Is finding your passion possible while managing the daily grind?
Have you ever felt torn between finding your passion and doing your job? Balancing self-expression, budget and evolving identity is quite a task but worth delving into. There’s a Javanese proverb that says, “When asked what makes a good dancer, the master replied: First, to be a good dancer, one must know the music as well as the dance. And what else? To be a better dancer, one must understand the stories and be able to interpret the characters being portrayed. Is there more? The best dancer is the one who has all those things I have told you about and is a farmer.”
What does “being a farmer” mean? It’s doing what needs to be done for your survival and the survival of your dependents. And what does “being a dancer” mean? It’s finding your passion and doing what makes you feel alive. It may not be typically thought of as creative. It could be chemistry, automotive maintenance or cupcake sales. Being a dancer means being you and expressing your unique voice.
“Being a dancer” is finding your passion and doing what makes you feel alive.
The Javanese proverb persuades us that pursuing both our creative and practical dreams is the ideal. Being both a dancer and a farmer requires finding your passion and incorporating it into your real, beautifully imperfect life.
Paris Wilcox is literally a dancer and a farmer. Formerly of the Kansas City Ballet, he’s taken over his 170-acre family farm in upstate New York and still teaches dance. In an interview on 4Dancers, he says, “The overarching parallel is that what we (as a dancer and a farmer) do matters most only to us. I’ve never met a farmer who ‘farms it’ for monetary reward, nor a dancer either.”
Author Martha Beck writes that we all have an inner animal that knows what we’re good at and what we need to do, that we tend to try to ignore it, but that we should be tracking it through the wilderness.
Let’s say you have two job offers. One is more lucrative, and one is more interesting. For a lot of us, questions of money are tied to debt, family responsibilities and other potential stressors. Will a job you’re not interested in work out in the long run? Or long enough for you to take classes in something you like better or for you to pay down your debt?
Maybe a hybrid experience will work for you. Maybe you’ll work at a recycling center and build aluminum robots or be a nurse who writes poems. You could be a bluegrass singer who’s a master at sculpting a meticulous lawn or an accountant who spends her free time designing new fonts.
Craig Breslow, pitcher for the Red Sox, is a great example of someone who has created a multifaceted life. In addition to being an athlete, he has a degree from Yale in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and also runs the Strike 3 Foundation, which supports pediatric cancer research.
Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
How about you? What are your multifaceted dreams? Are you seeking to be heard? To be known? To just be able to pay your bills and eat? To be liked? To be free? I’m asking myself these questions too. I think self-empowerment and listening to ourselves is key.
As Alice Walker writes in her poem “On Stripping Bark From Myself”:
No. I am finished with living
for what my mother believes
for what my brother and father defend
for what my lover elevates
for what my sister, blushing, denies or rushes
Are you struggling with the process of listening to yourself and finding your passion?
“You can start late, look different, be uncertain and still succeed.”
via Entre Puntas y Corcheas
Take it from Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre: “You can start late, look different, be uncertain and still succeed.”
A few sources I recommend to help you find your inspiration are the books In Touch, which discusses how to listen to yourself, and Wild Heart Dancing, about tapping into your creativity. You may remember on American Idol when Sarah Restuccio, who worked on a blueberry farm, went from singing Carrie Underwood to performing “Super Bass” (it’s at about 1:30 in the linked video) for Nicki Minaj.
Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
“Everybody told me my whole life I had to choose…. Who are you? Who are you? You are who you are, and you can be exactly that person.”
Nicki’s response struck me: “Everybody told me my whole life I had to choose…. Who are you? Who are you? You are who you are, and you can be exactly that person.”
You, too, are a unique individual. With your work, relationships, hobbies — all the things that you fill your boat of life with as you sail along, trying to keep balanced, trying to enjoy the trip — you are one of a kind.
Writer and teacher Corita Kent warns against seeking to become too much of a specialist and advises staying an amateur at heart. She reminds us that amateur is from the Latin amare for love. In Learning by Heart, she writes, “When we do a thing for love, we are free to fumble and make mistakes. The course of our work may not run smoothly, but we are open to possibilities, embracing everything we have contact with.”
If you try to stifle your true self, it will find some way to speak out, to act out.
In my own life, I have seen that if you ignore your heart, if you try to stifle your true self, it will find some way to speak out, to act out, much like a stream which will erode a new path somewhere when it is blocked. It’s up to you to make your daily choices about what you spend your time and energy doing and how you make a living. Don’t forget to listen to yourself, and if you find that your personal balance of dancing and farming is a bit unique, you’re probably on the right track.