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It’s Okay to Not Have a Passion

“What are you passionate about?” It’s a question that has been asked all too often at college and one that I hate. I don’t have a passion. I have interests, sure. Hobbies? Maybe not; it’s not like I have a stamp collection or any extraordinary fascinations. I have a few favorite sports teams, follow a handful of comedians on Twitter, and sometimes read articles that pertain to my academic areas of interest. But none of these are all-consuming, enduring, I’m-an-expert-on-xyz-subject-matter passions.

Let me be clear. There’s nothing wrong with having a passion; some people find what they love early and take that to the end. Sometimes I wish I had a passion; because then I would know what I was destined to do and in what direction to go. It becomes problematic when you are constantly told that in order to be happy with your career, you need to work in an area you are passionate about. Or when you’re told to find your passion to find your career. It’s put a lot of pressure on me to hurry up and find my calling to pursue it wholeheartedly. But the truth is: my interests are constantly changing.

As college students, we are extremely malleable. And that’s a good thing – we open ourselves up to receive advice and the tools we need to shape ourselves into being the people we want to become. But if we’re too malleable, we are susceptible to blowing in whichever way the wind takes us. This can have consequences: wasting time on things that don’t work out, being unable to decide which direction to go in, and irreparably going down the wrong path. Some people would disagree saying that there is no wrong path or that something that feels like a mistake can actually be beneficial in the long-term. I welcome this positive outlook (I’m pretty optimistic myself), but it doesn’t ease the pressure that I feel now to figure out how I should apply myself to a career. I can analyze a research paper about mineral wealth and civil conflict on a Monday, listen to a podcast about the problems of ocean acidification on a Tuesday, read an article about data privacy policy on a Wednesday, and want to do it all. How can I make a career (or even an internship) decision when I’ve been told I must determine my passion first?

I’m passionate about whatever is in front of me. I’m passionate about getting stuff done – whether it be a research paper or a long list of chores. I’m passionate about making other people feel good. I’m passionate about feeling good myself. These “passions” cannot be fulfilled by one and only one career or discipline. Why should I be contained to only one area? Why shouldn’t I have the freedom to wear several different hats? Why is it wrong to have just a mild interest in a variety of different fields?

For those of you who do feel this way – I wish I could put your minds at easy with a quote or word of advice. The truth is I’m in search of that myself. But I can share with you that it’s okay to not have a passion. At the very least, you’re not the only one who feels overwhelmed that despite having the potential to succeed in anything you do, you simply don’t know where to start.

So please – don’t ask me what I’m passionate about. Ask me instead about the last TED Talk I watched. Unironically, here’s mine.