“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” ~ Jack Kerouac
I have been blessed and plagued with being a passionate person my whole life.
It seems I have been passionate since coming out of the womb, always being labeled my family’s endearing “problem child,” and growing up with the retelling of stories of a wild child who couldn’t be controlled—or contained.
When channeled in a healthy way, passion can look like drive, ambition, outgoingness, magnetism, and thriving.
When allowed to run free wildly, it can manifest into toxicity and wreck havoc into your life.
My old boss, who had a doctorate in philosophy, saw this in me. Almost daily, he would look at me with his soft, almond eyes, make eye contact with me, and say with great inflection that “the pathology of passion is suffering.”
He wasn’t wrong. I have suffered a lot in my life, and it always seemed to come from my own making.
My passion, at times, has been stifling; living with a burning in your veins often comes with many responsibilities and consequences.
Not understanding this, I’d been running from my own flames since I was a child. I never felt neurologically “normal.” Throwing too much caution to the wind has been a crutch in my life at times.
There were times where I felt I couldn’t control my behaviour, where I was too outgoing and therefore misconstrued as flirtatious or “too much.” An old boyfriend told me, I was a slave to my emotions. And my first thought when being told this was always, “What’s wrong with that?”
My 20s was riddled with toxic relationships, toxic friendships, and toxic behaviour. I couldn’t get out of my own way to put my passion into my life in the right ways.
On the flip side, my passion has also led me down incredible roads, down beautiful paths to wondrous adventurous. It has been my main driving force in my life. It attracts many people, allows me to make connections, and has been how I have met wonderful people and seen amazing places.
My passion has allowed me to play out my fantasy summer in a Woody Allen film, whisking around a sunset Paris on the back of a vespa, my arms clinging to a leather jacket wearing Parisian. It’s the reason I was able to put myself through college, juggle three jobs, and still have a roaring social life.
It allows me to risk enough to move across the country, to quit a job that isn’t serving me, to hold space for others, and to stand up for what I believe in.
It allows me to live so wholly and fiercely.
It’s why I write. I wouldn’t have discovered myself in such a visceral, albeit sometimes volatile way without it.
I wouldn’t be married to a fantastic and genuine man and I wouldn’t be exploring and discovering new things about myself every day. I wouldn’t have been able to climb out of the darkest holes, to become so resilient in my darkest of days.
Without my passion, I wouldn’t be brave.
Passion is what makes life worth living. But controlling our passions is just as important as cultivating them. When it comes to a healthy life, balancing our enthusiasm, heart, and self-discipline are the keys to success.
The other component to passion, besides harnessing the energy in the right ways, is to find the people with passion like yours. The ones who get it.
They want to see you thrive and burn ferociously and deliciously, not try to dim out your flame.
The biggest lesson I have learned is my passion is my greatest asset, my best friend. She’s always here, burning a hole in my chest, waiting to be released in the right moments.
There is a quote from one of my favorite TV shows growing up, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” that sums up passion so beautifully. This particular episode aired when I was just 12 years old, but it resonated with me. It has stuck with me for over 20 years, and I find it an ode to all those who burn on a daily basis.
“Passion…it lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting, and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us, guides us…passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments; the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d truly know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank…without passion, we’d truly be dead.”