What I’m Afraid Of

We live a lifetime of not enough time. It moves by and through and around us so quickly. And if we let ourselves, we end up sitting along the curbside watching it, as if in a parade, marching in front as we fight the other spectators to pick up the best of the cheap candy it throws.

And that’s partly what I’m afraid of.

Life is also too easily and quickly filled with regret. We hold on to big ideas and dreams and hopes that we play around with in our minds thinking of the someday that will come when we have time or motivation or the right circumstances to realize, only to let the short seconds of “one day I’ll do that” pile upon us without taking any action until the seconds turn themselves into years and weigh more than we can move.

And that’s also partly what I’m afraid of.

And then there’s a life lived with passion. Or without it. Of filling our parades and our short seconds doing what we know we don’t really have any interest or desire to be doing. But we do it anyway. Because as Alan Watts reminds us, we’ve been told and taught that sometimes we just have to “go on doing the things we don’t like in order to go on doing the things you don’t like doing.”

This is where I disagree with Dean. At least in part.

Because I find myself more in agreement with Watts. The video is three minutes and nine seconds that you won’t regret having spent if you let it play through.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/siu6JYqOZ0g

“But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track. See, what we’re doing is we’re bringing up children, and educating them to live the same sort of lives we’re living in order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing. It’s all wretch and no vomit. It never gets there.”

I’m not sure there’s a person in this world who loves every aspect and is passionate about every single detail of the job they work. That’s reality. There are tough parts of every job, but that doesn’t preclude us from finding a way to bring our passions into what it is we’ve chosen to do. I absolutely agree with Dean that working to support a family, survive, and contribute in some way are incredibly important.

However, there are too many options available to each of us that still allow us to follow what fulfills. Because if you are working a job that makes you miserable and makes others miserable to be in your misery, what’s the point? That doesn’t mean you have to exclusively work in the areas of your passion, but you can find yourself a situation that is satisfying and gratifying in its capacity to allow you to work your passions into what you’re doing.

Teaching our students about capturing the joy in life, about marching in the parade instead of watching it pass by, about choosing to follow and pursue passions which fulfill, about moving when the seconds haven’t yet turned into years of regret- I’m not ready to give up on those things yet.

9 Responses to What I’m Afraid Of
  1. Ellyn Schaffner (@Gaiaellyn) Reply

    Thank you Ben for posting this. I am always excited to see a new writing from you, as one of your gifts is definitely your words…

    I saw this video message last fall when my son entered grade 12 and know that I was intended to get it! He has always played the role of athlete and was so confused as to what he was going to do with his life after high school, thinking he would just go and get a Phys. Ed. degree. I have been trying to get him to meditate for years now but silly me, I was teaching him to meditate the way that I do. After spending a session with a gifted Intuitive, Max came away with a few ways that he could meditate at his drums and on the court but also with a settled feeling with whatever he was going to do, it would emerge and he would know it was right. Now, months later, he is preparing for Theatre Arts School creating monologues with confidence and he feels at home on the stage.

    Living in abundantly oil and gas wealthy rural Alberta, he has received raised eyebrows about the kind of money he will make performing, with wonderings like “What will get with that?” But I see his strength and resolve knowing that he is stepping on the path of his joy…

    ~ Ellyn

  2. Dean Shareski (@shareski) Reply

    I’m sure we disagree but if you want to call it that, that’s okay.

    My issue is the persistent message that vocation and passion have to be one thing. That’s essentially the message Mike Rowe addresses in his TED talk. The idea that many people do worthy and important work that may not be their passion but they do bring passion to their work. That’s not semantics but a critical viewpoint that our kids need to hear.

    I will continue to advocate for schools to help students find their passions but not necessarily tied to vocation. You’re right in that life is short and can be wasted doing things that don’t fuel your passions. It also can be wasted in trying to find the perfect job. Someone has to pick up garbage, someone has to pump gas. I don’t know what to tell those people and the millions of others doing jobs that are less than awesome. Yes, bring your passion to whatever you do but to think that we’re all going to have these amazing jobs is a very western, capitalist viewpoint that sends a message to many that concern me. Passion doesn’t have to be fueled through work. If we all just followed our passions in vocation, our world wouldn’t function.

    If you disagree with that, then perhaps we have an argument.

  3. Chad Lehman Reply

    I have to think about this more, but I’m wondering if there’s even a “job” for everything people are passionate about. Maybe this is related to what Dean is thinking – there may not be an opportunity for someone to support their family or live off of if they pursue a particular passion. I don’t think they means they should stop being passionate about it, it just means they might not have that as part of their job. I have no idea if any of my comments make sense. :)

  4. Rhoni McFarlane Reply

    Thank you Dean! I support students with disabilities find their passions and develop their skills. We develop personal learning goals each year which focus on a passion and we work towards this goal inn partnership with families. Does that mean they can incorporate this into a career? No, this would be unrealistic for so many and far more debilitating and destructive to their sense of worth. I have a student who is passionate about guitar, his physical limitations mean he will most likely fatigue before he can complete a song from start to finish and whilst he would love to be a music star we could probably agree this won’t come to be! This does not mean that he can’t keep this passion and continue to have lessons. I believe we should all try and find meaningfulness in what we do. I love my job, I am passionate about my work, but some days I would rather just read a book!

  5. Ben Grey Reply

    Dean- if this were about your taste in music or clothing, then it would be an argument. As it stands, it’s just a friendly discussion.

    The thing I wonder about is the dichotomy that is being established that a worthy or important job that is difficult or challenging is almost exclusively not one that someone can be passionate about.

    Let’s use the pumping gas example. For someone who loves to interact and serve people, they can be a gas station attendant and do it with all their heart in a way that is incredibly fulfilling, so to speak. I think all of us have come across someone working what we might call a “less than awesome” job who is doing it with every bit of who they are.

    When I was at IntegratED in Portland, we had a server at the hotel restaurant who was a great example. The guy was all over the place helping and laughing and doing an unbelievable job. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but he was loving it. And it was inspirational to watch him.

    I absolutely agree that people can work a challenging, non-glamorous job, and that work is incredibly important. I do believe, however, that there are a great many of those jobs in the world, and people should still pick one that is satisfying and gratifying where they can work in their passions.

    There is no moral imperative that says we need to be miserable at work just for the sake of making a living.

    I do agree with you that we don’t necessarily need to make our vocation based solely on a single aspect of our passions. For me to pursue a full time job as a photographer would be folly at this point in my life. Probably at any point in my life. But, I can find ways to work in the stories I tell with a camera into the work I do.

    We have choice regarding how we spend a great many hours of our lives making a living. I advocate that we help people see they don’t need to be miserable during those hours separated and devoid of the things that fulfill us in life.

  6. Kathy Reply

    I think I am in the middle of this dilemma. I am passionate about public education. I believe every child should have the chance to learn and that their life’s circumstances should not hinder that opportunity. I work for an urban district in Texas. The high stakes testing and VAM are putting enormous pressure on classroom teachers to prepare students for standardized testing. That “pressure” has now entered my technology applications lab. I must now use different software to provide interventions and help the core teachers by giving extra practice in the core subjects. We no longer create anything in the lab.

    After 21 years here in this district, I am questioning everything. I know I’m part of the system that is killing the creativity of these children. I would not want my child to go to a school like this–only because of the curriculum. I have nice colleagues and nice administrators. They genuinely care about children. What I know we’re doing keeps me up at night. I want to spend time creating, collaborating, exploring, and talking with my students. I want to help them learn to love learning. I want to help grow them into great human beings who will go out and be awesome adults!!

    I feel as if a nightmare is starting to overtake my dream.

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