“The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.” ~Sir Ken Robinson
What is your element? Is it your job? A hobby? Something you just know you would LOVE to do but have not yet tried? Does your job give you joy? After all, isn’t joy the feeling you get when you are doing something that you are passionate about?
Or is your career just something you do? Do you do it because you are good at it or because it is just a way to earn a living? Or do you do it because you are good at it AND because you LOVE it AND because it inspires you? We should all be so lucky.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the mindset that you found what you were good at, molded your studies to fit your talents and that is what you went into for your career. It never occurred to me that just because I was good at something that I might not equally enjoy it.
I grew up in a musical household. I sang, learned piano, clarinet, taught myself a little trumpet, a little guitar, dulcimer and some other instruments. Music came naturally to me so obviously, that is what I figured I should go into. I thought I would be the next Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller. I had little desire to teach. I wanted to perform. At least, I thought I did.
Music was my life all during middle school and high school. It defined me. Everyone thought that was what I was going into. You had to basically pry my clarinet out of my hands to get me to quit practicing – same thing with piano. My band director would threaten to take my mouthpiece from me so I would STOP over-practicing before Solo Ensemble. And perhaps a part of me did love it and was passionate about it at that time. I enjoyed playing in the jazz band, the marching band, concert band and performing field shows. At one point I thought I might like to choreograph field shows. For a c-class school we had one of the best high school bands in the state. I joke not. I thoroughly enjoyed it and music was a major part of my life. Of 300 kids in our high school, about 150 were in the band.
My senior year, I auditioned for the music program at UW-Stevens Point and did very well – high honors theory and honors band. All the signs pointed for me to go in that direction. I never went. I passed it up when my parents marital issues became too much for me to handle. So I fled to Montana where I worked on a guest ranch cleaning and eventually becoming the cook for several years until I finally went back to college at the University of Montana and double majored in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. (I’ll regale you with my toddler ambitions of becoming Walter Cronkite another time) I realized at that point music wasn’t my passion. Otherwise, could I have walked away from it as I did?
I had an epiphany a few years ago that perhaps music was just an escape for me – from my father who had a tendency to take over my school projects. Music was one thing he could not take from me. It was all me – all mine and mine alone. But I don’t think I LOVED it the way I should have or thought I did. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy music. I love to sing and playing the piano is a source of relaxation for me. But I don’t hunger for it. I don’t have that drive or passion to perform.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is I am passionate about – what it is I LOVE and can’t imagine NOT doing. I like to do so many things, but it’s the thing we love to do even at the most mundane of times that matters. That is how we are supposed to know.
I know I love photography. I have no formal training, although I would love to take some classes. Time does not exist for me when I am taking pictures of nature. I am not so much into pictures of people, other than family. But I love taking pictures of flowers, contrasts in nature, how the sun hits certain objects.That gives me a thrill.
Writing is the other light of my creative life. I love writing and have been writing for as long as I can remember. Of course there are many different TYPES of writing and one could say that journalism, writing for radio, writing copy, writing speeches, essays, things that move people is what I am really good at. I love to write poems. The novel writing is not coming as easily to me but I am working on that.
I love to draw and paint although I am not very good at painting as you can see by my painting of tulips right here. But I don’t care. I like it. It makes me smile when I look at it. I painted it for me. I had great fun creating it and that is all that matters, right?
How about you? Do you allow yourself that sort of joy? The sort of joy that throws caution to the wind and just revels in the fun of doing and to hell with anyone else or what they think? That is joy. That is joy in the creative. That is what and how we should all feel.