As a word enthusiast, I am also an advocate of the dictionary. I love to challenge myself while writing by using words that I am not quite comfortable with, forcing myself to consult Google or an old pocket thesaurus for confirmation in meaning. Tonight, while staring at a blank Word document, I switch screens to pull up a web search engine, type in an expression that’s been haunting me lately, a word that has been caught lurking in the shadows of my routine day-to-day.
What is passion? Who has passion? Why is the word used so often, and why do people seem to possess so little of it?
There is a story behind my angst tonight.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, there were paragraphs of writing prompts, pumped from the imagination and pressed neatly onto two-inch wide lined paper. In middle school, I received my first Nicholas Sparks book and professed for the first time, my adult occupation. Gone were the days of wanting to be a princess when I grew up, or a singer or an actress. I wanted to be a writer and mimic my newfound role model. I wanted to evoke emotions, I wanted to make others believe in real-life fairy tales. I wanted to take readers on a wild ride and leave them breathless, yearning for another hardcover in their hands.
As I got older, my hobby transformed into an obsession- Writing became a therapy beyond creative release. It was a way for me to peddle through teenage situations, sort through emotions and reactions to the world around me. I remember writing poems every day, jotting down things that my peers weren’t really thinking about. After my first break-up, I wrote a poem about needing a shot of Novocain to desensitize myself from heartache. In high school, I dug deep into my past and submitted a memoir titled, “The Not So Perfect Diary of Little Miss Perfect” for my Creative Writing class. I discovered myself through my work, took pride in it. Each poem was edited to perfection, critiqued to a near fault. I was my own worst critic, but when passages were completed, I’d place them in a clear plastic sleeve and store them in a 3-ring binder for safe keeping. I read the stories and poems when I needed them: Some were light, some were sinister, while others were risqué, inspiring, hopeful. A few trusted friends were allowed to sift through my self-published collection, but I hated the feeling of being judged by my work. I craved a way for people to read my entries from a distance, and once I learned about online blogs and accessibility via my high school library computers, I got to work on creating my first Xanga journal. For the first time, I was able to post my work to a public domain: People could read, react, and respond to my entries from the comfort of their own computer… I was connecting with peers and strangers through my written voice.
Although I suffered the occasional bout of writer’s block, I continued to write in online journals until just last year. My college triumphs and tribulations, my first real relationships, my worldly travels were all documented in a quiet corner of the internet. And I loved the tool: I had established a following, had received many emails, messages, and feedback posts praising my work and noting my relatability- The connections only fueled my fire to continue on. When love was not going my way, I wrung out my bleeding heart on my web page. I would then receive private notifications about similar situations, notes that described how my words provided strength, hope, the courage to stay or the will to move on.
There were some instances, though, when the lines of confidentiality became blurred- I found myself dancing on fire when words held too much weight. There were times that I let the wrong people too close to my sensitive center, there were other times when my writing pushed people I loved away. Everyone had access to my innermost thoughts: The problem was, some people misused my information and others didn’t want me sharing so much.
So in 2014 when I met my fiancé, then boyfriend, I decided to take a more introverted approach to my writing exercises. After 6 years of my name being typed daily from a search bar, I removed myself and my new life from public viewing. It was an easy decision at the time: I was at a crossroad on my personal journey. I was trading my nonprofit career in New York City for a meeting planning job in Washington DC. I was swapping single life for a promise of a happily ever after. I was moving into a beautiful home in Northern Virginia complete with dogs, a backyard, and more bedrooms than shoes could fill.
In short, I was ready to give my new role as girlfriend, homeowner, meeting planner, etc. a fair chance without the spotlight.
I had no idea, however, that my fresh start was going to be so difficult without the daily check-in with my online journal. I carried a notebook with me on my travels, I got into the habit of writing weekly “feel goods” to ensure that I was always pressing a pen to paper… but it just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t carving time out to sit in front of a computer. I was not receiving feedback or critiques on my collections. The discipline was gone, and as my life became busier, the will to write became just that- A desire. There was nothing pushing me to engage in my passion.
The Urban Dictionary describes it as “putting more energy than required into something. Passion transcends enthusiasm or excitement, but is ambition, materialized into action. Passion is putting as much heart, mind, body and soul into something as possible.”
I will now pose this question: When was the last time you pursued your passion?
Nothing pleases me more than watching my fiancé play guitar. When we first started talking, we lived 292 miles apart and he used to send me videos of him playing songs on the living room floor, dogs walking around unaware or sitting beside him decapitating their newest toy. The songs became our playlist, a set that will now be showcased at our wedding next year. My fiancé’s passion kindled a core component our relationship, and it broke my heart once I moved in and his guitars began to collect dust. The music room became an office, then a storage room, now a dining room. Last week we decided to reposition his 5- instrument collection back in the living room and my fiancé was all smiles. I watched him pick up his 6 string, strum his fingers down the base and look back up at me. “It finally feels like this space has ‘me’ in it.”
I understood. And that night while I was talking to my best friend I asked her, “Hey, when was the last time you played the piano?”
“Ugh,” she replied. “It’s been a really long time.”
My inquiries continued to others, “When was the last time?” All answers were the same.
I hated the responses. But once again, I understood.
My journey over the last year and a half would’ve made for the most incredible documentary, even for merely personal purposes. My fiancé and I learned how to love each other, we learned how to live with someone for the first time. We learned how to cook, we took trips abroad, we got engaged…
And I encountered personal lessons during that time. My first job upon moving down to Virginia was not a good fit for me. I drove over an hour into work each day, sat at my desk through lunch, stressed about my workload until 4:30PM, drove an hour- plus home while stewing in my anxiety, lasted long enough to engage in simple conversation at the dinner table and then plopped in front of the TV to unwind before bed. That was my day to day- I stopped going to the gym because I wanted to spend what little time I had with my fiancé, (which led to even more sluggishness and weight gain) I didn’t have time to cultivate friendships, didn’t have the energy to write or read or dabble in the kitchen… It got to the point of panic attacks, a mild case of depression, 10 pounds gained, and conversations that ended with, “You moved down here to be with me and I rarely ever see you smile.” Still, for an entire year I let my free time- my passions- slip away while I buried myself deeper into a miserable mess.
I had a breakthrough, though, when I looked around me and saw that everyone was also moving in the same mechanical manner. It shocked me, how jaded I had become. My fiancé fell in love with an active girl, up for anything. I was someone who talked to myself in solo carrides, walked through creative ideas in my head. I danced to the sound of any beat. I collected seashells and lit candles and took bubble baths. I stayed out late and engaged in interesting conversations and traveled the world to feast my eyes on all its wonders. I devoured books and indulged my taste buds. All of that seemed to fade in a short period of time.
I made it through a two- year adventure of working in hard, cold New York City and only reveling in the positives. I wasn’t going to let my new incredible life with my perfect, indescribable love crumble to pieces just because I lost control of my day-to-day. I vowed to rise above it all, make a lifestyle change toward a happier self. I promised to pull from my passions, make time for the things that mattered. I quit my job after a very selective search on new ventures. I got a Fitbit and started tracking my fitness goals. I researched fun things to do in Virginia, yummy recipes to try… I made more of an effort to touch base with old friends and make new ones. In ditching my old routines, I found time for simple pleasures… until suddenly there was no longer any excuse for my writing hiatus.
Two years ago I tattooed quotes on my wrists, a symbol to express my need to live life out loud. In my recent struggles, my quest of losing and finding myself, I learned to dig deep and be ultra-aware of the world around me at the same time. Life is a combination of your introspective self, intermingled with your interactions with your surroundings. Each thought you have, each activity you do forms a sentence in your life story: It’s your job to add punctuation to the end of each line. It’s your job to ask questions, take stands, perform with a sense of purpose.
I am an optimist by nature, have thousands of exclamation points in my back pocket. I believe that it is never too late to take the “happy” road, and wish to inspire others to do the same. Whether it’s a simple share of an uplifting Facebook post or a new activity discovered or an easy ritual that evokes a sense of fulfillment, I seek to spread the joy that I feel. My old blog boasted its highest views and ratings when I wrote about my carride adventures, walks in solitude, traditions beyond the holidays. For years I have encouraged others, although indirectly, to add more meaning to their routine- Put a definition to who they were or wanted to become.
And so it begins.
Tonight I sit among the shadows in my room, upright in bed with a pillow perched between the headboard and my spine, waist deep in blankets. Candlelight flickers around me as Pandora plays Explosions in the Sky’s “So Long, Lonesome” in the background. Therapeutic aromas swirl around little smokestacks that sway in time to the melody.
I am alone.
I secure my laptop on my legs, switch the font to Cambria… Take a deep breath.
I can’t tell if the source is the ceiling fan but the hairs on my neck stand up, goosebumps emerge on my limbs. I immediately feel a wave of nostalgia, like I’ve just stepped foot on old stomping grounds, am now walking around a space that feels like I never left. Writing… this feeling… this sense of comfort and calm… it’s the strangest thing to describe.
When was the last time you did something that made the hair on the back of your neck rise?