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…..