Finding My Passion: Discovering What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up

Last year, I had a conversation with a colleague in higher education who just so happens to be a chemical engineer… a scientist for all intents and purposes. Somehow we ended up talking about why we became involved in our certain field of study. I told her my story of an 8-year old girl’s aspirations of becoming a rocket scientist, and the tragic ending of that story dying with my inability to do well in my first Algebra class. She asked me why I wanted to become a rocket scientist in the first place, and I told her yet another story of how much fun I had at a science museum as a child and was convinced back then that science was the career for me. My colleague said she did not enter her field because it was “fun” (although she admits that sometimes she has fun working in her lab), but rather because she’d discovered something in that field that she was passionate about – something that truly sparked her interest and that she continues to have a great interest in. She continued to tell me that so often kids enter a field because it is fun and often times easy to do. She warned that a person can lose interest in that subject matter very quickly when the “fun” ceases and the work begins. Rather than choosing a career solely for the “fun” of it, choose it because there is something about it that lights a fire within you – sets off your passion.

How, then, does one stir up one’s passion for something in particular? In her March 20, 2015 article on How Kids Find Their Passion (found at, Quistic co-founder Penelope Trunk said that too often parents feel the need to expose their children to “what’s good for them” or to help their kids “actively look for their passion.” Trunk suggested that children should be left to discover on their own what their true passion is. However, Trunk does encourage parents to “steer” their children IF they know what their children’s personality type happens to be. Steering is not the same as pushing. Let’s be clear. Steering has an element of guidance without the steer-er having full control of that which is being maneuvered. The same is not true for pushing. Trunk further noted that children will find what they love on their own, just “like a cat searching for water in a drought-riddled  farm. By providing the freedom to explore, children will find that which they love. Also, not to be rude, but the passions of their adult parents mean nothing to our kids because it is not THEIR passion.

Going back to my colleague and her comment – she asked me what it was that I enjoyed about what I do with my students and the program I direct. I told her that I never tired of helping a student achieve their full potential academically and helping them discover something new about themselves. I also told her that I loved seeing families come together to help their community in getting the students to go on to higher education and seeing the hope in poor parents’ eyes when they entrust their child’s education future to me. My colleague then told me, “Science wasn’t your passion and that’s why you aren’t a rocket scientist.” No truer words were spoken by a wiser woman. Science ISN’T my passion. Helping others and bringing social justice to those who have no voice because of lack of opportunity or information IS my passion. That was how I found my passion. I went out there and someone let me live and learn to love something I was doing well on my own.

Have you found YOUR passion? What is it? Has it changed over time? I’d love to hear from you. Post your comments in the space provided.

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