To The College Student Seeking to Follow Their Passion

“Do what you’re passionate about,” my advisor said as I sat–a confused college freshman–before her, having a 18-years-of-life crisis.

Passion has never been something I’ve lacked.  Passion for an individual subject in school, however, has been a troubling concept for me to grasp for as long as I can remember.

By definition, passion is something for which you feel strong emotion. Above all, I have a passion for lost people to experience the abundant grace of Jesus.  Beyond that, I have passion for many, many aspects of this world.  I am passionate about whichever book I’ve read the week before that I’m convinced is my new favorite.  I am passionate about taking road trips when I should probably be studying or not spending money on gas.  I am passionate about loving my friends well.  I am passionate about learning–I never want to stop.  I’m passionate about spreading the word of Jesus’s redemption to those who believe they’re so far from its realm.  I’m passionate about going on adventures and making memories.  I feel a strong desire and love for all of these elements of my life and the world around me.  I don’t see my future lacking any of these desires. They are my passions.

As I sat before my advisor a year ago, I didn’t realize that her simple statement would lead to so much discovery and growth in what the Lord was trying to teach me.

I’ve come to find that many of us have put faith and hope in the same myth: The right thing to do is choose a major that you are passionate about. “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”

I am not arguing that one cannot love and enjoy their job, nor am I arguing that one should choose a major and career for the pure sake of getting hired and making money, regardless of whether they enjoy what they are doing.

However, I propose the problem is that when we receive these pieces of advice, we hear something that abundantly pressures us.  We hear that college is where we will choose a major that we are passionate about, and then we will look forward to the career that will overflow us with joy.  This sounds incredible in theory, but then we get to college and realize that it’s not as easy in execution.

Maybe you’re like me and every class you take convinces you that you should spend the rest of your life studying that subject.  Or maybe you fall on the other end of the spectrum, wondering how you could ever pick one of these subjects to focus on for even another semester because they’re all so uninteresting.  Both ends of the spectrum have something in common: when they hear “follow your passion,” stress abounds.  To the one who loves school, the stress of choosing a single area of study cripples you. You just want to learn all of the things. To the one who has never loved a day of school in their life, the stress of not feeling a passion towards any major cripples you.

So here lies our pivotal issue: the passions that we are following, I argue, should not solely be in a school subject.  We are called to so much more. We are called to an abundant life of compassion and servitude for others.  We are called to a life of freedom and adventure, love and relationships, joy and worship.  We are called to go beyond the walls of an office, a studio, a lab, a building.

While I believe we are all created uniquely, so as to excel in different work fields, I also believe that these work fields merely facilitate the practice of the passions and desires that the Lord has hand-knit into our hearts.

I am majoring in Finance and Management.  I do not feel strong desires or emotions for the analysis of financial trends or economic patterns.  I do not feel passion for overseeing and managing a business system.  Climbing the corporate ladder and one day owning my own company does not bring tears of joy to my eyes. But my passion to provide redemption, opportunity, and the hope of Jesus to those who have felt so far from it through the establishment of a nonprofit organization one day does.  But even if my future takes unexpected turns and that nonprofit is never established, my passion will remain.  That is where I find hope–in the fact that the major I choose today will not hinder me from following my passions for the rest of my tomorrows.

So to the student, or “real-world” adult, that has received this advice and borne the pressure that accompanies it, take a deep breath.  Choose a major that you wouldn’t mind spending four years pursuing and eventually getting a job in.  Choose a major that you will enjoy.  But don’t worry about choosing a major that ignites joy and satisfaction in the deepest parts of your soul, because it is likely that it does not exist.

The Lord has put you where you are and has placed unique desires in your heart, and to those things you should be most aware.  Seek the Lord’s purpose for where you are right now.  Seek the desires He has given you.

Make a list of your dreams. No really, do it.  It’s some of the best advice I ever received.  List, on paper, what you dream to accomplish in your life and don’t let any items on your list be for anyone else.  While we all wish for happiness and health in the lives of those we love, make this about you. When you look at your list, realize that God has placed each of these dreams in you for a reason. Not so that you can pick the perfect major, but so that you can explore His world in a way that is unique to who He has made you to be, and in doing so, come to know Him better.

So now, a year later, I can say that my advisor’s advice was great.  I will follow my passions.  I encourage you to do the same.  But what I didn’t grasp a year ago was the peace of knowing that my passions will never be for a single area of study, job, or career.

Use your years at college to grow and discover who your God has made you to be.  Use your years to invest in the people around you and to be invested in.  Use your years to study hard and do your best, but to stay focused on what truly matters.

He has come that you may live.  Live abundantly. Seek and follow the passions and desires of your heart.

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