What if I Don’t Have a Thing?

What if I Don’t Have a Thing?

For as long as I can remember, I have been encouraged to be well-rounded. I joined nearly every sport offered by my school, tried out countless clubs, from knitting to coding, and spent small amounts of time learning various skills and subjects. As it turns out, I am not necessarily great at any one thing, or even interested most strongly in a specific area. After years of ‘speed-dating’ with different activities, I have yet to find my passion. In the meantime, I have become fascinated by people who dedicate their time to entirely one area. Alie Ward’s podcast, Ologies, has given me the opportunity to peer into the lives of experts in fields that I didn’t even know existed and learn about how passion drives their work.

Cheloniology. Gelotology. Deltiology. Huh? Are these even real words? I thought the same thing at first, too. But through listening to Alie Ward’s weekly episodes, I’ve learned that these are the studies of Sea Turtles, Laughter, and Postcards, respectively. Alie opens up the eyes of her listeners through interviews with experts, allowing them to discover and become interested in subjects that they have likely never delved into. Beyond this, and arguably, more importantly, Alie aims to get to know the “people behind the science,” as she states in her intro episode. Ologies strives to break down the barrier between scientists in the workplace and their personal lives. It quickly becomes evident that their passions motivate their work, and vice versa. Through listening to Ologies, I have gained an appreciation for people with a ‘thing,’ and curiosity as to why some people have a strong passion for one definitive area.

“Passion” can be defined as the “strong inclination toward a self-defining activity that people like (or even love), find important, and in which they invest time and energy on a regular basis.”* I find the “self-defining” piece of this definition to be particularly significant; someone’s passion can often be equated to their identity and incorporated into a perception of their personality. While I may align the experts’ identities with their fields of interest, they themselves may also internalize this passion as an inherent feature of their self-image. In this way, you could imagine that passion provides a means of achieving fulfillment in one’s accomplishments. Moreover, passion has been proven to contribute to “sustained psychological well-being,” according to a study in this 2012 article in the Psychology of Well-Being journal. The experts on Alie’s show are not only extremely informed individuals but likely happy ones as well.

Many of the experts who are featured on Ologies have the same answers when asked why they do what they do: they simply love it. They often pinpoint specific moments when their passions were sparked or outline their favourite experiences in their job, but cannot explain exactly why they love their work so much–it appears almost natural for them. I am incredibly intrigued by their dedication to one single subject, but also know this is not the case in my experience. As an undergraduate student, I have often been told to find and pursue my passions, which has caused me to wonder: How can I become fulfilled by my accomplishments and maintain a strong sense of self when I don’t have a singular, critical interest?

As with finding a single passion, there are benefits that come with being well-rounded as a student and in personal life. Primarily, I have found that trying out a range of activities allows me to keep an open mind and push my boundaries. By taking advantage of the opportunities offered to me, I have had the chance to meet new people and connect over a larger variety of interests. Taking risks in new ventures comes with large rewards of self-satisfaction and forming bonds with those around us.

Ologies has allowed me to learn about a range of fascinating subjects that I would love to explore further, but none of which are my exclusive ‘thing.’ As much as I admire the people who dedicate themselves to their singular passion, I have not naturally found one for myself. Maybe my interests can’t be simplified to one subject area, and I’m perfectly happy to have a smaller, diverse set of my own. It’s certainly not a bad problem to have.




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