madness.

And now, twenty-five years later and retired, I see Broadway shows once or twice a month, still getting that same thrill I did at that first production of the H.M.S. Pinafore.

My life has been shaped by my passion.


There have been other passions to emerges, including writing, gardening, singing with a chorus and interior decorating.  Life is frankly just so much fuller and richer with having these passions, whether they have proven themselves to pay my bills or not.

Life is short. If you don’t think you have found your passion yet, it is important that you do so now.

How?  I repeat, finding our passion requires a journey of some sort within. Meditate. Pray. Try therapy or anything that helps you turn inwards. Even if the only word you can use to lay claim to what you hope will turn out to be a passion is interest or enthused, I recommend you act on it. 


An object in motion tends to stay in motion. Sky-diving, you wonder?  Do it.  It may be.  And if your first choice doesn’t quite reach the level of a passion, hurl that glowing ball of energy in a new way; it may lead you to pottery tossing, baseball, music or travel.

There may be some false starts but I believe a journey taken with pure intention will get you to where you are headed, to that uncorrupted seed of passion you entered the world with that is yours and yours alone.  You will find the ways to nourish it.

We deserve the time we spend on the search. If life doesn’t feel quite the way you hoped it would, if something feels as though it is missing when you do your self-analysis and feel you come up short, discovering that passion will, I guarantee, provide a road to satisfaction.

You will know it when you find it.  That activity you can’t wait to get back to, whether it a project at work or woodworking in the basement or hybridizing a new orchid.