Passion, or the lack thereof

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.

looking forward

My hair is wet and dripping as I type. I feel where the water is collecting breeze-chilled in the small of my back. The time is half-past bittersweet. The day ends and it begins. I am exhausted, but refreshed, and optimistic for revival. The temperature is a recovery after a defeat. The fog is lifting, and forming shapes overhead. I am wind-battered, but today’s air is crisp, restoring: a call to focus on what is in motion.

Today is a pause in the middle of a chaotic series of actions to be summarized by what comes next; it is a horizontal pause with eyes aligned to eyes far outweighing other aspects of an otherwise disordered day. To listen in on this room would be to hear voices and laughter replaced with silence and afterthoughts replaced by voices and laughter and repeated all again.

In the voices: just some chatter. In the laughter: not a care. In the silence: glances upward, thinking, and a smile for a positive conclusion. In response: an eye squint, questioning, but a smile in agreement.

Life is filled with unfortunate occurrences and futures just barely missed; it is a series of tiny tragedies stacked haphazardly one over the next. When something lines up, when two plans entwine, when your eyes meet mine, we call it fate, possibly out of confusion, but maybe out of much more.

resignation

I have wondered if I could point a finger in some blame in some deflection. I reflect. I have felt too out of place too long although it’s all the same. I have always felt out of place. I am bored to the point of self-abuse. I am angry at, not with. I am bored to the point of no longer having an excuse. I blame myself.

The decision to leave was simple; choosing where to go was more difficult. I decided on home and to figure out the rest when certainties began to sort themselves out when my thoughts untwisted when I remembered to remember to remember who I am where I belong what I deserve. I had put it off had tried to sort out nothings had tried to try to try too much too long too prone to forget.

I am sentimental sad I am optimistic for some future.

tiny spheres

I am inspired by people I have and will not meet; I have known a few of them. I am inspired by those who reclaim their own defeats; I have had a few, myself. I learn from what I read. I learn to be human from fiction. I write a letter. I sign my name. I influence a tiny sphere.

I am inspired by people who see their story as theirs to tell; I know too few of them. I am inspired by those who laugh at their own tragedies; I laugh and cry at once. I have one point of view. I exist under a dome. I am inspired by divergent interpretations of what it means to exist under that same dome.

You ask what it was like, and I insist it’s all the same; it always goes the same. You ask why it feels different, and I insist it always feels different; it’s a constant state of steady change, but only ever here and now.

This one lifetime. This witnessing of others. This reach without a grasp. This comparing and this yearning, but the only ever witnessing of others. This aversion to staying in place to enjoy just one rotational motion. This life under this one small dome; these influencing tiny spheres. 

more of something else

I am thoughtless
I have a lot on my mind
I am thoughtless
Unable to process
Unable to know
Where to begin

I’ll begin in the middle
Toward the middle
Where I am and stand
So much for new beginnings
Just another change in plan

I am planning for a second shift
A second to shift my meaning
A change of mind
As days unwind
Revealing and reconcealing

I hold onto letting go
I hold onto an unknown feeling
Of belonging somewhere
A perfectly sized space
Undiscovered; Unrecognized
Mourning in my absence

It’s the naivety of childhood
It’s a holdout from my childhood
It’s an expectation that refuses
Selfishly
To settle down

I refuse to settle
I renounce the claim
That well enough is well enough
To ask for more is to complain
I want more

a walk in late summer

I step outside. I hear voices singing. I see something I haven’t seen before. I look down. I write about it. I read what I wrote before. Which version of me was that what was the mindset? The passage of time without memory. I’m blind to all I’ve seen. I look up. The trees tell me it’s late summer, and that only the nights are chilled. There are still cars lining streets, and cars are parked in driveways. To each I grant a place to park his v own escape, and it’s free for you to buy. But I am lying, that was a lie, and so is this, that’s all it is. Cleveland looks like the scene of a city pre and post disaster. It’s empty save for sadness. I see it written on walls I see the way the rust bleeds through. I walk on. Off-color paint that covers canvas signatures. Sheets of cement turned to rubble. Ten different ways to get to a place to be alone. I am alone here. I am alone. I hear voices singing. I see cars where they line up at stop signs, still far enough away from toxic fumes. Potted plants digging in, unaware of terra-cotta. Ivy stenciled on a wall that was also painted over. Looking down and seeing water colored from a sewer, I wonder if it’s better to sink or to swim. I wonder what I am missing I wonder what I’ve forgotten and what’s holding me to indecision. The noise. The nonsense. The lack of weight and pressure. I will not be forced first, I will only pull back. I wonder what will happen before I make an exit. I wonder how the end plays out.