There are many things about me at age 25 that Teenage Britt would a) scoff at, and b) definitely not believe. Starting my first teaching job tomorrow is one of them.
Take a second to imagine Teenage Britt – she’s got bleach-damaged hair, wears high heels as everyday shoes and often rolls her sassy little eyeballs with such emphasis that she looks like she’s having a seizure mid-sentence. She believes enrolling in a Diploma in Fashion Design is the way to kickstart a rags-to-riches narrative, ideally culminating in fame.
There are a few glaring problems with this 18 year old’s enthusiastic plan to become a world-renowned fashion designer.
For a start, she has very questionable taste, no patience for sewing, and lacks the basic numeracy skills necessary for pattern making. Within her first week she will turn up hungover (maybe still drunk?), and start making mistakes. She’s in the wrong place, and doesn’t know how to admit it. Instead of quitting – or working hard – she complains a lot and eventually gets Lady Gaga ‘Bad Romance’ lyrics tattooed on her foot.
Why? Because walk, walk fashion baby, walk, walk passion baby, apparently.
I’ve reflected on the dumb decision to get a dumb tattoo on my dumb foot, and have come to the conclusion that I was misguided. Here, ‘misguided’ is used as a euphemism for dumb. Here, ‘misguided’ also means making ill-informed decisions based on a sentimental attitude to work, with zero grasp on the concept of supply and demand.
Among other things, I was influenced by the idea that you should get a job doing what you love, doing what makes you happy – you should follow your dreams. Unfortunately this catch-all inspirational quote ignores that some dreams aren’t actually worth following.
The dumb tattoo on my dumb foot came from the desperately sad girl grasping at straws tryna convince herself she did love what she was doing, that she truly cared about fashion, and had therefore made an appropriate choice regarding her future, her happiness, and her future happiness. After all, she was passionate about creativity and fashion. Design was her dream.
Unsurprisingly, the emotionally charged notion of ‘passion’ did not, in fact, make me famous or rich or successful. It made me sad and poor and landed my ass back in fucking clothing retail. Here’s what I learnt along the way, plus a mild freak out over almost being an actual teacher.
1. Passion is not enough.
This rule applies to all areas of creativity, and is a constant struggle for me when it comes to writing without deadlines. Feeling an emotional connection to the creative process, and feeling joy sharing your creative work with others does not automatically translate into the motivation to create said work.
Loving writing does not force me to pick up a pen – good habits, a tidy house and a minimum of 8 hours sleep, does that. A good idea is crucial, too, but they are fleeting (and sometimes bad ideas in disguise). If I don’t MAKE myself pick up a pen, if I don’t treat the task of writing like a job, and focus on the work of writing, then the idea will stay an idea. It will float around until someone with a much better diet, sleep cycle and attitude than me writes it down instead.
No matter who you are, no matter what you want to achieve, passion alone is not enough. Wanting to be good at what you value is not enough. Yearning and longing for success is not enough. You have to act. Passion will get you nowhere if you don’t put in work. You have to pick up the pen, camera, guitar, paintbrush, whatever and ACTUALLY DO IT.
Ew. I sound like a motivational speaker.
2. Passion is irrelevant bullshit.
Sometimes even getting out of bed is damn hard work, no matter how passionate you are about poetry or stories or film or art or fashion or classical music or whatever.
I have had countless conversations with other students who are embarrassed they stopped reading when they came to uni. I felt like a fraud of an English Major because I just stopped reading for pleasure and started reading articles and textbooks when I started my BA. In other words, when I started uni, I switched out what made me feel good (what I was passionate about) for something I had to work very hard on to be any good at. I devoured books as a child, yet only managed to read one new novel last year. It was Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, I hated it, and only read it because I had to for practicum. Honestly, Rick Riordan’s writing is not something I feel any ounce of passion towards, and I will gladly never read his lazy similes ever again.
The notion of centering your life around passion, around strong and barely controllable emotions, the kind that stoke a flame beneath your creative soul, and spur you on to follow your dreams… sounds exhausting. Basing a career on excitement and emotion must surely be unsustainable? The concept of passion – if you let it define you – is complete bullshit, especially if it’s conflated with motivation. They are very, very different things.
3. I start my first teaching job tomorrow
I start my first teaching job tomorrow, and even though Teenage Britt would cringe at my teacher wardrobe (especially the shoes – all heels are under three inches), I’m cool with that. She’d also probably wonder why I bother recycling, and might judge me for not shaving my legs, so I don’t really value her opinion. Teenage Britt didn’t yet realise what I now know for certain: I am not passionate about clothing. Even if I did have an immutable love for sewing, that passion would not guarantee success. It’s foolish to place self-worth and happiness in the same basket as passion, it’s unrealistic to strive for a life and job centred around one interest area. Job satisfaction and personal fulfillment are different things.
I start my first teaching job tomorrow because I graduated, and because I’ve worked hard on reading countless journal articles and textbook chapters. I start my first teaching job tomorrow because I got out of bed and went to class (even the Faculty of Ed ones) every day for four years. I even met deadlines, switched back and forth between APA and MHRA referencing systems, and wrote a-grade essays. Trust me, that’s painful and dull and tedious sometimes, but I did it anyway.
I start my first teaching job tomorrow because I worked hard on things that weren’t all that much fun. I start my first teaching job tomorrow because of dedication and hard work. Not because there’s an invisible force motivating me to attend class. Passion has nothing to do with having two (!) degrees to hang on the wall. I didn’t achieve that purely through a love for learning, passion has nothing to do with it.
Or, maybe it does.