"Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion."
-- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
It's no mistake that the above quote adorns the wall of the bathroom in my apartment. It seems to me that so many people meander through life so determined on simply surviving... on getting through school, making it to the end of each oncoming work week, even suffering through that awkward family get-together... that they entirely miss the point of life: to live it. I should know. I used to be one of those people.
The truly unfortunate thing about being both socially awkward and a natural introvert is that you spend so much time locked away in the confines of your own mind that the years slip by seemingly without notice.
One minute, you're a carefree 12-year-old devoid of the emotional burdens that cause most people to conduct themselves in a manner totally at odds with their true identity. The next minute, you're in your early 20s, befuddled and confused, wondering where the time went and searching in vain for whatever it is you have to show for it.
The problem - at least, in my case - was a lack of enthusiasm and direction in my life. While I went about my daily activities (school, work, time with family), I had invested little of myself in my own life. In short, I had no passion.
Following the epiphany that accompanied my 21st birthday, I steadily began to take hold of my destiny, and a large part of that was the discovery of my passion for writing. Within two or three years, I began to write advertorials for a local community publication, became an active contributor to my college newspaper and even started this very blog.
Slowly but surely, my life began to take shape, and its the miraculous empowerment of passion that made that possible. Whereas most people may simply strive for surviving their life, I began to hope for something better, a life which I can be proud of. The one I was destined for.
But passion doesn't extend strictly to your professional calling. It's far deeper than that. It's about the people in your life as well, the connections you make. It's about the company you keep at work, with family... friends... even your romantic relationship. It's that feeling you get that everyone and everything in your life is exactly as it should be, and you can't imagine it any other way.
It's about having strong feelings of interconnectedness with the people and places around you and finding an element of excitement in even the most prosaic things you do. Waking up in the morning and feeling like you belong.
For so many years, I spent my life feeling like a stranger in my own skin. I would stop and reflect on who I was, how the world saw me and how I saw the world... and it disgusted me. I knew that I wasn't being true to myself, that I wasn't living the life I should be.
But, like many people currently meandering through their years with little room in their hearts and minds for joy or even amusement, I was too weak and too afraid to change my circumstances.
And therein lies the true tragedy. Because most people caught in this never-ending cycle of disenchantment will never take the time to search within themselves and explore the desires of their heart. Whether crippled by circumstance or fear, they may never be able to confront the difficult questions that plague us all. The big, underlying mystery that underscores each individual's journey.
It's never been "Why are we here?" but rather "Why am I here?" "What makes me the happiest? What is my calling? Who truly holds my heart? What the hell do I want in life?"
Shakespeare once wrote, "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women only players."
Which begs the question: What're you playing for? Without that driving force... without finding where you belong and who you belong with... you're squandering your time in the spotlight.
So, follow my advice, take five and re-evaluate if you're truly giving your all out on that stage. Because, if you're not, the only one you're doing a disservice to... is yourself. You only have one chance to deliver the performance of your life.