Pursuing passion unlocks future opportunities

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Passion. The word comes up all the time in conversations regarding the future, careers, college, etc. Questions such as, “What are you interested in doing after high school? What’s your passion? Oh, you haven’t found yours yet? I’m sure you’ll come across it in the near future,” plague teenagers in their final years of adolescence. For some, they’ve had it figured out since they were in their mother’s wombs. For others, perhaps they have the faintest idea of what they’d like to become. For the rest, the future is like the universe: vast, complicated, and mysterious.

Today, there seems to be a heavy focus on the idea of, “finding your passion,” and using that as a tool to unlock future opportunities. But for those struggling to seek out said passion, it’s easy to feel stuck and even behind those peers who already have it all planned out.

As an individual who falls into the former category, I constantly worry about what the future holds. But over this past weekend, while listening to my favorite podcast, the “Freakonomics Radio,” a show which discusses “conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature,” I heard this one line that really stuck with me.

To preface, this podcast episode centered around the idea of attaining grit: the perseverance and determination which passionate individuals maintain. In it, the host, Stephen J. Dubner, and guest Angela Duckworth ponder the reality of finding one’s passion. They question whether one has to discover or cultivate a passion, and according to Mrs. Duckworth, it isn’t a matter of finding a passion, but rather, nurturing it. She says, “You have to foster a passion. You have to actively put some work in and try things and try them for a little while.” It sounds logical, even a bit obvious, but the reason this quote stuck with me was because it changed the way I thought about my future.

In the occasional what-do-you-plan-to-do-after-high-school conversation, someone always asks what my passion is and if I’m going to pursue that after graduating. With little confidence, my response usually sounds something along the lines of, “I’m not really sure what I want to do yet. I haven’t really determined where my interests lie.” But it’s exactly this idea of finding, discovering and digging up a passion, as put by Angela Duckworth, that has misled many into thinking that a passion is something that comes about as a serendipitous and random event. Instead, it is something that takes time, effort, work and dedication; it demands grit, requires persistence and will not come to existence without perseverance.

While I have yet to determine my passion, I am very lucky to know somebody who has. Meet Duha Alfatlawi. She is a current senior at Temescal Canyon High School. Aside from her numerous involvements such as being president of the school’s National Honor Society as well as vice-president of the Interact Club, she spends a lot of time outside of school dedicated to public speaking. Specifically, she does, “motivational speaking and occasional speech competitions.” Her reason: “I started during the beginning of high school after discovering that public speaking gave me a platform to encourage others, share my opinion and have a voice. After I realized that I could form an instant connection with many people in the audience as a result of relating to them through my words, I began to understand the power of public speaking.”

As seen in Duha’s case, a passion is something that needed time to develop. The more time and effort she dedicated in cultivating her passion for speeches, her love for the hobby simply grew. That’s not to say that her path to greatness has been without obstacles. Like most people, Duha has, “nervous feelings before going on stage,” but that nervousness is quickly forgotten once the talking begins.

Of course, the future holds plenty of opportunities for Duha aside from public speaking; through her hard work and passion, she is well-equipped with the ability to speak in front of tremendous audiences most individuals wouldn’t dare to even face. While she has yet to decide which university she shall be attending in the fall, she has already been accepted into several of the nation’s best universities, including UC Berkeley and UC San Diego.

As for those out there still undecided about what they would like to pursue beyond adolescence, just know that you’re not alone. Remember: we don’t spontaneously discover our passions, we grow into them. It’s a matter of diligence, grit, exploration and patience.

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