In dedication to finding your passion, if you want, if you believe in the sort of thing… no pressure.
I run to catch the huge coach bus into the city. Still dark as the bus pulls up on the quiet street and lets off a gasp of air.
My breath freezes in my face as I wait to get on. I step out of the bitterly cold morning, over a snowbank, and luckily get a seat near the front.
I flick some Beethoven into my ears, push my laptop open, and sit in the dark seat.
Some days it comes easy. Some days my head is already in a post by the time I sit, and all I can do is type as quick as my fingers will let me.
Some days it’s slower. I stare out the window at the frozen river or watch as the glow of the parliament buildings come into view.
Ottawa is waking up.
Most of the bus is asleep. But I’m writing.
I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t on a search for my passion. I hadn’t been Googling about “finding your passion.”
And to be honest, I didn’t really know that I was that unhappy. I had a good job working for the government. I was working really hard on international diplomacy initiatives. A regular day included calls with foreign governments and NGOs.
Together with my team, I would meet with visitors who came to Ottawa or planned trips abroad. I wrote high-level policy documents that would be read by Canada’s Minister of Immigration, and even one document that was read by cabinet ministers from 10 other countries.
This was my reality when I started Roostervane. I wanted to tell people with advanced degrees that there were options out there. That was the problem I wanted to solve.
I wasn’t thinking much about purpose. It wasn’t about passion.
I was bringing home a paycheck and that was enough. And I actually I knew that the work I was doing for the government was meaningful:
Helping to create refugee spaces.
So, in my earliest blogs I told the stories about getting a job with a PhD. I told the stories about all the amazing people I was meeting who were working outside of academia: policy analysts, directors, managers, leaders.
All of them were leaders.
I was paying into a pension and following conventional advice about building wealth. I was networking every week, and even fielding some job offers in the policy space.
So why was it that all I could think about was writing my next blog? Why was it that, after a meeting with the UN, I obsessed about what I wanted to blog about that night.
I’d put the kids to bed and write.
I’d wake up in the morning and write.
I’d set my alarm earlier to give me even more time to write, and I would wake up 15 minutes before it went off.
I realized during this time that the vision for Roostervane had to be more than just getting jobs. Because leaving academia had given me a crisis of purpose, not just a job crisis. I became fascinated with purpose.
I’ve written posts about finding passion and finding purpose. These are sort of buzzwords that are not universally defined but are universally understood.
And I do think that finding these things, if you’re the type of personal who believes in them, is a process you can speed up and be intentional about.
But does everybody need to find their passion? Or do some people just want a job to pay the bills and should pursue their passion after hours?
The answer is complicated.
I think some people love the stability of a day job, but also love to be able to leave it behind and go home and pursue things on the weekends.
I think others are okay with instability if it means the ability to chase something that feels really meaningful for them and try to make a living off it.
Neither one is right or wrong.
In fact, the problem comes when somebody who wants to be in one camp gets stuck in the wrong place.
When you are burning yourself out chasing something called a passion, maybe you just need a break to work at a day job for a while.
When you are going dead inside at a day job and desperately want something to make you come alive, maybe you need to start exploring other possibilities.
To be either one of these people is its own form of misery.
I also think that finding your passion has something to do with timing.
I worked a couple years in public policy before discovering blogging, but I wouldn’t have had half the knowledge about PhD careers had I not done that work. My day job ironically prepared me for what I do with Roostervane, as well as my consulting work.
By the way, I had young kids at home and didn’t sleep through a single night during the two years I worked in day jobs after my PhD. And sleep deprivation isn’t really conducive to finding your passion either.
Some of you are parents trying to find your passion. I see you. The struggle is real.
I was surviving.
Blogging taught me that finding your passion is not a simple or linear path. It taught me that sometimes you just wake up and realize that there’s something that you think about doing all day everyday. And then you’re bold enough to ask yourself whether you could do it for a living.
Blogging taught me that caring about what other people think can hold you back from following your passion.
I mean really. I was a policy analyst with a bunch of respected connections in Ottawa, and I was terrified to tell people that I was a blogger.
Blogging has taught me that finding your passion might come when you aren’t looking for it. Sometimes, it takes being patient for something to dawn on you. This is especially true if you’re in a time of transition. If you thought the world was going to be one way, and it came crashing down, and you know now for sure that it won’t be what you thought it was.
Maybe you just need some time.
Be kind to yourself.
Finding your passion won’t happen overnight, but if you’re one of those people determined to find one, you will. Because at the end of the day, I don’t personally believe that passion is something that comes down from the sky as a divine mission. It’s just something that you decide that you really, really like to do, and you want to do more of it, and for some people you want to get paid to do it and nothing else.
There might be a million reasons why something becomes your passion.
- You love learning about it.
- It helps people.
- It uses a skill that you have.
- You get in the zone when you do it.
For me blogging checks all of these boxes.
I think I’ve learned that sometimes, in order to find your passion, you need to stop looking for a while.
If you are the type of person determined to find one, you will.
Don’t stress about it so much.
My 5:30 a.m. writing routine still happens. But I don’t ride the bus anymore. I sit in a cozy office with a cup of coffee working from home.
I said goodbye to the bus a few months before the pandemic hit, ironically forcing most of my old office to work from home anyway.
Somebody said to me, “isn’t it too bad that you quit your job when you would have been working from home anyways?”
Yes, I hated commuting that much.
And it was a major factor in my transition to consulting, away from a full-time office job.
But I’ve never regretted leaving. I’ve never regretted finding something I love, and even if I were to get paid less money in the long run, I’ve come alive.
And I ain’t going back.