I used to go to bars and ask people what they were passionate about; it was part of my quarter-life existential crisis. To complete strangers who happened to be sitting next to me, I would say: what are you passionate about, and what gives your life meaning? Almost everyone started with a stammer. Then they supposed this and that.
This was comforting.
When I thought about my own passions, I came up blank. I had fleeting interests, but I wouldn’t call them passions. I figured I was just going to live a long, droning, passionless life. I just was. I tried to accept that.
But a stranger’s stammer before an ‘I suppose’ gave me hope. Passion must not be everything it is cracked up to be, and perhaps, I am thinking about it wrong.
I had just graduated from Georgia Tech with a master’s degree in analytics. I was working at my current version of my dream job, in a city I had never lived in before, and in which I knew no people.
I was a data scientist at a startup that specialized in transforming and analyzing healthcare data. I liked my coworkers, but I was not passionate about the work. My passion for data science fizzled out when I started getting paid to be in one place for the same forty hours every week.
It wasn’t the monotony — not yet — it was the promise of a future of monotony. In the past, when I felt this way, I could count down to the end of a semester, or the end of my internship. I enjoyed waiting for the next thing, knowing there would be a next thing. But now I had made it: I was done with school, and had a great job in my field. There was no next thing that I could count down to.
I felt stagnant. I wasn’t working toward anything anymore — I was working for a paycheck. Life felt hollow and hopeless, and it wasn’t because of the day-to-day, but because of the bigger picture.
How does someone go about designing something as large as their own life? I thought about all of what was wrong in mine, and what I needed to change. I talked to whoever would talk to me. I thought about what I was interested in. I wrote it all down. I let it consume me.
When I say 2017 was the worst year of my life, it isn’t an understatement. I had been in school for the last twenty years, and then I was tossed out with a smile, a congratulations, and a degree, and told, simply: go.
There was no ground under my feet.
After months of thinking, and talking, and writing, I realized I wasn’t passionless, and that I wanted more for myself, from myself. I decided to leave my dream job, where I was growing stagnant, and move back to my city, my home: Philadelphia.
I do not think that office life is for me — at least not at this point in time. It tends to become too much of the same thing too soon, and I am passionate about learning new things.
I am passionate about learning, reading, writing, communication, and thinking and ideas and design and poetry and variety in my day-to-day and I want to feel like I am living my life, and not like it is passing me by.
I am taking time to do this, and maybe this is Stage II of my quarter-life crisis, but I think I am making progress.
My passions never overwhelmed me, and so I thought they weren’t there. But they were so fundamental to who I am, that I didn’t notice until I reached an all-time low. Then I stopped, and I thought, and I wrote, and now I am here.