The Anatomy of Passion

     Passion is a word often thrown around, but not usually discussed in depth. 

     I always suspected I would love reading literature, but for the longest time, my head got in the way.

     An avid reader throughout elementary and middle school, I used to devour novels daily. At first, I avoided classics because I only had access to the abridged versions carried in the Moyer library. If I was going to read them, I figured I had to read them in full.

     But for some reason, that sentiment bled into my reading habits moving forward. 

     I ended up passing on many classic works of literature, convincing myself that I wasn’t missing anything. My reading in general had declined since the start of high school, so that only served as reinforcement for my excuses. I thoroughly enjoyed the works we read in school, including Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, and The Great Gatsby. Only reading approximately two novels per year in my English classes made it difficult to truly feel invested in literature. 

     During the spring quarantine of 2020, the tide turned for the better. I began reading more frequently, searching for any way to pass the time. Over the span of three weeks, I read ten really famous works of literature, from Orwell’s 1984 to Bronte’s Wuthering Heights to Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

     I adored each novel so much more than I had anticipated. Now, I make a point to pick up at least one classic novel each month. I should have realized that classic novels are classics for a reason; most of the time, the stories are masterful and set the stage for stories to come. I find it unfortunate that my past English classes didn’t seem to emphasize the importance of reading literature. Not only are the stories often well-written and engaging, but culturally, the context of these novels is critical in analyzing other works today. Reading the classics provides a solid foundation for consumption of literature moving forward. If I hadn’t moved beyond the recommendations of the school, I never would have learned this firsthand.

     There is significant value in what we learn at school, but I believe the most impactful learning happens on your own time. Maybe literature isn’t your thing, and that’s perfectly fine. But outside of computer science class, how much time have you spent trying to code your own app or website? Outside of fashion class, have you tried designing your own pieces? Which extra steps are you willing to take to educate yourself about the things you’re passionate about, rather than allowing curriculum to entirely guide your interests? 

     People often say that you should follow your passion into your career, and money will follow. As someone who plans to major in film, I don’t necessarily disagree with this sentiment. Rather, I think it should be expanded upon. Passion shouldn’t be a noun, but instead a verb. Passion is something you work towards, something that motivates you to put in the time and energy necessary for success. And most importantly, it isn’t stagnant. A starter on the high school soccer team may consider soccer to be a passion, but by the time they graduate college, their passion may have evolved to caring for people as a nurse. When they retire from their career in old age, maybe they will become passionate about something else. Passions can intersect and overlap; they are inherently fluid. The key is discovering what excites you, and investing the resources necessary to attain a level of dedication and expertise within that field.

     Don’t allow your passions to be dictated by convenience. Take agency over your own interests and delve deeper into the things you care about, whether they’re “normal” or not. Teach yourself a language that the school doesn’t offer. Read that work of literature that isn’t taught in AP English. Say yes when opportunities arise. Passions won’t fall into your lap; they require dedication and hard work. Above all, just remember that you have the power to control your own destiny, whether that be entering a career in accounting or becoming a breakout Broadway star.

Each Monday for the next month, a different Highlands student or graduate who has followed their dreams to the finish line will be featured. This is a four-part series. Stay tuned.