Fun, Finding Your Passion, Faulty Views on Education, and Forrest Gump

“Now, because I had been a football star, and a war hero, and a national celebrity, and a shrimpin’ boat captain, and a college graduate, the city of fathers of Greenbow, Alabama, decided to get together and offered me a fine job. So, I never went back to work for Lieutenant Dan. Though he did take care of my Bubba-Gump money. He got me invested in some kind of fruit company. And so then I got a call from him saying we don’t have to worry about money no more and I said, “That’s good. One less thing”. Now, Momma said there’s only so much fortune a man really needs and the rest is just for showing off. So, I gave a whole bunch of it to the Four Square Gospel Church and I gave a whole bunch to the Bayou La Batre Fishing Hospital. And even though Bubba was dead, and Lieutenant Dan said I was nuts, I gave Bubba’s momma Bubba’s share. And you know what? She didn’t have to work in nobody’s kitchen no more. And ’cause I was gazillionaire and I liked doing it so much, I cut that grass for free.”

-Forrest, Forrest Gump

It’s been a rough few weeks. My last blog post actually left me feeling even more unhappy and empty than I had been. Looking back on the things I’ve done made me miss those things in my present. I miss my best friends who’ve moved out of state, my hands-on classes, interacting with nature, working on projects, and being physically active because I enjoyed it. Writing has been used as a subpar substitute to fill the void of those things that make me truly happy. Although I do appreciate writing and putting out new posts, it can be draining because I’m using my analytical side rather than creativity. The absence of the things I enjoy most has been weighing me down for longer than I realized. It made me want to retreat, erase everything, and start over with a clean slate. Perhaps I sound whiny, spoiled, privileged, or whatever else, but not doing the things that make you happy can really get you down. I view being able to do those things as a modern-day luxury, similar to the notion of following your dreams or finding your passion. However, since we don’t have to worry about basic survival as much as humans used to, we have the opportunity to focus energy elsewhere, just as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs demonstrates.

maslow's hierarchy of needs five stage pyramid
Courtesy of http://www.simplypsychology.org.

I find the whole movement on finding your passion to be admirable, yet flawed. If we all did that, a lot of places would be going out of business because most of us likely lack the enthusiasm and passion SpongeBob has when it comes to his job. I don’t know about you, but I really would prefer to keep Chick-fil-A around. Also, we seem to forget that we have to be good at whatever it is and it helps if we’re able to make a living doing it. Not everyone has the talent to be a singer or professional sports star. Hate to break it to you. The other thing that bothers me about “your passion” or the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” is it typically asks for one thing. It’s not an open-invite to list ten things you’d like to do, it’s wanting a single answer. Choosing one thing to do for the rest of your life [insert inappropriate comment about marriage here] is daunting and overwhelming. We’re supposed to choose one thing, go to school and get an education about that one thing, invest our time and money into that one thing that we’re hoping to be satisfied with forever. What happens if we change our mind or never know what we want to do? I’ve talked to several people who are in their fifties and sixties who either still don’t know what they want to do or admit that they didn’t start on their current path until their mid-thirties or later. Why do we expect teenagers fresh out of high school, whose frontal lobes of their brains have yet to fully form, to make a decision about what they want to do with their life?

Being a slightly older student has given me a different perspective on education in general. I’ve concluded that most people, (adults, students, etc.), view education as the required step to become an expert on one subject, something they’re doing to just get a degree that will hopefully land them a job, or one giant party. I believe you’re doing yourself a disservice to go into it with that mentality. College is about trying new things, working on time management, meeting new people, networking, figuring out how to communicate professionally, discovering what role you play in a group dynamic, finding out the things you enjoy doing (PowerPoints and inputting data 🙋🏼), and applying the things you learned in class to your life. It’s not about memorizing information long enough to pass a test or getting a degree you may honestly never use. It’s about taking a different viewpoint on an assignment so you stand out and your professor isn’t bored with another vanilla regurgitation of the information they already know. I remember we were supposed to present on what we learned from everything we did in our English class during my senior year of high school. My teacher was clear about not summarizing what each thing was about because we all already knew if we did the work, yet that’s what every student did…except me. Instead, I spoke about the lessons you could take from each book we read or movie we watched, including Forrest Gump. I mentioned Forrest Gump mowing the grass for free because he enjoyed it so much and how we should all seek that in our lives. I could see my teacher slightly smiling at her desk and nodding her head as if I understood the task she gave us. I’ll never forget that moment.

I wish I could say I’m living like Forrest Gump. In my uncertainty and confusion with just about everything lately, I decided to look at some TED Talks I had saved on YouTube to watch at a later point. I came across one about finding your dream job without ever looking at your resume, linked here. I suggest watching it because she’ll explain it better than I will. The gist of it, though, was to find the common theme shared between all of the careers you’ve been most attracted to. Unfortunately, that means my short stint of wanting to be a drag racer due to Disney’s Right on Track won’t make the list. However, being a zookeeper, teacher, personal trainer, farmer, or cook/nutritionist would be on there. After a short period of consideration, I thought maybe nurturing could be at the center of all of them. I laughed at the thought of me as a nurturer. I don’t see myself as being caring, giving, or helpful. I also have a tendency to think of myself first and expect others to do things I don’t. I place a ton of importance on the overall wellbeing of children through positivity and encouragement that doesn’t transfer over to my interactions with adults. Quite the opposite, actually. I couldn’t see how any of those traits, or lack of, combined could equal being a nurturer, at least not a good one. I thought the video had something worth sharing, so I sent it to my mom, which prompted a brief conversation. She asked what I thought mine was. For fear of a facial expression that evoked a ‘yeah right’, I avoided saying it. However, she reached the same conclusion about me. My love for animals, children, gardening, wanting people to be healthy, and cooking for them are all ways of nurturing. I was genuinely shocked. I never in a million years would’ve guessed that nurturing would be at the center of anything I wanted to do. What I appreciated most about Laura Berman’s talk is she recognizes we can take what’s at the core and apply it to many different things. I can be a nurturer in an innumerable amount of ways. I don’t have to stick to one thing. Now, why aren’t we sharing that with children? Teenagers? Heck, everyone? Imagine if we set out with that mindset instead of being pressured to decide on one thing. This reminds me of a children’s book that I read a few weeks ago that has a similar message, but I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at due to its predictability and childish cheesiness. Now, I’m thinking it might be on to something. If you’re interested, Who Will I Be by Abby Huntsman can be found here.

To wrap this up, it might be a modern-luxury, but make sure to do things for fun that make you happy. As much as I hate when someone asks me what I do for fun because it typically leaves me feeling old or boring, I now realize how crucial it is to have those things in your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spa day, reading a book, painting, pulling weeds, going to a trivia night, line dancing, or hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range as long as you find enjoyment in it and it keeps you from feeling like you’re running on empty. Also, don’t look at a career as a be-all end-all and try to view an education as more than the information you can get from a textbook. If you’re passionate about something and good at it, give it a go. If you’re like me and feel a bit lost, check out the video. I hope this wasn’t a huge jumbled mess of ‘what exactly is she talking about?’ My brain was struggling to get the words out in a cohesive way.

That’s all I have to say about that.

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