How do you know when something is your passion?
You like lots of things.
You do lots of things (maybe even well).
So how can you know?!
I like singing, crafting, teaching, writing, reading, playing many sports and instruments, children, organizing, making ideas come to life, drinking hot drinks, baking, hanging out with my many life-giving friends, just being with family, and about a thousand other things. But I can’t make a career out of them all (and I certainly wouldn’t want to–except for maybe the hot drinks thing…mmm).
I remember as a high schooler being told how to choose a career: find the crosspoint between what you’re good at and what you love. That’s the sweet spot. It took me a long time to finally say that THIS is what I love above most other options. And I wanted to share a little of that process with you. So. Here’s how I know.
I’ve always known I loved and needed to write. That was the easy part. I knew it, because I did it. As a young child, I wrote story after awful-second-grade story (Katie’s Adventures in Blue Land is a series you may never have the privilege to read). I kept journals, writing a Dear God entry every.single.night. (Side note: as I was preparing to clean out my room in my folks’ house at the end of college, I read through those journals and threw all but one of them away. For me, they served their purpose in allowing me a safe place to express myself. And I didn’t care to be reminded of the hard journey of maturing through the awkward middle school years. Did it. Wrote about it. Moved past it.) I would bring a notebook with me on hikes through our property, while climbing trees, and to the lunchroom. Writing was a release of difficult emotions and hilarious fantasies.
In high school, I started to be recognized for my writing. In small ways, mind you. An entry in a poetry anthology. A first place ribbon in a small Author’s Fair. And lots of encouraging words. I knew that I loved writing and that it didn’t feel like work for me to do it (and in fact, felt rather refreshing).
In college and through our early married years (<–man, that’s weird to say; hitting ten years this year!), I started putting words to music with high hopes of someday getting to combine two of my loves into one passion. (That dream, by the way, ended with a splat, but I still do put words to music for close friends and my own family. A love that isn’t quite a career can still be enjoyed.) My husband started a family blog to help us stay connected with our out-of-state family, and I dabbled with an occasional online writing appearance. I wrote often to companies whose products I appreciated (or didn’t, but I had a great suggestion). At adult Writer’s Workshops, we’d critique each other’s work anonymously, and my writing consistently received high praise. I entered a contest or two. I submitted a few articles to magazines. Not much response, but I wasn’t discouraged. My livelihood wasn’t resting on my writing skills, so it was a low-stress hobby.
I would write, even if no one listened.
Speaking of livelihood, I went the route of elementary teacher. It was a great combination of many loves–I made up silly songs for my kids, crafted creative bulletin boards and interesting lessons, taught children, read great literature, wrote often, coached volleyball, organized and analyzed data, baked sweet treats for my students, and more! I even started a teaching blog where I documented the many new and exciting and sad things I was experiencing in the world of those who don’t speak English as their first language. (Just a few posts down on that link is a poem I wrote at the beginning of one school year as we all prepared for many changes.) Yes, this profession was perfect for its season.
But then, I became a mother. My boss (whom shall forever be dear to my heart) created a part-time position for me. I did it for a year. I tweaked my teaching blog to share stories from EL teachers in the field. (My blog at this time was being shared in a few college classes, while I was getting to do some presenting of my own!) It was wonderful…and hard. All I knew is that I felt like I wasn’t doing either job (at school or home) with all my heart and felt pulled and distracted. I appreciate those who can do some; I can only do all or none. I knew that I needed to commit to one thing. So I chose home.
I’ve been a mother now for five (and-a-half, he reminds me) years. The first month of our first child’s life, I did a massive force takeover of our family blog (hey, babies are demanding, but they sure do sleep a lot and there’s really only so much laundry one can do for a family of three). I never intended to, but with all this space to write, write I did! I loved writing about what I was learning, sharing photos of The Most Adorable Boy Ever, and shaping my new experiences into poems.
I played some volleyball with the city league (sports), had friends over several times a week for playdates and dinners (friends/community), started a Family Health Log in Excel (organizing data), and sewed as if my life depended on it (creativity), but through all of these things that I loved, I wrote about every single one. If I didn’t write about it, it wasn’t complete, maybe it didn’t even happen. Most of that writing was just for me or family.
Then several years ago, I attended an IF:conference. I remember being really challenged to study our passions, the things we are naturally doing, and to see how we could use those things for a greater purpose. I came away with two ideas–one with writing, one with organizing/event planning.
First, I knew (know) that a problem in our local church is that God is at work through some really mighty ways…and nobody’s hearing about it! People are frustrated that their money/effort isn’t doing anything. Some people have left; some have stopped contributing. So I thought about using my love for writing to keep an online document of ways that God was clearly moving through this local body and its members to encourage His people and motivate them to carry on.
Second, having interacted with lots of young single mothers, I was given the idea of a number of area churches joining efforts with our local Crisis Pregnancy Center and hosting 2-4 combined baby showers a year, using the girls in their service.
Folks, those are still two great ideas that need someone to assert their passions and go!
Because try as I might, something just wasn’t right. Not about the ideas. Just about me in the ideas.
So now here we are. Instead of using my writing to boost people’s faith in God’s work or my creativity to love on girls in need, I’m writing about shoes and monsters and alphabets (and of course, life lessons because that will forever be part of my writing). I can’t tell you why things have worked out this way. I just know that every time I worked on something other than these first two books, my brain would shut down, my motivation would wander off, and my eyes would glaze over thicker than Krispy Kremes.
But these little alphabet books have also given me opportunities to speak with people I never would have previously, engage with kids who otherwise would have remained unknown to me, and even future potential of writing geared toward the heart.
Writing these books has been the weirdest pursuit…and most reviving. Getting to have input on the design and layout (creativity–though don’t let me crow too loudly; this is ALL James); brainstorming, listing, and rhyming (writing and organizing); editing (analyzing); presenting to schools and libraries (teaching); keeping track of our cost of goods and expenses and profits; and getting to write about my writing (!). All of these are part of this journey now and have been part of my journey always. (Plus, the majority of these things can happen during nap times and bedtimes.)
That’s how I know this is a good fit. Because now I have 30 years to look back on and can say, yes, I’m doing exactly what I’ve always done, just with more purpose now. And even if I never made a dime, I would still write. That’s how I know. This fits. This is my passion.