In a world that often conflates what we love with what we’re meant for, it’s hard to come to terms with the reality that we are not meant to build a career off of every single thing we are passionate about.
It’s not because you aren’t good enough. It’s not because the system is rigged. It’s not because creating a career out of that one, singular thing you love to do isn’t a viable option, though any one of those might be slightly true in their own way.
The truth is that we are not meant to capitalize on every single thing that we love. Sometimes, forcing ourselves to create constantly for the sake of a paycheck robs us of the natural rhythm that results in our best work. Sometimes, when we lay everything we love on the table and allow others to see it, buy it, engage with it and criticize it, we leave nothing for ourselves. We give up our outlets, we deny ourselves a chance to be who we are without having to edit and imagine it through the eyes of the consumer.
Sometimes, it isn’t working out because it just isn’t working out. That doesn’t mean you’re in some way defective or a failure. It’s that you’re funneling your energy toward a nonviable path. Life is not this weird competition in which only those who are objectively the best at any given thing succeed and everyone else does not. That specific hierarchy does not exist. Sometimes, your art is technically fantastic but there just isn’t a market for it. Sometimes, you are good at what you do and enjoy it but just don’t want to have to do it constantly. Sometimes, it’s people who love the work just a little bit less that end up succeeding at it most, because they’re inherently less attached to the outcome.
The point is that trying to beat yourself up to “follow your passion” and create the life of your dreams in the one, specific, singular way that you’ve been trying to do so is not productive. It’s also not effective. It’s a waste of time, one that you could be spending figuring out your next step.
We absolutely must abolish the idea that you will not live a whole and fulfilling life if you are not doing what you are “passionate” about every hour of the day. There are people all around the world who do work that is not necessarily their life’s calling, but find time to have a creative outlet, take pride in a job well done, and find their purpose in their relationships, in their ability to travel, in finding peace, in building their communities, and so on.
When you exist in a creative bubble, it’s hard to not get sucked into the idea that every single thing you love is a business opportunity waiting to emerge. Yes, it absolutely can be, but it doesn’t have to be, and taking some time to find the wisdom to know the difference is going to save you a lot of headaches down the line.