Tag Archives: passion

Encourage Education and the Pursuit of Passion

graduation cap

When I read an article on Yahoo! Education, Don’t Let Your Kids Study These Majors, I tweeted the link and titled it, “Another Way to Discourage Kids from Following Their Passion.” My comment sparked a lively debate, which I decided to follow up with a letter to all our children, although I addressed it to my daughter.

Dear Daughter,

Soon you’ll be applying to colleges and selecting your major. You’ll receive a lot of advice from high school counselors, college advisers, teachers, friends, and experts. You may be so overwhelmed with what to do and what not to do that you may feel paralyzed to make any decision.

You’re not alone. A lot of teens feel the same way.

When I was getting ready to apply for college, everyone advised me to major in engineering or computers. At the time, these fields commanded top dollar for highly-educated, skilled workers. Although I enjoyed math, I had no desire to learn engineering or computers. I didn’t want to spend my life thinking in a linear way. I wanted to explore the outer edges of philosophy and psychology through literature and writing. But everyone kept saying we needed women engineers and computer scientists. I tried to find the enthusiasm for these subjects, but I couldn’t.

Luckily, I had enough courage to pursue my passion to write. I studied journalism, technical writing, and creative writing. I learned how to write clearly and concisely on demand under an unyielding deadline without sacrificing creativity.

People ridiculed me. My classmates said I would be unemployable. My college adviser suggested I apply to law school and become an attorney. My parents weren’t paying for my education, so they felt they had no voice. Only your dad was supportive. He said the goal of attending college is not to land a job. It is to become educated. By being educated, you show an employer you have ambition. You can set a goal and achieve it. You know how to learn. You are resourceful. You can plan for the future.

Your dad was right, of course.

By the time I graduated from college, the job market had changed. Engineering and computer science were no longer the most desirable fields of study. Business had taken precedence. A few of my college classmates applied to graduate school, hoping to chase the next wave of the job market. Others took jobs that were not related to their majors. Of course, a few remained unemployed.

Not me.

I found work immediately. My writing skills allowed me to enter the field of real estate as a marketing assistant, writing advertisements for listings and open houses. From there, I entered the world of finance and banking, both without a business degree. At the same time, I continued to follow my passion, publishing hundreds of articles and short stories and four books. I also painted dozens of landscapes that grace the walls of other people’s homes and offices. Not to mention my greeting cards.

So don’t worry about college. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you study. It matters that you learn and grow. And follow your dreams.

Passionate Though Penniless

Yesterday I enjoyed a quiet lunch with a man who confessed he was miserable. “I’ve never found my passion,” he said, “and I fear it’s too late.”

He wasn’t that much older than me. As a child, he dreamed of being G.I. Joe. But by the time he grew up, those boyhood dreams were forgotten. Now at middle age, he looked back at the terrain of his life and realized he had spent the past 30 years building great wealth at the expense of great passion.

How could someone feel empty and meaningless with an abundance of money, prestige, and good fortune?

My story was the polar opposite of his. As I child, I dreamed I’d live next door to Snoopy and raise my family while writing and illustrating books. When I was 19, I moved next door to Snoopy’s Ice Arena. I married and had two children. I’ve written several books and painted many canvases. But I never made enough money to quit my day job or replace my 15 year old car or remodel my fixer-upper house. I had plenty of passion, although I was penniless.

My problems, however, paled in comparison to the lonely man sitting across from me. I could find a way around the financial potholes, but the man before me could not summon the spirit of adventure he had lost since boyhood. Money can always be made, but passion cannot be manufactured. No matter how much I shared the adventures of living in the land of the passionate though penniless, the man before me could not enter the circle of believing. He just stood outside the edges, full of fear and longing of who he so desperately wanted to become.