As early as kindergarten, we find ourselves getting pestered with the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Unless you are one of the very few people who actually became a veterinarian, odds are, your answers have changed every year.
If the elementary school version me was correct, I would have been an astronaut, a professional athlete, an actress, an artist and a princess by now. (Spoiler alert: I'm not, I'm in advertising.)
"Don't worry," they told me. "As you get older, what you want to do will become crystal clear."
As I got older, my list of things I didn't like and didn't want to do just got longer. My parents continued to harass me: "There must be something you care about." But even after years of soul searching, my reply was always "no."
Was there something wrong with me? Why don't I genuinely enjoy doing almost anything? Is this normal?
Although I still haven't yet found my passion, I've learned it's okay. Here's how I intend to get a little closer:
1. Do things you like, even if you don't "love" them.
Ever since I took advanced photography in high school, I developed a liking for it. When that class came to an end, that was the end of my photography career.
I occasionally used my iPhone to take pictures of pretty flowers, but Instagram didn't compare to the satisfaction I felt when I was in Photoshop, editing high-definition photos. Yet, it still took me five years to decide to invest in a real, DSLR camera.
I was on the fence for what seemed like an eternity, debating whether or not the expensive purchase was worth it, especially since I knew I wasn't going to use it daily, or maybe even monthly. However, I realized I wouldn't have kept considering it if I didn't subconsciously really, really want one.
So I took the plunge.
Although it didn't completely change my life, I was definitely satisfied with my decision. Now, when I'm bored or at a special event, I can whip out my camera and impress everyone there, including myself.
I'm not saying I'm an expert, or I found what I was missing my entire life, but it's nice having a hobby, especially considering I almost dismissed the possibility of it all together.
2. If you don’t know what you like, start with what you don't like.
Ever since I had to memorize all the different bones in the human body, I knew I would be crossing all science-related professions off my potential career list.
For me, it has always been a lot easier to determine what I didn't want to do, because that list was so much larger than the alternative. So when I had to pick a major in college, the most logical way for me to go about it was through process of elimination.
I hated math. And public speaking. And history. And teaching. And foreign languages. And almost everything else. It might not have been the most traditional way to come to a decision, but it's definitely a good way to narrow down your options.
Following my "do what you like, even if you don't love it" mantra, I stopped and took a look at what was left. That was when I realized I always liked analyzing people, and writing was pretty cool too.
But naturally, I knew I didn't want to be an author or psychologist. So, while crossing things off in the course catalog, I stumbled upon advertising.
Maybe I could write product descriptions for a career, or research the reasons behind people's decision-making. That sounded like a decent combination of two things I could tolerate.
Professionally manipulating people for my job? I figured I could handle that.
So here I am, and I've met some pretty great people doing it.
3. Try new things.
Up until he was 15 years old, my brother had a phobia of almost all foods.
When it comes down to it, some people are try-it-all adventure seekers, and others just aren’t. Whether it is due to the fear of change, the fear of failure or pure laziness, the end result is the same: You never really know what you’re missing out on unless you try.
In my brother’s case, he associated trying new foods with some sort of unpleasant reaction, leading to endless, irrational anxiety. Whatever your reasoning, debating whether or not something is “worth it” just holds you back most of the time.
In my last semester of college, my friends and I compiled a 50-item bucket list we promised each other we’d complete before the end of the year. We ended up completing about half of those items, if that.
It wasn’t because we didn’t have enough time, or because we weren’t able to do those things. It was just because we weren’t in the mood that day.
We missed out on apple-picking, hiking, seeing Big Sean in concert and riding in a hot air balloon (just to name a few), solely because we didn’t feel like doing those things.
It’s surely possible l could have absolutely loved the views and felt the adrenaline rush people always talk about while they’re hiking, but I didn’t go. I missed out on the scenic Hudson Valley, fresh air, exercise and possibly, my passion.
The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I know everyone says that, but for some reason, no one does it.
At this point, what do you have to lose?
4. Don't stress out over it.
Honestly, who cares if the only hobby you can think of off the top of your head is sleeping? When people ask you what activities you enjoy, feel free to make things up.
It's really okay to not have your life figured out, and even more okay to admit it. Hopefully, I have at least 50 more years to live, and even if I don't figure out my life's passion by then, I'm sure I'll still be doing just fine.
But who knows? Maybe this writing thing will stick.