“Do it with passion or not at all.” ~Rosa Couchette Carey
If you’ve ever had a passion for something, you are probably well aware of the peaks and valleys that are natural side effects of pursuing the thing you love most.
Whether it’s music, writing, sports, fitness, or anything else, sometimes you lose sleep because the thing you love keeps you up all night, and some days you just feel tired and uninspired. There are ebbs and flows in following your passion, which is completely natural and healthy.
But what happens when the “valleys” stay valleys? Maybe you have a few days when you don’t feel excited. When the thing you once loved feels more like a job than something you look forward to doing. Then, maybe those few days turn into a couple of weeks. Maybe even a couple of months.
As time passes, you start feeling sad and frustrated. The activity (hobby, career) that once was a burning fire in your heart, no longer is. You may even begin to feel guilty for not feeling love for that thing anymore. After all, you did love that thing before. Nothing about it has changed.
You may become frustrated with yourself, wondering what’s wrong with you for not feeling excited about something that brought you so much joy in past.
What began as a strong, bright, and hopeful fire is now a much smaller flame. You try to fan the flame, attempting to make it bigger and trying harder to bring it back to its former glory. But you end up become more and more tired as it becomes clearer that the fire is dying.
Some passions become a part of who you are. They become etched into your being, your identity, and your sense of self. So once that passion fades, a moment of panic may set in. You may feel anxiety or deep depression at the thought of no longer doing that thing that once defined you.
As a professional dance instructor, I’m thankful to say that I have been able to turn the thing I love into a career. However, I went through my own peaks and valleys in dance.
My personal dance journey has gone something like this:
Walk into a ballroom dance studio one night. No dance experience or intention of becoming a dancer whatsoever. Attend the social anyway, just for fun.
Dance with one of the dance hosts. Dance with others. Dance the night away. Feel happy and inspired. Fall in love with whatever this new feeling is.
Sign up that night to take ballroom dance lessons. Train in dance for five years. For those five years, forgo everything else that regular early twenty-somethings do, to focus solely on my passion.
Leave my old studio to accept a teaching opportunity at a new studio. Begin making a living doing the thing I love.
At this point, I feel happy. I don’t feel the burning passion that I felt when I was training and dancing just for myself and my own enjoyment. But it’s okay. I feel satisfaction in knowing that I am helping others to feel that same passion, which gives me a sense of fulfillment.
I continue teaching at that studio for two years. Little by little, I begin feeling drained. I convince myself that it’s “natural” to feel drained all the time, that it’s just part of the job.
Coworkers tell me that it’s “not supposed to be fun.” I try to find humor in it. I continue teaching. Slowly, I no longer enjoy it. I no longer want to dance. I no longer feel good about teaching others how to love dance when my love for it isn’t genuine.
One night, fate steps in. I visit another studio to dance socially, just for fun. Just for myself.
I feel renewed energy. I see dancers who are much better than I am. I feel humbled and challenged.
I decide to start working here. Initially, it gives me a new feeling of hope and excitement. However, just like anything else, passion needs to be sustained from the inside—if it comes from outside factors, it can only last so long. Which is exactly what happens.
Just like before, I begin to feel slowly uninspired. I long to feel something. But I don’t understand why I don’t. I feel sad. However, this time, I don’t deny it or fight it. I realize that I need to do some inner work. I need to figure out whether I should hold on or let go.
When passion fades, it can be a very difficult thing to accept. It might seem almost impossible to take step back from that former passion. You may feel a loss of identity and wonder who you are without it, regardless of whether or not it inspires you anymore.
But from personal experience, I can say that stepping back, even just temporarily, is one of the best remedies. When something you once loved leaves you feeling bored, stressed, or uninspired, it’s often a clear signal that some inner work and reevaluation needs to take place.
Don’t be afraid of your gut feeling. When something no longer brings you the joy it once did, it’s often the soul’s way of saying “It is time to take a break.”
For those of you who become so emotionally and spiritually intertwined with the people, places, and activities you love most that the very thought of taking a couple of steps back sends you into an identity crisis, I am here to say that I understand. I know the discomfort.
But your soul knows better. Your inner most self knows when it’s time to create a little space.
And here’s the good news: By giving the thing you loved some space, you are allowing one of two things to happen:
One: You are giving yourself time to recharge and recover. Sometimes, this is all you need. You may have simply needed a little time off to get inspired again, and you may return back to that passion at a later time with inspiration, energy, and clarity.
Or two: If you don’t return back to your first passion, you are creating room for a new joy to eventually take its place. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to explore other hobbies and interests. And if you don’t find the “new thing” right away, don’t panic! You will. Your heart knows. It may take time, but you will be guided, once again, to that new thing.
For me, it turned out that I needed to take a different approach to my dancing.
For one thing, I needed to focus on my strengths as a dancer and dance teacher rather than compare myself to those around me. Comparison had left me with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, which, in turn, made me not feel much motivation for dancing, in general. I realized that I felt much happier when I focused on my strengths, as well as my own growth and progress.
Secondly, I realized that I needed to spend more time dancing for myself. Not teaching group classes or private lessons. Not hostessing. Just going out and dancing. When I danced for myself, I felt joy again. I felt full of passion and purpose.
This led me to realize an important lesson: You can only give as much love to something as what you currently have inside of you. If you don’t feel happy on the inside, how can you expect to make others feel happy and excited?
Self-care and balance are essential elements in pursuing anything that you love.
So if your passion is currently causing you to feel burnt out, tired, or stressed, don’t be afraid to give it some space. Don’t feel afraid to take a few steps back, breathe, and focus on something else for a little bit. Everything will be okay.
By letting go, you are allowing the universe to work its magic and fill that void—either with renewed love and energy, or with a new passion that you would’ve never imagined.