Have you ever had that moment when you recall the words of a parent or adult in your life years later and you realize he or she was right? I’ve had these “ah-ha” moments numerous times. Keep your hands away from the stove. Don’t date that guy. Be careful of the company you keep. One moment stands out particularly.
It was my senior year of college, and I was home in Michigan for winter break. My uncle worked in Ann Arbor so I drove with him into town to visit friends at the University of Michigan’s campus.
On our ride home that night, we were talking about my college career and my plans to pursue a career in journalism and writing post graduation. We talked about how the average salary for a journalist compared to that of other, more lucrative careers, and I told him how that didn’t matter to me. Writing was it for me. I just knew that it was what I was supposed to do.
Then, my uncle said the most profound words. (Drum roll please. The ah-ha moment is acomin’.) He said, “You are one of the lucky ones. You know what it is you are passionate about, and now, you get to spend the rest of your life doing that.”
21-year-old me didn’t quite understand what he meant, but his words stuck. They were there when I moved to Minneapolis, a city where I barely knew anyone, at 22 years old to work at a travel magazine. They’d come back years later when I moved to California without a job lined up. His words would ring in my head when I got laid off from my editorial assistant position almost a year later. His words would echo in my head whenever a new person would ask, “So what do you do?”
Writing is something I have always just done, and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t want to live a life or pursue a career without passion. Money will come and go (like literally this happens. Just ask my bank account.) Yet, at the end of the day, I know I am truly blessed to get to do what I love.
Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Live a life of passion. Keep dreaming of the world you want to make.”
Living a life of passion propels me forward during uncertainty, struggles and loss. It helps me put one foot in front of the other even when I cannot see the full staircase. Knowing that I have a passion and using that gift for a purpose fuels me every day I wake up.
I have had to learn the hard way, no, I am in fact not what I do. I am not just a writer or a journalist. Writing is what I do, and I love it. Yet, it is not who I am. It is not my identity. Having this realization allows me to freely and passionately pursue a life of purpose using my gifts, writing being one of them, to make an impact on others.
As far as my uncle’s words, he gave me a new perspective on the importance of dreaming and living a life of passion. My uncle has worked at a job he hates for years. He explained to me how draining it was but how it paid well. He talked to me about how his focus when he was in his twenties was making an income and how if he could, he’d go back and discover his passion. He instead pursued the good old, practical American dream, making a dollar.
I’ve always been of the mindset that if I persistently pursue the things I am passionate about and that I am good at, the money will come. It may not be easy, but dollar signs can’t be my motivation. I think a successful life is just as much about having your head in the clouds as it is about keeping your feet on the ground. You can be a realist and an optimist. You can be a dreamer while being practical.
We shouldn’t allow practicality to overtake our dreams. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I think my younger self would be pleased to see adult me walking that dream out. I recently found an old journal of mine from high school. I wrote down a list of life goals and dreams. A handful of them made me laugh, but a lot of them I was proud to say I had accomplished or I was working to accomplish.
One dream I had completely forgotten about, and there it was in my own handwriting from almost 10 years ago: Travel to Italy. I am headed to Italy for a three-month teaching assistant job in less than a week! Apparently, going to Italy was something I have been dreaming about for a really long time. It was exhilarating to see myself accomplishing something I set out to do a long time ago.
What’s my point? I think in adulthood, we often get caught up in trying to make a living, buying the nice car, making a name for ourselves or just being practical that we forget to dream. We forget to live a life of passion. I never want to live like that. Even if they call be crazy, I want to be a dreamer. I want to be surrounded by other dreamers who are actively pursuing their passions despite the odds and the naysayers.
I hope your dreams keep you up at night. I hope they give your life color. Never stop passionately pursuing your purpose. Never settle for practical. After all, you’re never too old to dream again.