It’s a nice thought, isn’t it? Going to college and pursuing your passions, then finding a job that aligns right with those same passions. Unfortunately, a lot of times, we elect to pursue majors in school that provide promise of job security, high paychecks, geographic locations we like, etc…instead of what we’re passionate about. Or if we do pursue our passions in college, we end up settling for a career that has little or nothing to do with those things we were passionate about as kids or as young adults. This isn’t the case with everyone, but definitely with a lot of folks I know.

I have a hard time with this. Mainly because it’s been a while since I’ve really taken time to thoroughly examine those things in my life (or not in my life) that I’m truly passionate about. Those things that fill me with an inexplicable happiness inside.

Sure, when I was a little girl, I had little-girl passions and dreams: I wanted to be a concert pianist (and a princess and gymnast before that). Bottom line, though, I was wholly passionate about music. I pursued music through over 10 years of piano lessons, choir participation from the time I could stand in front of church and avoid acting out, musicals for the same amount of time, playing keyboard and providing vocals in a couple of praise bands, taking guitar classes in college and making music a part of my everyday life since as long as I can remember.

So, what did I choose to pursue in college? English and communication studies. Grad school? Professional communication. What’s my job now? I’m a publications assistant. I design and develop marketing materials among other job responsibilities for the graduate school of my alma mater. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy it and am so thankful for the job as it allows me to move from place to place with relative ease.

But what went awry? Why did my passion for music get side railed?

That’s just it. It didn’t get side railed, but rather, put on hold. In my case, I still have music as a constant in my everyday life, but through Internet radio and my iPod. I yearn for the days when I played piano for hours, sang in choirs, participated in musicals and plays. Making music and listening to it warm my soul, truly. I’m emotionally affected by music; it’s got an incredible power over me. And while singing praise songs and hymns is when I often feel closest to God.

But being a musician wouldn’t have paid the bills, or so I thought. Being a musician wasn’t an impressive career–at least at first, so I was told by peers. In all honesty, saying that I was an English major was probably met with the same “Oh…” as if I had said “I’m pursuing classical piano.” Then the all-too-common-question, “So, what are you going to do with that major? Teach high-school? Become a writer? Be an editor?” And I had no real response. You see, although I love to read, write, and edit, it’s not one of my core passions.

So, I finished undergraduate school, was in a serious relationship with David, but not yet engaged. I decided to go for graduate school. Why not? I knew that I’d always wanted a graduate degree, and it’d make my parents proud. On top of that, I believed that it might help me better understand what I wanted to do with my life. So I started the MA program in professional communication. And the new questions started, “Are you going to be a news anchor? A reporter? A professor? What is professional communication?” And again, I didn’t have a real answer. I knew that I was good at editing, so I opted to use that as my default competent answer. “Oh, I plan to be the managing editor of a well-known fiction author one day, but in the beginning, I’ll edit small pieces while I work my way up.” Again, while I did (and still do) enjoy editing, it too is not one of my core passions.

I had kept myself so entirely busy since high school with school work, jobs, and extracurricular activities that I never took time to really assess my situation. I just figured, “Hey, I’m in college now, and I don’t want to switch majors because it’d put me behind. I’m going to finish this thing out. Besides, I really do love English!” Then it turned into, “Whoa. In grad school…this is tough. Do I really love this? I think so. Well, I’m not a quitter, so I’ll finish it out strong too and then figure things out.”

So I graduated with my master’s degree and got engaged on the same day. Enter wedding planning. Six months later, I was married and living 600 miles north of my hometown still working a version of my graduate school assistantship position. After settling in, I really wanted to make some girlfriends in PA. Since I worked from home, making friends wasn’t the easiest. The first gal I met invited me to a Mary Kay event. Less than two weeks later, I had my own Mary Kay business.

My business grew and grew, and I thought, “Finally, I’ve got something that’s definitely fun and that I’m definitely passionate about!” But I didn’t get into Mary Kay for a career. I did it for friendship. I’ve made some awesome friends, but I started not enjoying it as much. To clarify, I love my customers and my team members, but I started losing the drive to make Mary Kay a full-time career. I think I will always be a part-time consultant.

On the heels of a Mary Kay training seminar January 5, David and I sat down, and for a few amazing hours, talked about our passions. Our relationships with Christ and with each other came first and second. Then for me came great relationships, working out/health/fitness, music (piano, singing, etc). Third and fourth for David were helping other people via volunteering and using engineering to make a true difference in the world. We had others, but those were at the top.

It was sort of staggering, really. We started praying right then for God’s direction in pursuing our passions, and it’s an ongoing thing, but already we’re feeling a renewed sense of peace. I’ve stepped back from pursuing Mary Kay so intensely and am instead focusing my energy on training for our first marathon, building up a running group, practicing piano as often as I can and working up the courage to audition for our church’s praise band. It feels amazing. I’ll be sure to keep the updates flowing as God continues to lead and guide me and David in this incredible journey.

There are so many wonderful opportunities that life has to offer, but God has given us gifts and passions that guide us to where we need to be (along with his help, of course). Sometimes I think we’re afraid to use our gifts in the way that God seems to be guiding us to. I mean, honestly, it can be scary to step away from the familiar and comfortable and instead, pursue the unknown, untrodden path. But we have to remember that we have such limited vision. God sees the entire scope of our life and the lives we have the potential to influence. As unnerving as it may be, pray for his guidance and follow it in faith. I can’t say what will happen, but I trust in his promises:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Isaiah 48:17b I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.
Proverbs 1:33 But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.
Psalms 37:23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
Isaiah 58:11a The Lord will guide you continually…

What are you passionate about? How about pray that God would reveal those passions to you and guide you in how you should pursue them. You will likely be in for a wonderful journey of growth.