We’ve been told that success in life means turning your deepest passions into lucrative jobs, businesses and side-hustles. We romanticize this idea that once you find that burning feeling about any particular thing that makes you learn and consume everything about it, you’ve found your key to success. Sounds great, isn’t it? Turns out, life isn’t always that easy.
I have a small list of topics and subjects that have been at one point the recipients of my undivided attention and imagination:
Growing up, I remember finding a book about stars and planets at home. I can’t quite put my finger on it as this was close to four decades ago but I was hooked instantly and it had a lasting impact on me. It would spark a profound interest in anything science related but specifically anything that had any remote connection to astronomy. This was the late 80s, probably very early 90s so the internet was out of the question and yet I was able to amass a considerable amount of information in my head that would put anyone to sleep if they let me.
Nowadays I still have a soft spot for science and astronomy related articles and information but the magic is lost. Every now and then I can catch a brief glimpse of that magic but I don’t have the imagination (or the time) of a 5-year old to consume all that information and get lost in it.
Once I was done with astronomy, I stumbled upon videogames by accident. Being the early 90s and growing up with a lot of financial limitations, it wasn’t like my parents one day decided to get me and my siblings an expensive videogame console and nurture an expensive hobby out of the blue. I happened to live next door to a family of American missionaries and this is how I got to know this interesting little machine that could put interactive pixels in your TV screen and you could manipulate what’s happening with these controllers in your hand. My little brain was in Nirvana after this.
My relationship with videogames would span the better part of the next 30 years of my life. My passion for videogames peaked around my mid to late 20s, when I had lots of free time during my college years and my first few years into my career. Little did I know that I would never had the freedom and lack of responsibilities once you start a family and adult life takes over.
My relationship with books started by chance. I used to think about books as vessels of information and a great source for topics that needed to be studied. One summer, digging through a chest of old stuff at home I came across a very old book called The Case of the Empty Tin by Earl Stanley Gardner. Up to that point I never knew books could also be a leisure activity and a great gateway for exploring stories and characters that don’t really exist in real life. That led me to discover one of my favorite genres: science-fiction. I ended up reading most of the classics such as the Robots and Foundation series by Asimov, or 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.
I’m not exactly sure at what point I stopped feeling fascination for books the way I used to. I remember reading and visualizing what the characters would look like, imagine the scenes in my mind as if I was witnessing what the books were saying. That magic, also lost.
As most teenagers do, I discovered my passion for music thanks to my older brother. I would spend entire afternoons listening to rock records while doing my homework and imprinting their lyrics onto my very easily impressionable mind. I would get goosebumps every five minutes as I remember music producing a very vivid and pleasurable effect on me. I was hungry for it and I wish I had access back then to something like Spotify like we do today.
Nowadays I use music as a sort of white noise barrier when I need to focus. I rarely (if ever) pay attention to lyrics and tend to favor ambient/chillout genres as they blend well with the productive state of mind I need to keep during my workday. Another source of magic lost. I’m starting to see a pattern here.
At the risk of sounding jaded, I want to add another one to the list of things I lost passion for, and that is most things sport related. During high school I played as a goalkeeper for my class soccer team, we ended up champions that year. I used to be very passionate about a couple of soccer teams and I would regularly watch the games and root for them, it was a ton of fun.
You guessed it, that magic lost as well. I avoid most things sports-related these days as they tend to be very heated arguments between different sides and at one point I decided I didn’t have the energy nor the desire to allow that kind of toxicity have a place in my life.
So, where did all the passion go?
Since turning 40, I’ve been asking myself all sorts of questions. I have a beautiful family, two dogs I can’t live without and a stable Software Engineering job that provides for everything I could ask for. Life is challenging and yet I’m comfortable. Living the dream, right?
Lately I find myself missing that passion that was so easy to come by at any other stage of my life. I can pick up a book or try to watch a game on TV and be completely bored and distracted in less than 5 minutes. I don’t feel passion for all these things that are supposed to give me joy and feel terribly frustrated as a result.
I know a lot of it has to do with just getting old, shifting priorities and the reality that adult life means having to focus on providing for your family. And yet, I feel like something else might be at play. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and we surrender our very limited time to meaningless endeavors and we still have the audacity to complain that nothing feels the same anymore.
All I know is that we, as individuals, need to always strive for those things that ignite that spark for knowledge, fulfillment, fun or even just amusement. I don’t know of any formula or checklist for finding it, but the day we give up and stop searching for staying mentally challenged and entertained, that’s the day we stop being ourselves.