Stephanie Sparer
February 28, 2012 3:00 am

My friend Tiffany (real name) and I were at a bar talking, when she mentioned that thing all young people say around age 25 when they realize their life is lacking a certain je ne sais quoi and they’ve finally reached the Never Settle setting in their brains, “I want to move [to Austin] [and/or New York] [and/or San Francisco].”

A twinge of understanding came from somewhere deep in my esophagus, a gut instinct of God yes, me, too. Except I just got a great job at an ad agency in my hometown of Phoenix with people I really like and well, frankly, it’s really nice not to worry about how I’m going to pay for my car every month for the first time. Ever.

Despite this, the conversation got me thinking about Life and all the things the encompass it- as is my wont, since as of late I find all my conversations have existed only between Socrates quotes and existential tangents. This Kierkegaard-y phase I’m going through is really obnoxious and I nauseate myself, and probably others, while being (maybe not so) surreptitiously in love with my own pretentiousness. However, Tiffany’s remarks about wanting to be fulfilled in every aspect of her life really forced me to be more introspective (as if I needed an excuse to be any more painfully self-aware).

It also reminded me of another chat I had with a friend recently who was talking to me about her parents being in town.

“They do they same thing every day when they’re here,” she sighs, fiddling with her hair. “So I finally asked them why and they said, ‘We’ve been working for the past forty years for forty hours a week. We don’t know what to do with our free time because we’ve forgotten what we like.’” The two of us sit in silence for a second.

“Whoa,” I finally speak, slightly horrified, if only because it made me worry about my own future now that I too, work forty hours a week.
“Yeah,” my friend agrees.

So, lately I’ve been asking people what their passion is. This is part of my litmus test for being my friend: Know Your Passion. Or at least be on the lookout for it. A few days ago, Charles (fake name) – a friend I’ve known for ages – and I were eating lunch, and just as we were about to leave, I shared the story my coworker told me about her parents. “What are you most excited about?” I asked as we stood up from the table. “Like, what’s your passion?”

Charles stared at me like he only just found out that Snape kills Dumbledore. Then he sat down in his chair again.

“Oh, wow,” he sighs. “I don’t know.” He thinks for a moment before piping up, “Well, we know yours at least.”
“Well, yeah,” I say, thinking he means writing.
“Twitter, obviously,” he rolls his eyes, half joking before adding something about why do you tweet seventeen hundred times a day? before coming back around to the topic at hand.

“Man,” he nods to a beat in his own head, which looked like it could have been a Belle and Sebastian song. “I don’t know. I don’t know at all. Music?” he guesses. “Is that maybe everyone’s though? I like writing a lot, but not as much as you. Computers? Maybe? I like making websites.”

I say I don’t know, I can’t give him the answer and he starts to look concerned. He scrunches his face up and runs his fingers through his hair, a nervous habit of his.

He continues, “Maybe, now that I have a job I stopped asking myself what my Thing is?” He breathes heavily, as if I gave him a heavy load to carry. “And I don’t really have to think at my job,” he genuinely looks sad that he codes websites so easily that it’s second nature and I feel like I broke some kind of glass wall he never knew he was stuck behind. “Well, I know what I’m going to be thinking about all weekend,” he tries to give a fake laugh, but his face reads solemn, bleak and he chews ice thoughtfully before he starts talking again, opening up to me about where he thought he would be in life in comparison to where he actually is. He tells me about his childhood. He tells me he wants to move to Austin.

“I feel like I’m having a therapy session,” he says. “But you really got me to think again. I guess I forgot what I liked. Or, I guess I don’t know and I have to go find it.”

I think not knowing is common. People really lose track of what they like when Real Life things get in the way, or they simply never knew to begin with, but if that’s the case, I can’t really imagine what life is like if you aren’t at least always seeking that could-be passion out. While I dabble in many arts and hobbies (card making, anyone?), my one true Thing is writing. It always has been, and unless I become an expert guitar player overnight (I have no patience to learn), it always will be. I love writing in the kind of way that Ice loves Coco; for reals without inhibition and enough that I’d be willing to go on reality TV to declare it. I guess I’m just one of the lucky ones.

So naturally, this, dear readers, is where I ask you to tell me what your passion is. And if you don’t know- that’s okay! You don’t need to know, but you should at least always be moving forward towards finding something new to love that makes life fun and exciting. Take risks to find out what works for you. Don’t get stuck in complacency. You’ll lose yourself and that’s no fun. You know how it sucks to lose your car keys? Imagine if you lose your entire personality. That’s something you probably won’t find again wedged between the couch cushions.

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