Be forewarned. What I’m about to say may shock you. It might go against some of your core beliefs, and definitely opposes a cherished social maxim. Prepare yourself.

Here goes…

It’s ok to just “like” stuff.

Try not to hyperventilate. I’m fully aware that the above statement directly contradicts the marrow of great thinkers, philosophizers, inspirers, and motivators from antiquity to Oprah. But I’m convinced that I’m right. More importantly, I’m confident that my perspective is more than right. It’s humane.

Allow me to explain.

I was born on the cusp of the Millennial generation. I’m neither one of those “darn kids these days,” nor Gen X. I’m generationally neutral, so to speak. What is obvious, though, about the pure-generationists spawned both before and after my limbo year, is that they are plagued by a consuming need for one thing in everything:

Passion.

Passion for their jobs, hobbies, relationships, projects, prospects, ambitions, attire, footwear, eyewear, location, libation, vacation, vocation, claymation…Passion for it all. And let me tell you something. The pressure for passion is stressful.

(OK. Maybe I’m not so generationally-challenged. I do feel the need to be passionate. Sacre bleu. I’m switching to the collective pronoun.)

We get pumped with bumper-sticker-ready cliches demanding not just that we pursue “dreams,” but how we should pursue them. We are commanded to “fall in love” with everything we do, to stay “hungry and foolish” a la Steve Jobs, to be both inspired and inspiring, to shun practicality, to ooze desire for our tasks. Byron, Einstein, Emerson, Pascal, Camus, Franklin, all are leveled at us as ammunition against the epidemic marked by domesticating and taming the passionate beast that is our soul, softly lulled to sleep by the banality of modern life.

We, the few, the proud, the passionate, do not merely exist, we live.

(It’s convincing, no?)

The power of this polemic is impressive. We don’t just get jobs anymore. No, no. We pursue only the most fulfilling work that feeds the soul and both completes us and serves the common good. Humdrum employment is only allowable if we acknowledge that it is temporary while we save for our true calling (or if we insist that our job is ironic since, of course, we are hyper aware of the futility of the 9-5.)

We lionize the starving artist, the roamer, the Holden Caulfield’s, the Ginsberg-ians who do not sit quietly while life is lived by others, who Howl.

And this, my friends, is where passion as a prerequisite for living gets cumbersome.

The problem with requiring passion is that we can, in turn, create stress, frustration, slowly becoming annoyed with ourselves and others if we perceive a lack of this nectar. Not knowing fully, perhaps, what being passionate “is,” we are still pretty sure we know what it isn’t. Even if we are figuring out whether or not we ourselves are the personification of passion, we feel fairly confident we can spot the dispassionate. Passion surely isn’t the CEO, the banker, the broker, the cashier, the housewife, the content, or the obedient. The truly passionate will not rely on routine, a planner, Microsoft Excel, or motivation. The passionate will simply “do” because passion is the catalyst for action.

As lovely as it sounds to float around in a utopia all fluffy with passion, it simply isn’t realistic, and it isn’t fair. We must free our psyches from the dictatorship of passion. We need to allow ourselves to be practical. We must recognize that sometimes, it’s perfectly acceptable to just like stuff.

Case in point: I am very thankful to have a job, particularly in the reality that is our current economic situation. But, do I love my job? Do I wake up before my alarm giddy with anticipation to jump in my car and get to my job? Do I fall asleep at night freshly bathed in the comfort of believing that what I did in my job that day was astounding? No. But I like my job, at least most of the time. I like the fact that I have health insurance and dental. I like getting a paycheck. I like being productive.

Now, is it possible that there is a job out there I could be passionate about? Possibly. But I have no idea what that could be at the moment, and I don’t feel compelled to continue encouraging the spirit of discontent I’ve been fostering the past few months because I’m not passionate about my work. I’ve done that already. It’s exhausting.

Instead, I’m embracing the opportunity to be in “like” with stuff. I’m allowing myself to desire passion without requiring it. I’m legitimating the option to be simply content with my employment. I’m letting myself finish my dissertation without demanding that I salivate over opportunities to revise my chapters. I’m reading Austen, not Salinger or Kerouac.

Why?

Because my approach is not only practical and functional, it’s humane. I’m not denying the significance of passion, and I’m certainly not halting my pursuit of it. But I’m not demanding it in everything in every moment.

So, to all of you who are also in “like” with your life, either in its entirety or in part, I validate you. Salute!

~Arrivederci

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