Gotta find my corner of the sky…

I read the AmeriCorps Alums blog on a regular basis through my RSS feed, and one post in particular last week caught my eye.  “Amerisaur” wrote about  how difficult it is to find your passion.  He writes, “I asked some of my current team members and friends [and] realized that a lot of twenty and thirty somethings don’t really know what they are passionate about either. Do we have a generation of folks who failed to learn how to dream, or is it part of the twenty/thirty something experience?”

Now, I am a sucker for musicals, so when I read this post I immediately thought of the show Pippin.  Pippin is a musical written in the ‘70s about a young man who is trying to find his “corner of the sky,” his purpose in life.  He doesn’t want to settle for an ordinary life, he wants to change the world!  Sound familiar?

I think the search for passion is something that people of any generation go through, not just ours.  It might manifest itself differently as the years go on- certainly the fact that a college student can use Twitter to talk with top professionals in their  field changes what 20 year olds expect from themselves and others- but the struggle remains.

I, like most of you I’m sure, wrestled with the idea of finding my passion a great deal after I graduated from university.  Over my years as a student I excelled in the classroom- I love learning, and it came pretty naturally to me to quickly understand what teachers expected of me, and rise to that occasion.  The goals were laid out at the beginning of each semester, each project had a due date, and each exam was set from the beginning, giving me clear benchmarks by which to gauge my success.  If I didn’t particularly like a class, hey, it would be over in about 14 weeks, and I could always choose something else.

By my senior year I was sick of it-I was hungry for “real life.”  I had a degree in archaeology that I used for about nine months, and then traveled halfway around the world to teach English in Taiwan.  Since then I have been a lead teacher at an after school program, an outreach educator for a domestic violence shelter, a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with AmeriCorps, and now I work for Volunteer Maryland developing training materials to support our AmeriCorps*VISTA members.

Throughout this circuitous journey there was no syllabus, no due dates, no clear benchmarks to help me find my passion.  I had to make it up as I went along.  Sometimes this was ok, and sometimes it scared me to death.

I write about all of these feelings in the past tense, but truthfully I haven’t figured out any kind of certainty for myself yet either.  I have decided to become a nurse, and have been taking courses in the evenings and on weekends for the past year to get ready for nursing school, which I will start in the fall.  When I made this decision as an AmeriCorps member, I worried that it would be yet another twist in my tangled  journey- another change, another new direction, one that built upon my skills, yes, but would require a great deal of new knowledge, time, and effort to achieve.

The difficulty finding your passion isn’t just a “problem” AmeriCorps members or alums in their 20s and 30s are having- it’s bigger than that.  Nearly everyone searches for something to direct their lives, a goal or ideal to give their life meaning.  And the truth is that there isn’t just one thing that most people can reach out, touch, and define as their passion.

I haven’t wanted to be a nurse my whole life.  What I have wanted my whole life is to help others learn, to be a useful member of society, to acquire new skills, and to be challenged.  This shows in all the paths that I’ve taken, and will all be essential to me as a nurse.

My passion isn’t one thing.  It’s a network of my past experiences, my current interests, and my future goals, interwoven with the people around me and their situations, dreams, and struggles.  My passion isn’t something I can sum up in a blog post.  It’s how I choose to get up in the morning, put on my shoes, and turn my feet in the direction that I see most fit.  My passion is not going to get handed to me at the beginning of the semester, with a nice timeline of due dates and exams.  It’s something I create for myself.

And I think that is what most 20-30 year olds are really having a problem with now- how do we create our purpose?  How do we direct our passion?

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5 thoughts on “Gotta find my corner of the sky…

  1. Kurt

    First off I love the Pippin reference! What a great post, thanks for sharing. For me it affirming to know that others struggle with passion and a sense of purpose. Sometimes I look around at others and they seem to be going through life with a map and compass. They know where they want to go, they know how to get there, and all they have to do is follow the directions. While others, like me, have a slightly more creative adventure ahead. This intrigues me: what allows one group of people to go through life in a linear fashion while others seem destine to “take circuitous journey”. For a long time I was on a very linear path and now my life seems to be twisting and turning. And while I am excited to see where my journey will take me it is comforting to know that others are going through similar experiences. I guess in the end we just need to be open to the path that’s ahead.

    1. Kimberly

      Thanks Kurt, I’m glad you liked it:) I find that even people who take linear paths end up needing to tackle the twists and turns at some point. Just the other week I told one of my friends, a very talented musician, how I was sometimes jealous of people like him, who have always known what they wanted to do. He mentioned that while it makes somethings easy (like picking a direction), it makes other things much harder (not as many options when things don’t work out), which is certainly true. Good luck with your journey, and don’t forget to have fun with it!
      (PS. if you haven’t read “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho, I highly recommend it- it’s one of the most truthful, inspiring books I have read. I discovered it while I was in Taiwan and it’s the perfect book for when one is unsure of what path to take, or even where the path begins.)

  2. I’ve always been a sucker for “Corner of the Sky,” too. Here’s a link to a new recording of the song with dancing (a sort of “Broadway Ambush”) at the Staten Island Ferry terminal this past Monday. I edited and was one of the shooters of the video. The video makes me smile. Now if only I can find my corner of the sky — or at least one with a little bit of money…

  3. Pingback: Life After VISTA « Volunteer Maryland

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