Unfurl

February 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

I jotted this down not too long ago in a well-loved notepad that I carry with me everywhere:

So what do I want?

–To eat

–To travel

–To write

–To be independent

–To give

These are my priorities. Although I didn’t rank them in any particular order, it should come as no surprise that eating, travel, and writing come first. These things make me extremely happy. They’re my biggest passions. But does that mean I should endeavor to turn one of these passions into a satisfying career, or better yet, fuse them into an unparalleled, utterly amazing hybrid?

The word “passion” itself doesn’t trouble me, but the contemporary rhetoric of “passion” does. We often hear of people who resolve to turn their passion–as if you only get one passion in your lifetime–into a career and succeed.  These are the people we presume to be the happiest and most fulfilled.

I admire anyone who loves what they do for a living. However, I don’t think managing to make a living from one’s passion (or passions) guarantees them happiness. I’ve started to wonder whether or not certain passions can translate into viable careers. When I arrived in Portland nearly two months ago, I was torn between two potential paths: writing or food. I leaned towards a career in the food industry at first. Then I found out how hard work in the local food scene is to come by. Not even individuals with culinary degrees can always land line-cook jobs. And I wasn’t sure if I could handle the demands of a professional kitchen. I began having flashbacks to my days as a phone- worker in a pizza restaurant during my senior year of high school, when I witnessed on several occasions how ugly it can get in a restaurant.

But why not food writing? For a magazine or a newspaper? While the demand for food writing is high, journalism, print and digital, is in a state of flux. Staff positions with these publications are few and far in between. The pay is usually meager, if there’s any pay at all.

Should one attempt to turn their passion into a career or just let their life unfurl? If you resign yourself to fate, it’s likely that you could miss out on opportunities to cultivate your passion. After all, you should never expect those opportunities to find you. But dedicating yourself solely to your passion might cause you to reject other possibilities.

I want interesting, challenging work. I don’t have to love it, but I want to at least be able tolerate it. And I want to do it well, whatever it is. I want work that offers me stability and the means to do what I love most. Perhaps my passions will evolve into something more.

I sound so naive, don’t I? You must want to ask me, incredulously, where to find this “dream job.” I hear from people all the time that once you start working 9-5, you don’t get any spare time. Work wears you down. Responsibilities and commitments pile up. I’m aware of this. I don’t have much 9-5 work experience to speak of, but just enough to know the serious toll the working world can take. I spent most of the summer of 2011 commuting from the suburbs to Chicago, working 8-hour days in a cramped office for free. I’d come home at the end of each day wanting nothing more than to eat dinner and watch bad television. I would try to forget that I had to get up early the following morning and do it all over again.

I’m not worried. Work doesn’t have to be a soul-sucking, existential crisis-inducing experience. I know my priorities. Food will be a part of my life because I want it to be, so will travel, writing, and, one day, charitable giving and volunteer work. I like to think of this move as another exercise in learning to relinquish control. If Europe marked the beginning of this lesson, then Portland is a continuation.

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