A few days ago my friend Michael and I were at a pizza bar discussing the practicalities of pursing one’s passions. As he swigged his pint o’ pale ale, he declared in a charming British accent (he’s British) his well-rehearsed dilemma: “I love F1 racing cars, but I work in finance. It’s killing me.” As my pizza arrived, I related to his predicament. “Me too. I totally get that. I mean, cars bore the shit out of me,” I said without filter, “but I do love writing.”
There we were, just a couple o’ disenchanted chaps sheepishly washing down life’s bitter disappointments, him with his beer and me with my delicious pizza pie. On the surface, he and I could acknowledge that we both had our reasons for not pursuing what we loved with a more go-get-‘em oomph. We both have adult responsibilities to keep, we mused. His wife had recently had a stroke, and he has two kids to provide for too. “That’s some heavy shit,” I conceded, patting my greasy hand on his shoulder. It just wasn’t practical for him to follow his passion at this juncture of his life. And me too, I pondered, hoping the denial would stick.
“And you,” he faithfully consoled, “you’ve got…you’ve got your, uh…” I have various plants that require biannual watering, and a subscription to the Big Issue that doesn’t pay for itself, I thought sheepishly. We could easily have gone on and on about the various obstructions on our path to the Good Life. Actually, we did go on and on. Several beers later, as we pissed into the urinal we deduced that what it really came down to was just a sense of fear. I’m afraid of pursuing my dreams because what if, you know? And Michael’s afraid of losing it all, and he doesn’t even have that much to lose, he pointed out.
Fuck it. “There’s no shame in being afraid,” I said defiantly as we sat back down at our booth. I picked up his beer and, with one eye on him, proceeded to drink what remained. Our eyes locked, but the challenge went unanswered. “I mean we’re human after all, right?” And it’s true. Although they say that fear is the greatest motivator, when fear of failure takes over it loses its motivational edge and just feels more like a…like a…“Like a blunt object taken to the side of your head,” my English compatriot remarked despondently. Sure, why not. The conversation trailed off to an uncomfortable silence. The obstacles to pursuing our passions, and the dull throbbing that comes with being clubbed in the face by one’s own fears, hung in our collective air space with an unmistakably chunky weight.
“But,” Michael cleared his throat, murmuring “at the end of the day, passion is passion, right? If you want it, you just gotta go for it in spite of the shit that gets in the way.” I looked up from my pizza, wide-eyed and with a stringy piece of mozzarella dangling tenaciously from the corner of my mouth. I nodded in agreement with his simple union jack profundity. Passion is passion. That’s all there is to it, really. All the rest is static if you just stay focused. Which is not to say that family responsibilities and financial obligations are background noise. “I just have to make it work for myself,” Michael said resolutely. Invigorated, I briefly considered purchasing a motivational poster with a picture of an orca whale and a definition of the word Focus underneath it.
His logic was undeniable: If you want it, you just make it work. I decided not to query Michael on how he would simply make it work for himself. But then maybe it’s not meant to be simple. Maybe it’s a two steps forward, one step back kinda process, you know? You just take the blows as they come, always keeping your eyes on your passion prize. Michael lunged across the table and grabbed my last slice of pizza as I reached for it. “Besides,” he said, finally returning the challenge, “how am I supposed to ignore that nagging shit of a voice that whispers, ‘Well how bad do ya want it, anyway?’” How indeed, I thought as I contemplated where the closest poster-framing establishment might be located at.