Columnist discusses the obsession with passions and how passions are not special.

By Christopher Liu, ’20.

Passion. It is a word you see a lot in boring inspirational quotes. It is a word that scares you during college applications. It is a word that you are probably desensitized to and has lost all meaning the more you say it. Passion. To me, passion is what you call a socially acceptable obsession. If someone says that they are passionate about something, I believe that a reasonable response is straight face and an obligated nod of affirmation. If someone says that they are very passionate about something, I believe that a reasonable response is sarcastic hmmm or good for you. If someone says that they are very very passionate about something, I believe that a reasonable response is a confused stare while pondering if such an obsession is legal. Passions are said to be these magical special things that give meaning to life. And if passions are special, then I guess life is just meaningless for ordinary people.

In reality, passions are not special. These days, I feel there is a societal requirement to be passionate about something. Whenever a person is trying to sell themselves, they talk about their passions. A person is a at a job interview. What are you passionate about? A person is applying for college. What are you passionate about? A person is filling out a form for online dating. What are you passionate about? Whenever a person is trying to seem interesting or special, they talk about their passions. And if everyone has a passion, then I guess everyone is special. Which, by definition, means that no one is special.

Save the children. Save the planet. Save the world. What are you passionate about? Do you ever feel that society is going through a midlife crisis? Survival and predators are not pressing issues. The average person in modern society lives more comfortably than past kings. Most of the world’s problems are caused by human beings. And people are just so passionate about these problems. Clearly, we make problems to give our lives meaning. You ever wonder if the world would be a better place if people were less passionate?

So what is the point? While it is probably unwise to disobey our corporate overlords, we shouldn’t glorify passions as something magical or special. I believe that part of growing up is having your dreams fall apart. In other words, when you transition into being a full adult, nothing magical happens. You don’t just turn 18 and magically gain the ability to talk as if you know stuff. An important step in development is the sudden realization that the world is not perfect, that nothing meets your expectations and that most of your dreams are not going to work out. People who don’t realize this are called entitled sociopaths. Children have dreams. Adults have responsibilities. If you are bored, you have responsibility to challenge yourself to care about something. Passion is nothing but selfish self-gratification responding to the fact the world is crazy and life is hard. We don’t need more in the way people who are contemplating about passions.

Finding a passion can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to read countless articles and self-help books about finding your passion. The general advice is to try new things, figure out if something works and move on. No passion is your soulmate. Personally, anyone who believes in soulmates deserves to die sad and alone. Love is not just around the corner. You should not drift aimlessly in life. In my experience, I had multiple small, short-term obsessions in addition to multiple dreams and projects that fell apart. Passion is not this magical special thing.