We hear it all the time: Follow your passion and you will earn a living beyond your expectations. I am about to clarify that cliché’ by sharing what I have learned from my Italian family; which may help guide YOUR life, too.
Let’s first distinguish passion from creativity. Sometimes they go hand-in-hand, but they don’t always have to. I am no different from the Italians I come from. I have a passion for life and a need to express my creativity—in my case through my writings and radio broadcasts. In fact radio is something I have loved since childhood. It began as a passion and eventually I had an opportunity to express my creativity through this same medium. I get up at 4 AM on Mondays to be able to broadcast a 7AM show. You may think I’m crazy to do this as a volunteer. I know that making a decent living in radio is like finding a needle in a haystack. I broadcast anyway, and make my living in research. Why? Because every time I put my heart and soul into delivering a great show, it charges me up, gives me a sense of accomplishment, and increases my zest for living in general. I work at my research day job with even more fervor as a result of having realized my creative expressions too.
My grandfather Domenico—would probably have been a full time singer. But the reality was, he owned a little shoe shop which blessed him with a way to support his family. So he sang as he repaired shoes (or anywhere else he could, when the spirit moved him). I would barely get past the first note on the piano, when I would notice him crooning by my side.
Antonio, who is a maestro at the concertina (a little accordion-like instrument), works enthusiastically on the family farm in Italy, and plays his music joyfully and passionately after dinner at most all family gatherings.
Giuseppe, a brilliant artist, would be in his Calabrian studio day and night, enveloped by his easel, paints, and the atmosphere of creativity. He still does this, but around his day job, where he teaches art in an Italian middle school. He has developed a passion for helping young people learn some of the techniques and theories in his realm of expertise, but when he returns, his “off time” is reserved for his god-given creative endeavors in the context of his studio.
Passion and creativity often go hand in hand, but don’t have to. That is a misconception many people have. People feel frustrated if they are not offered a well-paying job in their area of creativity. That should never mean the end of creative time, however. Creative time is food for the Soul. Depriving yourself of it, will starve your spirit.
The fact is, if you are able to make a living you are already blessed. You are one of the lucky ones not to have to worry about health insurance, paying bills, buying your kid a new coat, etc. You can still love your day job even if it is outside of the area of your unique creative genius. Earning a steady living, actually frees up the kind of mental and spiritual energy that ignites even more creativity. It is easy to develop passion for any work you do, as long as you reserve a place for creativity and give it a regular, sacred, and non-negotiable place in your life.
Like nonno, I feel blessed to have a great day job. I pour my passion into doing the best work I can do at my research projects, and challenge myself to do continually better at whatever tasks I work on. Then I spend my free time writing or broadcasting to help others, by sharing my psychology training and expertise in these more creative ways. My family members and I are definitely of the same cloth, and we would not have it any other way.
We can all develop passion for the practical side of making a living, even if it does not involve your personal creative juices 100% of the time. Domenico felt blessed every day that he was able to work, and loved the people who came to his shoe shop so much, that he often gave shoes away to those who needed but couldn’t afford them. He was passionate about what he accomplished as an immigrant turned small business owner. And he kept his creative passion for singing and felt not one bit slighted by life.
I hear many people complain that they hate their jobs. We can all develop a passion for accomplishment in the context of our day to day jobs, however. If we don’t find ways to be enthusiastic about how we spend the minutes, hours, and days of our lives, then we disrespect the precious time we were given to live. EVERY day is a gift and should be approached as one, no matter what we put our time and energy into—we should do it all to the best of our ability and with passion. Bless the fact that you have a way to make a living, and strive to get better every day at what you do. Make a point of shining wherever you are and you will feel like the luckiest person in the world. You will feel more fortunate still, if you continue to make creative expression another regular part of your life, and find a way to share your gifts with the world.
What is YOUR creative talent? I’d love to hear about your gifts!