How do you identify your “passion”?

It’s no secret that I was, for a long time, feeling very lost in life. Unlike many people I know, I didn’t have an obvious passion or hobby, or something that’s enthralled me since childhood. This became a particularly huge source of distress during depressive episodes. If no one checked on me, I’d be confined to my bed for more than half the day, tormented by thoughts about being “useless”, “pathetic”, and “less than human” for not being driven.

Many people and many articles (like these) lead us to believe that our passion ought to be something in which we can lose ourselves, or something that allows us to forget everything else. And the appeal of distraction is particularly pertinent for those of us who are suffering. What helps me forget about my crippling insecurities? What helps me forget about all the craziness and pain in the world?

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But I don’t want that. And I don’t think anyone should. I am seeking something that, contrary to helping me forget the world, would help me understand my place in this world. Not something that blinds me to the suffering in this world, but something that allows me to understand suffering and play a part in healing it.

It becomes apparent that this becomes so much more than a search for a hobby. We are on a quest for Truth.

I don’t want to be protected from the anxiety of mortal existence, I want to understand and overcome it. I absolutely hate being told not to question things too much, not to think too much. Most people who say that are entirely well-meaning. They are worried that these thoughts would lead me down an abyss of hopelessness. But they’re assuming that these questions would lead me to a dark and terrifying place — perhaps the realization that everything is ultimately futile and meaningless.

But I believe that Truth is found where God is — and because the God I know is good, in Him I will find truths that are good and beautiful. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been grasping more and more of this in my journey of faith.

In some ways, I’m thankful for my depression. While it’s no fun being tormented by negative thoughts and emotions 24/7, being depressed forces me to beg for answers to questions that really matter. Why am I suffering? Why is there suffering? Is life even worth living? Why am I alive? What does this all mean? As J. David Franks puts it poetically (in the foreword to The Catholic Guide to Depression by Aaron Kheriaty and Fr. John Cihak): “…some are dragged entirely into the vortex of the world’s pain. To be depressed is to be a wound open to the stinging air of reality…The depressed stand on the marches of the world, where the waters of chaos threaten to overwhelm the bright little circle of life we enjoy.”

Unable to run away from pain, I had to (and am continuing to) seek to understand its meaning and purpose. And you don’t have to be depressed to seek as well.

Related post: Who do you live for?

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32 thoughts on “How do you identify your “passion”?”

  1. Thank you for that sharing Karen.

    I too, believe that over-thinking something is way better than apathetically not choosing to think whatsoever about it.

    I come from a Christian worldview, and find it encouraging to be reading the book of Proverbs – 31 chapters in 31 days, with each day corresponding to the chapter matching the date.

    Proverbs chapter 2 tells us

    indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
    and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
    then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
    For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

    We have to search for it, look for it, and then we will understand God’s will for us. And it’s about persistently asking, seeking and knocking, believing that God will answer us.

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    1. I agree, reading Proverbs daily is such a valuable habit. I have done it for months and years at a stretch, on and off, and it’s amazing how often an apt proverb comes to mind when one’s facing a choice or situation.

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  2. Excerpt From A Past Article I Wrote:

    We must encourage each other to continue in their activism for a better world and hope that they are there to encourage us when we are in need of such encouragement. For every time anyone of us quits trying that makes creating positive change in the world that much more difficult and that much more unlikely. It also makes it more likely others will become discouraged and quit as well. Saddest of all it makes those who need our voice and help the most left without us to speak for them and to help them.

    Each one of us has an unique background, skills, knowledge, interest, understanding, personality, heart, and mind that allows us to reach and help different people. We often fail to realize how much of a positive impact we actually have on people and the world as a whole. Sometimes it is the smallest and seemingly most insignificant things we have said and did that ended up having a positive impact in someone else’s life. The reverse is also true so we better choose our words and actions carefully in order not to have a negative effect on people.

    The truth is there is no one else in the world who can help bring about positive change in the world exactly like you. There is people who you can reach that others can not. You have a perspective that is uniquely yours that no one else has that is exactly the same. In other words there is not someone else who can fully take your place, fully affect change the way you can, and fully help people the way you are able to. Individuals matter and your unique individuality is irreplaceable. You in spite what the cynics say, are uniquely qualified to bring about positive change in the world and to people’s lives. Your voice is yours and never let anyone take that away from you or make you feel that you do not matter. You matter and you deserve to be heard. Find your voice and place, follow your dreams, and share your heart, spirit, and mind with the world.

    I have suffered with chronic and severe depression since I was a teenager. I have tried therapy and medication and while it helped it was not a cure. The thing that has helped the most is getting involved in helping others. Nothing has been more inspiring, nothing has helped heal the wounds in my heart, mind, and spirit so much, nothing has given me a sense of purpose like helping others has. Reaching out to others suffering has helped reduce their suffering and mine at the same time. It has helped fill that lonely and empty space that seemed impossible to fill. It has allowed me to have a more fulfilled life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Alan,

      Yes, I have experienced the same healing power of pouring oneself out to others! I actually just wrote about this very concept in my most recent post. Thank you for sharing this with me! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Karen, One thing the Apostle Paul might have said on this subject is that it isn’t a matter of how much you think. It is what you think about that matters.

    Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9

    Don’t think of this passage as a magic bullet. Thank of it as a wonderful step down a right path.

    Lois

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  4. The best thing to remember is that as a believer in Jesus we have our home in heaven. This is not our home. So reach out to the ones who don’t know that and help the ones who cannot help themselves. We’ve got a journey to make in order to get to our new homes. Good thing the Holy Spirit travels with us so that we’re never alone on the trip.

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  5. Bravo on your search for Truth!
    Do be prepared for much questioning and doubt, which is GREAT!! For at the end once you have found it, you shall be filled with unshakable conviction!!

    And congratulations on your journey towards the vocation of teaching and molding youth…very honourable.

    Thank you for letting me find you!

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  6. Hello my friend,
    I appreciate your like on my Throw Back Thursday post, one of the few passions I have. We have much in common, I look forward to following you and getting to know you. Maybe we can help each other on this crazy journey. I look forward to talking soon. Sending sunshine your way.
    M/Warrior 🙂

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  7. Thanks for sharing part of your story. It’s a hard time not understand what you are built to do. I went through that myself and still am on that journey. I know I have been given a heart for the creative community but God is still leading me into a specific area which I am insure of. I can’t wait to see where the Truth leads as I seek it. Keep on seeking too!

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  8. Thanks for sharing, great post! I too struggle with where I fit in a world that doesn’t seem to suit me, but as you say, although you don’t wish depression on anyone it is making you stop and think the big questions that others won’t even dare to ask.
    Well done for seeking the truth, well done for questioning in rough waters, well done for keeping going.

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  9. I too deal with bouts of depression. It has been a long and worrisome journey. I keep my face in God’s love for me, that is the only cure for me. His love for me. Thanks for sharing and being transparent. You’re an excellent writer.

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  10. I fight with God… or fight God (not sure) at every moment of my life. Angry, angry, angry. However, I identify very much with wanting to explore, I guess, the things you talk about as my “hobbies”…. I don’t know. I was very into this post. I think you may have opened sometime up inside of me that hasn’t been opened before… not a in a creepy way…. thank you.

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    1. Dear Jami,

      It makes me so happy to know that this post somehow “unlocked” something for you. I’m sorry you feel angry at God. I don’t know what you’re going through exactly, but I do remember how draining it felt to be angry at God all the time. I was angry about my lot in life, angry that I couldn’t kill myself because it would be a grave sin, angry that this life was “thrusted” at me, angry that He didn’t make me different… I still struggle with such feelings occasionally, but overall I have been able to find peace in asking for the virtue of humility — to accept the blessings I do have, to not compare myself to others, to be content with God’s love and plan to use me in spite of my weaknesses. I hope you will strive to find this peace as well. Please feel free to email me if you would like to talk more!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have been just like you a lot throughout my life and I’ve had so many times when I’ve felt I had no point at all in life but I strongly believe that at some point everything will make sense and you will find your way in life. Good luck in whatever you decide too do x

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  12. Have you thought about the fact that it might not be a chronic, physical situation/chemical imbalance that causes your depression?
    I had depression for years and was always told (and telling others) that it ran in my family. It’s true that some may have issues with chemical imbalances, but there are other things out there that also cause such situations in our lives, especially when we are earnestly trying to seek Christ and do the Will that was set before us, before time.

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    1. Dear unicorncoat,

      Thank you for your message! I believe it’s rarely just one or the other. In my case, I am physiologically predisposed to depression, and have also experienced some unpleasant (and some arguably traumatic) stuff that would have easily triggered those depressive episodes. Are you perhaps also hinting at spiritual warfare? I definitely believe in spiritual realities. I do think the enemy would prey on us and take advantage of these illnesses to hinder us from drawing near to God.

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      1. Yes, that was what I was beating around the bush towards. There are a large amount of ways that they will attack or “feed” off of us (or anyone), especially in regards to depression and particular episodes.
        I’d honestly and earnestly seek God’s council on that matter and see if they have anything to do with your episodes from time to time. You may be surprised at what kind of answer you get, but you may not. Just a suggestion. I’ve had a small amount of time with such experiences (meaning months, and not that I’d want to repeat it) with such things and they can be very unpleasant.
        Granted once you know what some of the cause and effects can be it’s a completely different ball game.
        Will be praying for you through your journey and I hope you find what you are looking for soon. Always here to lend an ear.

        -L

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  13. Thank you for putting down on paper what I’ve felt for a long time. My latest conclusion is maybe my calling is to be questioning, to open others’ minds to new possibilities by understanding everything on a deeper level? Perhaps we’re philosophers without benefactors. Much luck to you in your pursuits!

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  14. Well, having gone into a career that I certainly felt was my passion, and that I thought was a calling and vocation? I can say that when depression hits, none of those things matter. I still couldn’t care about what I was doing and nothing seemed to help.. And I still feel a little bit like that even though I’m not under the darkest part of the cloud right now.

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    1. Dear Marian,

      I agree that when depressed, it becomes impossible to enjoy/care about the things you used to love. After all, that’s one of the defining symptoms of depression. I would be deluding myself if I were to think that finding my “passion” would make me immune to the effects of depression. This is why I feel we should be looking not for a passion/hobby, but a Truth (a worldview, if you will) that would buoy us through through periods of suffering. It would still hurt, but it would all make sense and be worth the pain. I’m beginning to find this in the Catholic Church, and I wish you all the best on your journey as well.

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  15. Thanks for sharing. I can relate as I went through a period of depression during my college days. Although it was a very difficult time, God used that time to reveal more of Himself to me. And through the suffering I have grown to know Him in a more personal and real way. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Blessings on your journey. I believe God has something precious for you through all of this, just hang on and seek Him. He will show you in His time. (You may read my story here if you’d like: http://kdmanestreet.com/about/my-lifeboat/.)

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  16. This is amazing.

    I cannot comprehend how amazing it was to read your post just now for I too have felt something frustrating and have blogged about it, minutes ago in fact. You see, for me a passion is something to lose yourself in, a hobby, an interest but not in the sense that I’m running away from something but rather to find something.

    To ask questions, to wonder why, and not be restricted, to be completely free. And you’re right. God is good, all the time and I thank you so much for this post that has caused a flow of happy energy into the system of a young and passionate beginner. Thank you!

    (And please do check out my post (look for bubbles) I would love to hear your opinion on it)

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  17. I agree completely with your definition of ‘passion’. I think people seek distraction because they believe that there are no positive answers to those question we’re told to ignore.

    It’s definitely tough to have to stare down those questions time and time again, but I think the inability to ignore them leads us to live fuller lives in the light of reality: God and His promises for us.

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  18. Hey there you! God bless you for staying strong.
    I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book, or are even into C.S. Lewis, But I suggest to all my friends to read his title, “The Problem with Pain.” Just as he does with “Mere Christianity,” Lewis takes you to a whole new level of understanding. It’s an excellent read!

    Have a blessed week!

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  19. Karen, I just discovered your blog and I love it already! We have a lot in common–aspiring teachers, faith, and depression. Thanks so much for writing this post!

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  20. Hi Karen, aku dari Indonesia. Karen masih mengerti bahasa Indonesia kan? atau aku harus nulis dalam bhs inggris? sungguh merupakan hal yang luar biasa bisa menemukan blog ini, karena ada temanku yang memiliki kecenderungan untuk depresi. artikel anda sungguh banyak membantu aku untuk mengerti keadaannya. Thanks a lot.

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