Tag Archives: Passion

Why Is Everyone Else So Much Smarter Than Me?

Do you feel like everyone around you always knows so much about all this stuff, leaving you mystified about how the hell they spend their time?

Do you have trouble concentrating when you read? Do you feel inferior, not clever enough, like you’re missing out on the information that matters? Like other people’s lives must be so much more interesting than your own?

Do you ask yourself:

Why does everyone know this and I don’t?
Why do I never have anything to talk about?
Why do I  feel so out of the loop?
Why can I never recommend a resource to others–why is it always me asking the questions?

When I felt like nothing excited me, like I didn’t know how to light myself up, I would ask myself these questions. Nothing I found to read was interesting to me, and I couldn’t stay focused. People who had found something to obsess about were the objects of my obsession, essentially.

So this is what I did: I added TONS of stuff to Google Reader. I added whatever I found remotely interesting, anything that I felt I might want to come back to, anything I thought other people were reading. Eventually, I had so much stuff on there that I could, if I wanted to, spend hours reading or looking at photos without leaving the application. I didn’t have to get through any boring articles or spend time wondering what to read in order to stay focused or up to speed with others!

Something interesting happened, though… I didn’t use Google Reader for very long. Not because it’s not great, but because I started learning and getting interested by so many other things, online and otherwise, that I just didn’t have time… and it started being a little boring. Whaaaaaaat? I knew I had the Reader as a backup, I had cracked the code, so I was free to read, learn and do whatever I wanted. I couldn’t even have imagined that being possible, but it happened, and that whole insecurity of mine is now GONE.

Really, it comes down to confidence. Follow your passion & interests, and you’ll find a never-ending wormhole of information. Kind of like what happens on Youtube–but expanded to books, magazines, websites, people, places, etc. It doesn’t really matter if you have nothing to talk about… you’re probably with the wrong crowd anyway. But finding your people and having good conversations sure does feel nice, and that’s more likely to happen when you’re enjoying and staying captivated by your life.



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What I Learned From Selling Everything I Own

I frequently have these “ah-hah!” moments, usually thanks to quotes, movies, blogs or photographs, during which I feel this lightness and it’s as though I’m expanding and everything makes sense. Although I believe that probably some fundamental shifts happen at an unconscious level during these moments regardless of what follows, the clarity and excitement usually dissipate.

There’s a powerful thought that reliably brings me back that clarity, though. It reminds me over and over to keep adjusting my path as I’m walking it. It’s this: I am already whole. The idea that I do not have to become anyone, that I should only embrace the path I’m on and expand from there, is incredibly inspiring to me. It even inspired me to sell almost everything I owned so I could “live in the now,” and “not focus on the past,” and all that stuff, though ironically, selling my past has given me a deeper appreciation of it.

Perfection doesn’t exist

To an almost hopeless perfectionist, finding out you are already complete is absolutely wonderful news. Many people experience perfectionism as immobilization; there are always too many things to do to achieve perfection–it’s exhausting even to think about. But it doesn’t surprise me that we’ve grown up with this mindset, given the language we were and are surrounded by. First of all, we are shown that “perfect” does exist: 100%, A+, whatever. That’s what we are told to strive for, and we do.

So when we learn that perfect can’t be achieved, because perfect does not exist, what happens? Well, to a little girl who is showered with praise from family and awards from teachers for her excellent scholastic achievements and who falls out of love with the school system, it feels like the world falls out of love with her.

Also, we are told that we have to become someone. We go to school to learn skills that cost tens of thousands of dollars, because “McDonald’s is hiring” and be careful because that’s where we’ll end up if we don’t work ourselves sick to get the piece of paper that proves that we know what happens on Odysseus’ travels and which qualifies us to do more than flip burgers, which we should be embarrassed to ever have to do because it means that we are either stupid or lazy or both. (By the way, I’d love for someone to teach me how to flip a burger because that shit doesn’t come naturally and I can’t do it. And by the way again, I don’t remember what happens in The Odyssey, so I don’t know where that leaves me.)

N.B. There’s nothing wrong with working at a food joint. I’d never work at McDonald’s, but only because it’s poisoning us and the environment and seriously, screw them.

Anyway, I didn’t get a master’s degree like my friends did, which also meant that I had stopped becoming anything. I was unhappy and felt completely inauthentic. I wanted to start from scratch, and I wanted to find truth. I thought that this meant completely renouncing my past; after all, my past had led me here, right? I wanted to travel. I wanted to get rid of my belongings. I wanted new friends. I wanted to scream at anyone who tried to reel me back in. I was angry, but mostly sad.

I wanted to restart, but I was scared, so I did so slowly, without really realizing it. I moved to another province for a couple years. I left my stuff with my parents, and discovered that I didn’t need any of it. Future: 1, Past: 0. I got a job in my field, psychology, but it was boring and mindless, so I quit. I got a job at a grocery store because I was tired of PhDs controlling me. It got old, so I quit. I got a job at an office in a final attempt at using whatever skills I had already, and I hated it. All of this gave me the courage to really put my past-clearing theory to the test. I quit that job, spent a month selling all of my belongings, terminated my lease, hopped on a bus and crashed at my very generous sister’s apartment until further notice. This is where I am currently.

Shedding baggage makes you feel lighter

I still have some papers to get rid of, but I can’t tell you how liberating that leap was. Some days, while I was still working, I was ready to give in to the office life. I told myself it wouldn’t be that bad, and my coworkers are nice people to be around. Those were the days, I realize now, that were the most dangerous–the days my soul was closest to its death.

I experienced a lot of grief while I was getting rid of my stuff. I found it annoying because I didn’t understand it and it was getting in the way. But I didn’t dismiss it entirely; I went through everything slowly, keeping the stuff that I absolutely could not part with: some photographs, the doll my late grandmother gave me, stuff like that. I really didn’t want to keep them, though. Even keeping my identification pissed me off. I wanted to be like Christopher McCandless (yeah, the dude who died in the wild), but something about these objects made me happy, and I figured I could always get rid of them later.

Embrace and expand your past

Not too long ago, I was looking through my sister’s old photo albums. I hadn’t done that in so long and it made me so happy, yet I had been so annoyed with my decision to keep my own old photographs and dolls. These pictures were evidence of my childhood, of the care my parents took of me, of the true friendships I had even as a child, of how happy I was. The very existence of my sister’s photos of me is evidence that she cares enough about me to want to remember me. I remembered how I had been almost ready to throw all of mine away, and I started crying.

I’d always been so incredibly confused about why anyone would want to hold on to things–doesn’t it make them feel tied down? Stuck? Miserable? I think I’ve learned something valuable. Today, I’m glad that I was so scrupulous in deciding of what to renounce ownership. Though I’m happier now with much less baggage, I’m also happy that I still have a few things that remind me of wonderful moments in my past.

As someone who struggles with depression, I tend to remember bad events much more easily than I remember the good ones. In fact, I remember my entire undergraduate experience as generally being a terrible one–so terrible that I don’t remember most of it, because I’ve tried so hard to forget it. But when I remember that I met some of my best friends in university, I know that my memory is inaccurate. There were definitely many difficult learning experiences, but it wasn’t all bad. And whether it’s photographs, tattoos, jewelry, or yearly get-togethers, I need reminders of the beautiful things that have happened to me. Also, I’m discovering that what made me happy as a child is what makes me happy now.

There’s a limit, though. Visit the past to help you move confidently into the future, but don’t stay there. Keep only what helps you move forward.

Authenticity is your only career option

And so, here I am. These past few months have been so incredibly difficult. I’ve gone from feeling on top of the world to feeling like the most useless pile of crap, and back again. And again. I know that I really want to contribute to society, something I’m not doing very much of right now, but I’m also very selfish–what I find most difficult is doing something I don’t want to do. It’s a blessing and a curse. I’m convinced that it’s due to all those years in school trying so hard to be a good student; I’m burnt out–permanently.

I’ve lost all interest in becoming anything or anyone, but staying true to myself is my biggest battle right now. Everyone wants something of you. I value service, so I often get swept up into fulfilling someone else’s wishes, which inevitably ends in a burn-out.

So, I guess it makes sense that something clicks when I hear stuff like “embrace the path you were born on” and “you are already whole.” If someone else finds wisdom in this, maybe I’m not wrong! Next, I’ll have to find the intersection of who I am, and what people value.

If I’m honest with myself, I think I would be almost perfectly happy dancing around all day, taking photographs, doing yoga, faking spanish accents and playing with puppies–the only thing missing would be my contribution. But no one is going to give me a gold star. A couple years ago, that would have made me cry, but I think I’m okay with it now. Although I’m not terribly frightened of living a “homeless” life, it’s truly not ideal, so I’ve got to support myself if I want to be part of this system; however, the skills I want to get paid for aren’t up to market needs. If you’re in my position, learning of some sort (taking value) is probably in your future, which means you’ll have to compromise (provide non-ideal value) for a while.

I’m not talking about selling your soul. I’m talking about finding a way to satisfy your survival needs while you get busy remembering the path you were born onto, embracing it, and allowing yourself to expand until people will pay to learn or buy from you. Or not. If no one ever pays you, it’s still better than any alternative; there is no substitute for authenticity.

This is my next step: I’ll be working part-time for four months on a farm in exchange for room and board. Sort of like WWOOFing, I guess. For four months, my survival needs will be covered. I like multitasking, so I love the idea that I’ll be learning about farming (an interest) while working (providing value) on one. Also, since it’s only part-time, I can either get another part-time job for some extra cash, or spend time on my other interests. This farm also happens to be near my parents, which I like, so this set-up is perfect for me.

There is a perfect set-up for you, too. Try thinking about whose dirty work you wouldn’t mind doing, and then see what they can offer you for it. Again, it’s not permanent, and it gives you the time to build the skills you want to get paid for. Consider picking a company you admire and that has high turnover positions. A few places that come to mind are health food stores, maybe coffee shops, local book stores–clerk jobs. Personally, as long as the managers are good people, I normally don’t mind these types of jobs because I like being around people.

If you spend time learning who you are, loving who you are, learning what you love to do and how to do it well, you’ll eventually become an expert. Experts can be professionals, and professionals get paid.


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Overcoming Disability — An Inspiring TEDx Story

A tear-jerker.


March 4, 2012 · 8:25 pm

Cross Off a Dream

In following with yesterday’s post, I’d like to keep talking about lists; but, this time I want to talk about the stuff you haven’t forgotten about–the stuff you can’t forget about.

So, you think you’d like to take a photography class. You put it on the list. You throw away the list, but you still wake up feeling an inclination to Google search “photography classes in my area.” You have a shower instead and forget about it. While making breakfast, you remember what you had wanted to do when you woke up, but now you’re late for work so it’ll have to wait. It’s not important anyway. It probably wouldn’t even be that much fun, and you don’t have an extra couple hundred bucks to spare. You don’t have a talent, either–you have a Flickr account but it pales in comparison to most. You leave home, satisfied with your application of logic, but somehow your emotions aren’t soaring. Life continues as it has for the past month, week, year, and you’re bored as hell. What could you possibly do to change the status quo? Photography? No–remember? You ruled that out for many good reasons. Something else will come to you. Something much better.

The topic of photography keeps coming up. Opportunities to learn about it present themselves and pass you by. You complain to your friends about how busy you are, about how little time you have to do the things you love–for example, you’d take a photography course if you could, but of course you can’t. You create an increasingly greater distance between you and your idea; you put it on a pedestal when it had originally been accessible through Google (you’ve forgotten about that–you’re now somehow under the impression that you’d need to complete and application and submit a portfolio, and there’s no time for that!). And you stagnate.

Time might be the problem. But even if it is, consider that it isn’t.

Desires don’t have to be very grand to qualify as dreams, nor do dreams have to be very grand to qualify as scary. Why do our dreams scare us? Let me share with you my answers to the big “What Ifs”.

What if I find out I have no talent?
What if it isn’t fun?
What if it turns out to be a waste of money?
What if I don’t learn anything?
What if I have nothing left after this?

If you have no talent, then you have no talent. Wouldn’t you rather find out now so you can move on to trying something else? To finding a real talent? In any case, you probably won’t know for sure until you’ve tried it a few times. Everyone sucks at the beginning.

Also, you might still enjoy the course even if you aren’t particularly gifted. But if you don’t, then you don’t–but I bet that it’d be more fun than you’re having right now. Plus, regardless of the fun rating of an activity, putting yourself in a new environment often busts open some secret thought-doors in your brain, and that, in and of itself, is probably worth the money. Not to mention that your excuse-making will stop, your guilt will lift, your mind will stop nagging you, the pity party will end and you’ll feel more empowered.

Of course, you can do a bit of casual research on a class (don’t let it consume you). But whether you do this or not, it could turn out to be bad. The teacher could have changed since the review was written, and different students want different things from a class, so opinions are biased. To avoid “learning nothing,” make sure the class caters to your skill level. If you’re a beginner, call and make sure the material won’t go over your head; if you’re not, ask what the class covers and see what corresponds to what you don’t already know. If you’re still worried, ask about a refund policy.

What is most debilitating, for me at least, is how blinding a dream is. I tend to run too many thought-experiments and hinge my plans on the outcomes of situations that haven’t happened yet. I daydream about my life and try to design it around what I think I might be good at. That would be fine if I stopped there and actually went out and did the stuff I put in my plan, but I tend to get carried away, planning further and further, until I’ve constructed a story that depends entirely on the outcomes of early variables. When I say that a dream is blinding, I really mean that it renders reasoning very black-and-white (which, especially to someone with depressive tendencies, is to be avoided at all costs); either things go as you’d love them to and your “dream life” actually happens, or they don’t and you’re nothing short of doomed.

This is a fallacy. What I discover, time and time again, is that for every dream I cross off my list, I discover either more dreams, different, or bigger ones. I’m pretty sure this example has been used many times, but it’s powerful: Where would Jimi Hendrix be if he never followed through with buying his first guitar (and even he probably sucked at the beginning)? He would have never built on that dream, it would have never grown, and he would have never seen the heights he reached. The only step you can see clearly is your next one, so take it and let it be inspired–because when you follow your inspiration, fun things happen.

There is never nothing left after this. These days, when I have a recurring thought (which I tag as a dream), I feel like I must follow through, if only to see what goodies lie beyond. Dreams are like babies: when you feed them, they grow, change, and nourish you back.


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Write It Down and Throw It Out

I’ve always made lists. I have notebooks everywhere and I still find notes in my apartment detailing what I wanted for my 5th birthday. Even though I want to, I really don’t have the time to read them all and laugh at my spelling mistakes before throwing them out.

I recently did an enormous winter spring cleaning, and every time I had to throw something out using the logic that “I haven’t read (or used) this in years–I’ll survive,” I would cringe. What if that piece of paper inspired a short story or comedy sketch? A song? What if I’ve forgotten to write back to my friend overseas 3 years ago and that paper reminded me to apologize?

In my quest to realize my passion, I find my compulsive scribbling, which hasn’t since subsided, both helpful and hindering. Lately, I not only find myself tempted to explore what I used to enjoy when I was younger (“I used to love basketball–maybe that’s in my future!”), but also what I haven’t even come close to trying (“I could become a skydiving instructor!”). And you can bet that this all ends up on paper and that I won’t find it again for 10 years, at which point I’ll throw it out because I’m 5’3″ and terrified of heights.

Writing down my thoughts is helpful because paper sort of serves as a pensieve (Harry Potter reference) for me. If it’s on paper, I don’t have to think about it all the time, but I can technically come back to it whenever I want.

However, writing it all down is hindering because if I don’t let go of those thoughts consciously, I subconsciously tell myself that I should come back to them later. Even though letting go of the ideas has lightened the load, the guilt that sets in from not following through with them weighs much more.

Sometimes you have to write things down, because some stuff sucks but needs to get done. For example, if I didn’t put reminders everywhere to do the laundry on laundry day, it simply wouldn’t get done. I value cleanliness, so wearing dirty clothes (for too long…) erodes my self-esteem. (N.B. No reminders needed for credit card payments. I’ve automated that shit. It’s amazing.)

If you’re a compulsive scribbler like I am and you find yourself overwhelmed by your own ideas, consider this: write them down, and then throw them out. If that scares you too much, try writing them down and tucking them away.

There are a few reasons I find this helpful.

Practically, it is impossible to follow through with everything. If someone knows how to become both a NASA researcher and a famous actress within the next ten years, talk to me, please. In the meantime, I’ll assume that it’s one or the other. I’m realizing, though, that I’ve never really had to choose my path. I’m following it, whether I like it or not. If I want something, I take it. If I want something but I fear it, one of two things happens. One: I face my fear and I take it. Two: I ignore my fear, convince myself I never really wanted it, and then I can’t stop thinking about it. The universe finds ways to nag me about what I truly want, whether I’ve told it to shut up or not.

Also, I find that in throwing away all of my ideas, I’m forced to trust my decisions, which means having to think about them thoroughly; a piece of paper isn’t there to tell me what I need to do–I need to dig deeper, and find inner validation for my next action. Either I find it, corresponding to a positive gut feeling, or I don’t, which corresponds to a negative gut feeling. If I don’t find this validation before beginning to take action, the negative emotions pop up later anyway and block me from achieving what I set out to do.

I also find that without my list-ly safety net, I begin to trust that I have an abundance of ideas, and an abundance mindset is always the way to go. I don’t need to “capture” every idea–I know I’ll always have more.

Finally, I’m on this “embracing your path and your wholeness” kick. It might have been this article by Jonathan Mead that got me thinking, but it might have been a different one. In any case, this one’s good. The idea is that there is nothing “out there” that you have to add to yourself to make you your best self; all you can do is realize who you already are, and expand. And whether you write it down or not, “who you are” will keep popping up.

I’ll be honest: I’m still getting used to this. I tend to write e-mails to myself (save the trees), and I put them all into a folder. Sometimes I leave one in my inbox because whenever I re-read it, it genuinely inspires me to take action.

But for the most part, it’s helped me immensely (as well as saved me so much time and confusion!) to listen to my heart and not my post-its.

Thank you for reading, everyone, and for your lovely comments!


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