Passion is a luxury

I had passion. I was 25 years old, Master’s Degree in hand and a year of full-time service with AmeriCorps under my belt. I was a faithful, faith-filled, world-changing, ass-kicker.

And then I grew up.

Then my kid got sick. Then my life changed course. Then I lied to myself and told myself to keep going even though I knew it felt wrong. It still feels wrong- like wearing shoes that are too tight.

Part of our student affairs messaging has been that “how you do stuff matters” and I bought that hook, line, sinker. I built my career and my education on it. But the last six years have shown me that that message is only the message. It doesn’t translate to practice.

I was passionate until I got burned. Until I was betrayed by friends in multiple job searches.Until I have seen colleagues with questionable moral compasses and inappropriate office etiquette get promoted. Until I called HR and aired serious concerns about fellow “professionals'” behavior, only to be told that “it wasn’t illegal.”

It takes courage to stay in environments where you’re not passionate. I do not say that to be a martyr. But to give people S P A C E to breathe. To give myself room. I am drowning. I am bitter with words that I have choked back for years for fear of…what? Being labeled negative? Too late. For being labeled aggressive? Also too late. For fear of not getting hired, or branded right, or or or or? What?

I am so tired of hiding. Of not sharing my personal truth for fear of haters and trolls. The fact that I feel this fear, and have felt this fear for years, speaks volumes about how we treat whistle-blowers and dissenting voices in our profession. I know I am not alone. I have Twitter DMs and email streams from my fellow passion-naysayers. Yet, so few of us take the time to write about the shadows we all experience.

At 40 years old, with two small children, multiple mortgages, car payments, orthodontics, and a college fund, passion is a luxury I cannot afford. The flip side of the passion coin is obligation. I have obligations that I have chosen. As a grown-up, I cannot and I will not toss them aside to pursue my passions. My passions are: chocolate, wine, writing, reading, reading, napping, and binge-watching old school episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Last time I checked that was not a full-time job with health and retirement benefits. If you find such a position, please share my LinkedIn profile with the committee. Because, my LI is up to date and properly branded 😉

Passion is a bullshit bill of goods that we all got sold in grad school to make up for crappy pay and long hours. I have friends who are teachers, pharmacists, state employees, and accountants. The only people talking about passion are the teachers and I think part of that is because they get snow days and summers off.

Work can be work.  Passion is a luxury that many people can’t afford. Passion also reeks of privilege, but that’s another post. So, let’s practice what we preach and start doing for each other what we profess to do for students. Let’s back-off the passion rhetoric and let people B E. Let people choose what works for them.

My hands are shaking and there is a voice in my head screaming at me not to hit publish. I am feeling shame and vulnerability right now. I am choosing to live into it and share my story. Brene Brown says that writing messages doesn’t give the message power, it gives you power.

I hope she’s right. Here we go…..


4 thoughts on “Passion is a luxury

  1. Hello!

    I don’t have the same experiences as you, per se, but I think your calling out passion for the farce that it is is helpful. “Passion reeks of privilege.” Yes, I think it does. But try explaining that to your twenty-something children who have friends living the dream life which often funded by their parents!

    By the way, I happen to be a teacher who is passionate about my job even though I don’t get snow days or summers off! 😊

    There are more and more books being written to counter the passion-obsessed culture we live in. One of my favorites is called “Ordinary”.

    Take care,



  2. Monica- Just read your powerful blog regarding passion. I am flooded with thoughts. Each of those thoughts leads me to one conclusion that something or rather a many somethings have lead you to expressing these feelings.
    They seem to be uncomfortable feelings. Trading passion for reality rarely works out well. But the challenge is to accept that in many ways we only have ourselves to blame for holding on to the illusion that the world is not what we would wish it to be and that is is hard and unfair.
    Watching the young counseling and social work students come and intern or become volunteer crisis counselors at the Listening Ear has served to reminds me of the passion I had coming into the helping profession some 40something years ago. Reality was a shock and crisis for me. Now I try to encourage them to see that they can still hold to their passion, but that they will need thick skins and patience to really survive and have any impact.
    I would be the last person on earth to suggest that you should buck-up and co-op your feelings. Staying in a place that cost too much of our souls is unforgivable. Sometimes we can do more for the world and save ourselves if we move away from the source of the destruction.


  3. Thank you for being brave enough to say it. I love what I do, but I don’t love where I do for many of the same reasons you identify. I am told by the powers that be that it makes me negative and is not good for my brand.


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