Since I was about 25, I have been struggling off and on with finding my passion. I'm now 43 and I still haven't figured it out. I think that many people are dealing with the same issue, and by way of this column I hope to shed some insight based on my own experience.
I believe that knowing your passion is crucial to your success in life and career — you will only really excel if you follow that passion without ulterior motive. This will come with a lot of struggles and you might not become a millionaire necessarily, but in the end you will be happier than a filthy rich stock broker who hates his job.
Of course the struggle to get where you want to be is part of the problem. Following your passion requires taking a stand for something and not waver, no matter how your environment might disapprove. We all know the movies where a young kid wants to be a dancer or something like that and the parents won't hear of it. These movies always end well and disprove the parents' rejection of the child's pursuit.
But this is not how real life works. In many occasions the parents get their way and the child will reluctantly follow in dad's footsteps or enroll in some graduate school that she or he has no interest in whatsoever. Also very common is the young person who wants to become a famous actor or sport player and will try for many years and never really get somewhere (New York is full of them). Success comes with a huge doses of failure along the way and the risk of failing altogether.
When I was living in the Netherlands I had a huge passion for some 10 years. SINGING! I never got tired of my singing engagements. I was part of a choir, a close harmony group, and a guest singer for several other choirs. Nothing could keep me from going to rehearsals. No matter what the weather was like, if I had a bad day at work, or whether I would miss a favorite TV show — I would always show up.
By the way, if singing is not your thing, please replace singing with something else, like work, acting, sports, painting, dancing, or even making money. You might think that last one a bit strange, but some people actually make money for a passion. Anyways, back to the singing.
My dedication did not only come from finding myself in the ideal circumstance to express myself through my voice, but it was also an opportunity to socialize with likeminded people before and after rehearsal. It was a hobby though and never made any money off of it.
After I moved to New York — now some ten years ago — I had planned to pick up singing from the moment I arrived, but did not put that into action. Over the years, I made vague attempts to find a choir or singing group that would meet my needs. But these were never serious efforts.
Excuses ranged from not having enough time to not feeling that particular choir. I know these are mere signs of the procrastination I subdued myself to, because I find myself at home many a night just watching TV and doing nothing. And how would I know if something isn't a fit until I try it on first.
Two years ago, I joined a singing group and a couple of months later a church choir. However I discontinued about a year ago. I think I got scared. I was enjoying the singing, but for some reason I started doubting my skill. I actually do not know if I am a good singer or whether I suck. Several people have told me that I am, but I'm still insecure about it.
I think this has to do with my general issues with self-expression. I do not fully give myself and hold in a lot. In past columns I have eluded to my tendency to be passive aggressive at times and also being a perfectionist (or anal if you please). For the longest, singing was the only place where I felt fully self-expressed.
But now I feel that this is an illusion. I only sang in groups where my voice mingles with others and in a way I was not busy with self-expression, but with group expression. I know this because I never sing by myself, not at home when I am by myself or in the shower. I am afraid fully belt and not care what others think.
But I'm even more afraid to hear myself, my own voice as it is. Perhaps a bit similar to not liking what you hear when you listen to a recording of your own voice. I think that my voice is good at the basis, but I do not give myself completely. And therefore my voice probably does not have any heart to it.
But I really want to work on my self-expression and in the process discover my true passion, whatever that may be. That is scary as hell, because this means that I have to step out of my comfort zone and expose myself completely. Fortunately I am a little masochistic as well and retrieve some satisfaction from finding myself in uncomfortable situations.
I decided to contact a vocal coach to work with me on discovering my own voice. I'm excited about the prospect of having my first voice lesson. Perhaps I will discover that I should never have started singing in the first place. Well in that case I have to move on to another passion. Any suggestions?