For many years, I have felt torn by this tension.
As a husband, father of four, healthcare professional, homeowner, etc. I have obligations. I have commitments and responsibilities that affect others’ lives.
At the same time, I am passionate about writing and earning publication. I would even goes as far to say I feel called to write.
Obligation is a sort of sad beauty.
I imagine the dutiful single mother sacrificing everything to ensure her kids get opportunities she believes she’ll never have. Or the Olympic athlete from a poverty-stricken country giving up their life for the chance of bringing hope to their country and family.
The ghost that haunts obligation is the ever-present wondering of “what if”.
Passion is a sort of joyful narcissism.
Nothing beats the opportunity to pour yourself into something that turns you on. It’s like the rush when beginning to date someone you’re crazy about.
The ghost that haunts passion is rootless wandering.
So, when it comes to our creative ambitions, should we sacrifice passion for obligation or obligation for passion? With limited time in the day, we can’t have more of both, right?
I’ve found that the younger we are, the more space we have for our passions, because we have fewer obligations. But as we age, this reverses as obligations such as family, income, community service, etc. enter our everyday lives.
Here’s what interests me.
What if we could enter an obligation and emerge with a passion?
Or what if we could enter a passion and emerge with an obligation?
In both cases, one serves as a root note, while the other serves as harmony.
If you are young and have time to follow your passion, then how can you root that passion with an obligation to others? And if you’re like me, older and chock-full of obligations, how can you make those obligations the source material for your passion?
That’s what creativity is, isn’t it—taking something and crafting it into something else?
So it only makes sense that that is what we should do in our everyday life, as well.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on February 3, 2013.