Sunday, September 16, 2012

Honor Our Passions

A few days ago, I finished reading a book that a good friend of mine (knowing my love of the "Self Help" aisle) bought me for my birthday: Women, Work, & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility by Mireille Guiliano.  

To me, the most memorable line in the book was as follows:
"Emily's story (and I know several women with similar detours and tales) demonstrates that our passions (such as architecture) can be honored in unexpected ways-- we need to be open to channeling them into good and rewarding opportunities."
Don't worry about the back story; what struck me was the message.  It's simple but profound: we can (and should!) honor our passions in unexpected ways.  What does this mean?  

If you have a passion for health, you do not have to become a doctor.  You may find that is the right path for you, but for others, maybe the right path means managing a hospital, researching new anti-cancer drugs, volunteering at a hospice, becoming a medical illustrator, or simply reading a health-related magazine.

Let me repeat:
We are allowed to honor our passions in non-traditional ways.

The message is liberating and encouraging.  It allows us to stop drawing a box around our passions, trying to segment our life in a particular manner and follow the "normal" path.  It enables us to identify our strengths and combine them in unique ways.  Most importantly, taking this message to heart helps us reach our potential and give to the community in the best way we can.  

Yet... I struggle in allowing myself to "honor my passions in unexpected ways."  I am pursuing a doctoral degree in bioengineering.  Why?  Because I want to teach in a university when I finish; however, I am not sure I want to do research.  The expected pathway is to graduate with a PhD, have a 2-year post-doc, pursue a faculty position, work towards tenure, and build a large research laboratory to become the next Nobel prize winner.  I just don't think that's me, but when I am surrounded by people who make that their goal, I second-guess and feel like I'm letting somebody down, striving towards the wrong goal, or not doing my (expected) doctoral degree justice.  

One time, I had dinner with a visiting faculty member from another university.  The faculty member asked what I want to do upon graduation, and I said teach.  He told me I'm in the wrong field.  His statement rattled me until now.  

I'm sure I am not alone.  What passions do you honor in unexpected ways?  How do you cope with the views of others?  How do you stay open to expanding the role of your passions in your life?   

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