“Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.” ~Chris Hadfield, astronaut
As a kid, you put zero thought into doing what you loved.
You simply played, not knowing that your future self wouldn’t play that much at all. Work was serious business.
When I was in kindergarten, our classroom had a block center, a board game shelf, a home center with dolls and a play stove, a drawing center, and a sand table.
We naturally gravitated to the area that was most fun, with no thought about what would look good on our future resumes or college applications.
As far back as I can remember, making up stories, writing them down, and telling them to anyone that would listen were my favorite activities.
Fast forward to high school, then college.
It’s Time to be an Adult
Others told me that writing and art were lovely little hobbies, but I needed to choose a real career, something that would make money. I looked around to see what the other kids would do, trying to spark an idea. If it wasn’t writing, I was clueless.
I never thought of asking, “Why not?” Why couldn’t writing be a career? I just accepted that a job or career had to be something you made a realistic, intellectual choice about, and not one that came from your heart.
And I wasn’t the only one who received messages like this. I heard Oprah say that as a child she was asked what she thought she would do as a career.
She said, “Well, I like talking to people.”
The person responded, “Well, you can’t make money doing that.”
7 Failed Careers Later
Years later, after I was told I couldn’t make a career out of writing, I ended up with a resume that was four pages long and days that were like a yearlong run-on sentence.
I plowed through job after job, staring out the windows and riding the trains I hated to jobs I hated even more. I did a good job at most of them and earned a nice income.
I was a school secretary, lifeguard, pre-school assistant, mortgage processor, office manager, dance teacher, and a few others I can’t remember. I taught sewing classes and even started two businesses thinking that being my own boss would solve my empty feelings.
A Return to Love
Then I reached a turning point and realized I needed to go back to doing what I loved and make it work somehow.
I had a week off work and found myself writing from morning to night. I felt my headaches lifting and a sense of peacefulness developing. I submitted an essay to a local newspaper. The publication didn’t accept it, but I didn’t care.
I knew it was time to make my passion my day job, and here is what I did.
The next time I was asked what type of work I did, for the first time in my life, I answered, “I’m a writer.”
I began to read everything I could about writers and bloggers who wrote for a living, how they did it, and how they transitioned from other jobs. I wrote daily because I loved it.
No worries about publication or earning money from my passion, just pure unadulterated love. I decided not to lose hope no matter what.
I responded to an online ad for writing work and got the gig. Though I was only writing a few blog posts for $25 each, it felt like a million dollars.
So my kids started wearing their cousins’ hand-me-down clothes. I held my breath as I tightened my belt until I could barely breathe. The fridge had the bare basics, the electricity got shut off once, and the car got towed and it was a pain to get it back. But I managed.
I took a course on writing, joined a business mastermind group, and worked with a mentor on writing during the mornings. I worked evenings and weekends to support myself.
I was writing at last.
Do you recognize your passion? Not hobbies or things you like doing for fun sometimes—the one thing that rises above all. Think back to what you loved to do as a child, what you gravitated toward for no reason other than fun, and you will find it.
Are you ready to say yes? Turn your passion into a career one step at a time with the following tips.
1. Tell one stranger.
Even before you’re working at making your passion your day job or income source, go ahead and tell someone that you’re a _______. (Fill in the blank). At any chance you get, do it again.
2. Obsess over it.
Move your passion from the back burner of your mind to the front. Think about it every chance you get if you’re not already doing so. Read about people who have successfully transitioned into the work you want to be doing.
3. Do it for love.
Whatever your passion, forget about making it into a career until you spend enough time reveling in the absolute joy of doing it. Paint, write, dance, take photos, carve wood, whatever it may be for love and only love.
4. Hope above all.
Decide that you will never give up hope.
5. Shout it out loud.
Put an ad out or tell people that you are willing to do some work in your field of passion for pay or for free.
6. Wear the tightest belt ever.
Pull. Tight, if you must (if funds are an issue). I hate this part, but there’s no getting around this. See where you could take some funds from one budget and put it toward a course or mentor so you are not doing this alone.
One person inspires another. If you are already pulled tight, reach out for a mentor or learn from free resources and YouTube videos.
7. Forget “Easy does it.”
Easy doesn’t do it. Period. You’ll face challenges, and resistance from yourself and others. Do it anyway.
Whoever told you that you couldn’t turn your passion into a career had better sit down, because you may be on your way to doing just that. The girl with the pretty voice from the Bronx, the English writer on the train on welfare, the guy with the alcoholic step dad that became President.
And now you.
Stop Looking at the Odds of Failing
The odds against successfully turning your passion into a career and making money from it seem so overwhelming. So stop looking at the odds.
The longing of not doing what you are meant to do catches up to you, and it becomes like a faraway lover that you dream of, that will never return.
The power is in your hands to make it happen day by day, and to blow the naysayers a kiss from the podium. Every moment of the journey is, in fact, an end result in itself.
You will glow from internal approval, even if the money doesn’t come as fast and as much as you would like.
Reclaim the act of doing your passionate work as your career, as if happiness depended upon it.
Because it does.
Photo by Garry Knight