Marie* leaned in close and whispered, “I have a secret. I’m leading a double life.”
I was on the train, on my way to PodCamp Toronto and early into the trip, the young woman in the seat next to me struck up a conversation. We were total strangers and yet, she held my complete attention.
She was a business student at a university in Montreal and was two short months away from graduating. An only child, her parents had been calling her several times a day from Turkey, for over three years, since she’d come to Canada to study. She straddled two worlds, that of her traditional conservative upbringing and the provocative freedom of North American culture.
She went on to explain that she really didn’t want to go into banking or finance with her Bachelor of Commerce degree, but that her family expected her to do so. “No,” she said, “that’s not what gives me life.” You see she’d kept a secret from her family while she’d been away. She had fallen in love. With the tango.
Marie discovered dancing the tango shortly after coming to Canada. It ignited a fire in her and over the course of three years, she delved deep into the dance and the dance culture, traveling all over the city, and sometimes to other cities in Canada and the U.S., to attend events several times a week in dance halls and cultural centers. In fact, as she told me her story, she explained that she hadn’t yet been to sleep; she’d danced for seven hours the previous night.
When Marie spoke about dancing, her very being lit up from the inside. She spoke with passion about the nuances, the customs, what it was like to dance with strangers versus with a long-time partner. It was clear that Marie lived and breathed the tango and she was utterly enthralling.
Yet, she was grappling with the reality that soon she would be expected to enter into banking or finance when all she wanted to do was be around creative people and the arts; like-minded people who lived with passion. She worried that she’d have to suppress her inclinations within stereotypical blue suited peers and that she would lose part of herself. Marie was distraught.
Then, I suggested that she combine the two: put her commerce education to work for an arts company. She stared at me and blinked. Then stared some more. Then the light bulb moment of realization washed across her face. She’d never considered that she could combine her passion for dance and creativity with her business education. And she cried tears of joy
I tell this true story to illustrate three points.
The first is about the importance of living with passion. Marie had found something that she felt gave her air to breathe. That magical thing that so few people are lucky enough to find. If you have yet to find what it is that makes you crazy-happy, self fulfilled and giddy with excitement, and don’t know where to start looking, simply Google finding your passion for articles to get you started. Don’t spend another day without striving to find the thing that lights up your very being.
Once you know what you love, ask yourself, is this passion something that’s just for you, or would you love nothing more than to be doing it 24/7? Some people love to cook, but feel it would lose its spark if they worked in a restaurant. For them, it’s more of a refuge from the pressures of the outside world. However, if you want your special interest it to be part of your work, the next step is to think creatively about how you can combine them. What a tremendous asset Marie would be to any company who valued creativity and self-expression, whether they were in the arts or not.
There are lots of resources out there on making your passion your profession, so don’t put it off any longer.
“The masters in the art of living make little distinction between their work and their play, their labor and their leisure, their minds and their bodies, their information, their recreation, their love and their religion. They hardly know which is which, they simply pursue their vision of excellence at whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing.” - James Mitchener
For those in social media, it’s easy to use the words open, listening and conversation in digital terms, scrolling through your feedback channels looking for clues and openings to engage with people. But, as you go about your day-to-day business, traveling from one place to another, do you really take time to be open to the people around you, to allow for the possibility of great moments? Or do you have your head buried in your feed reader with your iPod headphones on?
The encounter with Marie proved to me that a seemingly random conversation on a train with a total stranger could have a profound impact. Indeed, my perspective changed the possibilities that she could see for herself, and may have changed her future. Even more, her enthusiasm and her passion for tango reminded me to take stock of my own joyful interests, one of which I’d been neglecting, and to make sure that I did all I could to keep those fires burning.
One conversation, two lives changed. Will you look at your seatmate the same again?
(*In the interest of privacy and the nature of her story, Marie is not her real name. All other aspects of the story are true to the best of my recollection.)
[image of Tango Legs by dark_mephi]
Adele McAlear is a marketer who loves technology and social media. With more than eighteen years marketing experience behind her, she launched McAlear Marketing in 2007 to provide strategic marketing services to small and medium-sized technology-influenced businesses. Find Adele on her blog, on Twitter or at adele |at| mcalearmarketing |dot| com.