Why Finding Your Passion is Not Enough

Warning: Venn Diagrams ahead 

When I was younger, I thought that I really wanted to 1.) graduate with honours, 2.) get a high paying job in a multinational corporation, 3.) climb up the corporate ladder, 4.) go for an MBA or further studies, and 5.) build my own company to be my own boss. In that order. And that is a perfectly good path. I know lots of people who are on this path and they love it! But I came up with this roadmap not because I felt passionate about it, but because I thought that it made the most sense.

See, I did not have the connections, inheritance, free flowing allowance, or the luxury to figure myself out and eat, pray, love. Nope. Earning a stable income was not a personal goal, it was a requirement for survival. Literally. So early on, I conditioned myself to choose the most stable and less risky path.

But life happened during college and utterly disturbed me. Ateneo’s “Men and Women for and with Others” happened. Philosophy, Theology, Socially Oriented Organizations, and Gawad Kalinga happened. I started reflecting and discerning a lot and realised that this is what I really want (that dark pink area in the middle):

The Venn Diagram of finding the passion you can pursue in life 

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I got incredibly fortunate to find this in R2R (Rags2Riches, Inc.) almost right after college, while working as Program Assistant for the Ateneo School of Government’s Youth Leadership & Social Entrepreneurship Program. I stuck to one thing for 8 years. And I love it! BUT. That is not what this article is about (I’ll write about that in the future). This article is about identity and about how doing what you love (or having your own pink area in your Venn diagram) is not equal to finding or defining yourself. I wish I knew this earlier. I mean, I knew this conceptually, but concepts are easy, living them is harder (guess the Hamilton song reference). 

Note to self: Your passion and the company/business/activity that manifests it, are parts of you. Do not get lost in it.

For the first few years (and until now), the company was growing, surviving, and learning. It needed my focus and dedication. I thought I could not afford to do anything else. I mean, sure, I went on vacations, watched a lot of TV, watched TED talks, joined some workshops and events. But mindshare-wise, I did not allow anything else in. No side hustles and no unrelated intellectual curiosities. And to a certain extent, that was okay. I deeply believe in the company’s mission after all and we were trying to solve a social problem that we were passionate about. It truly deserved focus and dedication.

But this is what happened to me: I focused on my work in R2R and unintentionally made it define me. I never allowed myself to feel that I deserved credit for anything in R2R but at the same time, I did not know what I was good at (or good for) without it.

After a few years of this kind of mindset, my Venn diagram looked like this:

The Venn Diagram of Getting Lost

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It was incredibly lonely to be that little dot lost in that big wonderful thing. And yes, it looks like a pimple too (haha). For good reason. My situation was not helping the big wonderful thing that I love.

I stopped learning, listening, and growing outside of the work I’m passionate about. And that did not help the work I’m passionate about.

How did I realize all these? Well, for one, I was no longer curious and could not remember the last time when I was. I was no longer fascinated or impressed with anything. I would travel for work but won’t have that wide-eyed wonder anymore. I would meet really interesting people but I won’t be interested.

Because I got too caught up with what I love doing, I forgot how to appreciate it or anything outside of it. I became almost like a snob who thought that I knew it all, and I have been there and done that. Yet strangely enough, at the same time, I felt inadequate and undeserving. What a weirdo.

It all caught up with me about a few months ago (or maybe creeping up since a few years ago) when we had to go through the biggest challenge that we have ever faced in R2R (another story for another time). At the same time, I got pregnant. These two huge milestones shook me. This combination was new to me. Because I lived inside my own mental solitary confinement for so long, I suddenly did not know how to move forward. I was not able to practice the mental and emotional agility that comes with opening up to the world. So the feelings of inadequacy came back. I repeated the vicious cycle.

But instead of drowning in it this time, I decided to get out of it. I am going to be a mom (thank you mommy hormones too, I think you helped)! And R2R’s challenge is about to become its biggest breakthrough! I could feel overwhelmed, but I should not drown, and I must not stop.

So recently, I started opening my world again to the different areas in my life that needed to grow. Instead of being a little dot (or pimple) within my passion, I am my own person with a bigger purpose and my passion has a life of its own too. I am part of it and it is a part of me. And this kind of relationship enriches us both (come to think of it, same principle applies for other kinds of relationships). It kind of looks like this now:

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I think doing what you love is still important. It is one of the best ways to live. Yes, still look for that pink area in your own Venn diagram. It will be challenging, and it will be worth it.

But your personal WHY is bigger than that area and even bigger than your passion – so find a WHY that transcends the roles and encourages you to express and manifest your purpose in every aspect of your life.

Yup, I’m ending this with a cheesy video that relates to this whole article.. 😉 If you have not watched the movie yet, you should! OR, just watch this clip. No spoilers here (I think). 

 

Creating a Bucket List that Matters

  • Went up the Eiffel tower – check
  • Spoke at the Sydney Opera House in front of Australia’s young leaders – check
  • Traveled (almost) around the world without spending – check
  • Met with world leaders and awesome people – check
  • Ate Desmond Tutu’s birthday cake (yup) – check
  • Married the man of my dreams and prayers – check

My life looks like a ticked off bucket list. BUT.

I could think of so many more things that I have done before reaching the age of 30 (and one of my favorites is marrying the man of my dreams & prayers!).

The truth is, life is not comprised of just trophies, certificates, countries, courses, adventures, and awards. It is also full of moments of anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. In fact, the things that really build character are the hard things, not the ones that make you giddy inside.

So whenever younger people ask me about all my achievements (and by “achievements”, some usually refer to the awards, media exposure, etc.) and ask how they could achieve them too, I always feel uncomfortable.

One, because I don’t think the awards, media exposure, or number of passports (or stamps on them) are the goals. The goals should be bigger, inclusive, and based on faith and hope for a better future for everyone. If the awards themselves become the end goals, that would be dangerous and misguided – and such a waste of time and talent. And trust me, they are not good enough as anchors. They crumble when things get tough. 

And two, I don’t think that my life is a success story already told and that it could be measured based on media mileage or awards. Those are not the real achievements (they are great pats on the back though and are definitely appreciated). Behind all the glitz and glamour, I consider my real achievements to be the moments of survival, belief, hope, faith, and love in spite and despite of all the anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. 

So instead of creating just a bucket list of things-to-do and places-to-go (I also have those!), I also wrote another that is more meaningful and will remind me of the more important things in life. Hopefully, for those who feel in a hurry to “achieve” and measure their achievements though external rewards, this list could help you build your own bucket list that matters: 

  • Tell the people you love that you love them, all the time. It may be awkward at first for some people, but you’ll remember these moments the most (my status: YES! all the time!) 
  • Tell your biggest failure story and share its lessons (my status: soon!)
  • Forgive the people you blame for some difficult times in your life (my status: getting there!)
  • Lose an award, nomination, or something that you really want, with grace and genuine happiness for others (my status: after lots of tries, finally there!)
  • Listen to constructive personal feedback without being defensive or listening only to respond (my status: still practicing, but getting better)
  • And finally (but really, the list goes on), find a community that you could love and stick to – it could be a church group, organization, cooperative, artist hub, group of like-minded people, etc. and constantly think of ways to provide value to them. Serving others is one of the best ways to find your calling and passion.

When you measure your life and achievements through more meaningful metrics, all the awards, media exposure, travels, and other things that may come your way (and they will come because the world needs and loves people with passion and purpose), will be nice-to-have. But you’ll find that nothing beats the moments of survival, belief, hope, faith, and love in spite and despite of all the anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. 

Photo by: Shutterpanda for Rags2Riches, Inc. 

9 Reasons Why I Started Blogging Again

1) I have finally recovered from my previous blog trauma called Multiply – guess what my username was? PAXANGELUS. WHY. 

I used to have a Multiply blog that is so well updated with all kinds of random ramblings. I talked about politics, love, life, religion, movie reviews, and everything in between. But my favorite (NOT) parts of this blog were my “blind items” and passive aggressive posts about my crushes and some people I know. CRINGE. Before Multiply closed down (THANK GOODNESS), I saved all of these entries and secured them in a multiple password protected and authenticated place that I alone could access and read, in case I just want to beat myself up or laugh at my younger self. And no, I am not yet ready to share all of them again. hahaha 

So yes, I was traumatised with my own younger voice. I feel like a Tita cringing at the status messages and posts of her teenage niece. I did not want to write in public again because I was afraid that I will go back to these after a few years and find out that I was not as smart as I thought I was. 

Like this particular passive-aggressive entry:

PaxangelusMultiply

Before I saved this, I edited all of the blog entries to be private (thus, the “for you” note) because I just could not risk anyone else copying them for future blackmailing purposes! And to my three friends who commented, why didn’t you tell me this was a bad idea?!


But recently, I realised that even if I still cringe every time I read my past entries, I should accept them as part of who I am and what made me who I am today. We all have pasts that we are not entirely proud of (right? right? Come on!), but these should not keep us from moving forward and being better.

OH! and I also realised that my past blog entries were meant to be just cathartic. And to a certain extent, personal blogs that are written for catharsis could provide insight and value for others. But I thought that I should expand beyond unintentionally providing value. So now, instead of just having this blog for cathartic reasons (that is still part of it!), my intention is to also learn, contribute, and create valuable and useful content. I have lined up a lot of entries for the next few weeks and even months and proud to say that none of them are blind items or passive aggressive entries! I’m so proud of myself. haha 

2) My twice a month personal emails to R2R advocates

So recently, I have been writing personal emails to our R2R advocates. When we first started doing this, I was kind of hesitant because I thought I would run out of things to say or share. But we are a few months into this now and my mind is still overflowing with stories and new ideas! I’m sure there will be times when I’ll experience some blocks, but as long as there are people, little things to be thankful for everyday, and small victories to celebrate, we’ll not run out of inspiring stories. 

3) Traffic and erratic internet access 

Cheers to finding silver linings! Because of our terrible traffic situation, I find myself on the road longer. And because of erratic mobile internet, I could not answer emails/work/get on calls efficiently while stuck in traffic. Luckily (?), I have audio books and podcasts (all downloaded for offline listening) and my journaling app works great even when offline! So lots of time on the road + erratic mobile internet = lots of time staring out the window, listening to books and podcasts, and getting hit by lots of ideas that I could immediately record in my journal (Day One).

4) My Day One Journal 

Thanks (?) to traffic and erratic internet connection, my Day One is filled with random thoughts, status messages that I wanted to post but did not, and some pretty cool insights that surprise me too when I read them again. I realised that I could be really weird & incoherent, but at times, I make sense. haha

5) Mocha Uson Blog

I know, I know! Okay, hear me out. I have never read her blog thoroughly and I would not repost her blog entries as “credible news” and examples of “authentic journalism”. But like it or not, she has a voice. And she’s not shy about reminding anyone who would listen. And so I thought, if Mocha Uson could blog, anyone should be able to. In fact, more people should! I know a lot of amazing people who are smart, insightful, thorough, and objective, who could make some noise too. If we have people who contribute to the chaos, we need more people to contribute to the clarity.

6) Mar Roxas, the travel and food blogger

His blog is seriously adorable. And he’s a Tito, with Tito jokes and all.

While I was overthinking and second guessing myself and everything I put out into the world, he was confidently incorporating corny puns and jokes into his captions and sentences. I don’t want to be a boring Tita when Mar Roxas is a funny Tito. Please.

7) Arriane Serafico 

I still sometimes can’t believe that we’ve been friends for less than 5 years (according to Facebook though, we have been Facebook friends since May 2010! What?!)! This woman inspired me, ate with me (but like, 10x faster), listened to me, and planted crazy ideas inside my head (the good kinds, sometimes). We have been through a LOT, traveled together, slept on one Hello Kitty bed for a few nights, and shared personal stories of hardships and hope.

And now, she’s venturing into something she has always been great at: teaching and empowering others to achieve their personal goals! I could attest to how great she is when it comes to this and would recommend her class to anyone who would like to set meaningful goals and design their lives!

Being her friend has been very inspiring and her go-getter vibe is infectious! So here I am, go-getting (if there is such a term – there should be)! 

Arriane_Serafico

Screen grabbed from: arrianeserafico.com

8.) Our R2R Team & Artisans

Working with a group of inspiring people with amazing stories is just rejuvenating! We talk about weird and mundane things too, but a lot of our conversations are also enriching and thought-provoking. We talk about our artisans, advocates, positive impact, sustainable design ideas, love (yes!), politics (oh, you should hear us!), creativity, innovations, and many more. Some of my Day One entries are based on our conversations too. So in a way, I’ll be sharing the behind-the-scenes of a social enterprise with a group of passionate people talking about world-changing ideas!

9) And finally, my conversations with my husband


My husband Mark is pretty smart. That’s an understatement actually. He has this natural curiosity & interest in others that I wish I have too! I’m learning!

Fortunately for me, I get to talk to him a lot. We are almost always together every single day, and we have the same values and hopes for ourselves, our family, and our country. I am always learning when I’m with him, which means that I’m always learning.

A lot of the things I log on my Day One came from my conversations with him. We talk about philosophy, ideas, innovations, theology, psychology, the best Tonkatsu place, super heroes, Rags2Riches, Hapinoy, inequality, politics, lyrics of songs that he always messes up, travel, our upcoming baby, and anything and everything we can think of (and we have really itchy minds)! 

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Hihihi #Kilig 

So there! Because of all my “influences”, here are some of the topics to expect from my blog:

  • Ideas – I’ll “give away” some ideas that I hope to see in the world one day
  • Travel stories
  • Life Hacks – mommy stuff that I’ll learn as I go along, productivity hacks I have tried (and worked for me),  and other tips that I could not think of right now but I’ll learn in the future
  • Art stuff – art that inspire me, art I made, etc.
  • Behind-the-scenes of R2R
  • Insights on life, love, some politics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and more!