Passion into work

I have spent my entire life chasing dreams. I think there’s a reason we love what we love, and we should spend our lives, our time, on that which brings us the most joy. It’s very clear. Hypothetically. Reality is blurrier.

About a year ago, one of my closest friends confided in me that she was considering going back to school for photography with the intent of possibly changing professions. Taking pictures is among her favorite pastimes. It relaxes her. It reminds her of the intrinsic beauty of the things she most often photographs: landscapes, sunsets, architecture. Her photos are stunning.

“Be careful,” I warned. “When you turn your passion into your career, something shifts, a piece of the passion, of the unbridled joy of doing what you love, gets lost.”

I would know.

Singing is my greatest release. I feel most alive when I sing, most connected to myself and to the world around me. I cannot imagine my life without it, which is exactly why I have made it my life.

But when you put a full life’s worth of pressure on your passion, it changes. I have come to believe that pure passion cannot carry the weight of making sure you have enough money to pay your rent; it cannot soften the blow of the rejections that will inevitably come. When you turn something you love into work, you will not be able to rely on it in the same way. It will no longer be your escape from the stresses of reality; it will carry the weight of your reality.

You will have to open your heart to criticism in a new way and practice when you don’t feel like it. You will have to sacrifice other areas of your life on behalf of your passion. You will have to learn to expand what you do in order to improve and grow. Sometimes you will have to work on some part of your craft that is so different from what you instinctively know and love that you will lose sight of yourself and your artistry in the process.

But if you keep working, you will find yourself again. And eventually you will astonish yourself with the things you have learned and the ways you have developed. There is still a long way to go, sure, but you will have turned into an artist. And the passion will be there, but in a different way. It will be more technical, more masterful.

There are still days that I get lost in song, days where I sing purely for the joy of singing, but more often than not, I sing to get better. I practice to grow. I feel the weight of needing to be in great vocal shape when I have a tour coming up and the burden of trying to mix what I love with what is commercially viable.

I have no regrets. If I were able to go back in time and do it all over, I’d make many of the same choices.

I think my friend would make a brilliant photographer. And if she wants to travel this road, I will support her every step of the way. But it’s a choice, a tough choice that she can’t take lightly. It’s a choice that every single day I do not take lightly.

Ultimately, in my humble opinion, passion is the most glorious thing in the world. But it isn’t enough.