Passion vs Balance

Everyone is encouraged to have passion. We are taught at a young age that having hobbies or beliefs that you are fiercely devoted to is a good thing, and that life without passion is dull at best. However, we’re also encouraged to have balance as a core element of our lives. We’re reminded that most things are bad in excess, and that being so obsessed with something that it takes up all the space in your brain and all the time in your schedule can lead to isolation and disappointment. Most of us thus strive for a form of ~balanced passion~ in which we pursue the things we care about in a rationally timed, fair-minded way. This approach seems like the best solution we can realistically achieve, but the more I reflect on it, the more dichotomous balance and passion seem to be. Passion shouldn’t be a logical process; it should be something that radiates out of you. In contrast, balance should uplift holistic wellbeing instead of perpetuating narrow life focuses. It seems as though simple hobbies can exist in a balanced state, but true, devoted passion cannot. Unless, of course, the very passion you’re talking about is a passion for balance. 

It’s a funky way to describe my world view, but over the last few years of reflecting on what I value in the world, balance is a recurring theme. I always prefer having a mix of a bunch of things that make me happy rather than pouring my heart into one or two big things. Similarly, I believe in forming holistic opinions that consider all sides of a situation rather than sticking to one core view. Whether it’s my appreciation for law-related topics, the relationship I have with running, or simply my day to day schedule, I find the greatest peace and fulfillment in making balance the foundation of everything I think and do. 

I’ve always found the law to be super interesting and legal proceedings to be super intuitive. With properly funded and educated counsel, both sides get a chance to sway the jury with their side of the story. Though there often are clear injustices in the power discrepancies between prosecution and defense, the premise that the law should be based on balanced scales of justice really appeals to me. I’ve always been a big believer in hearing everyone’s side of the story and considering all perspectives when evaluating what is true or not. If you think about it, that’s kind of a simplified version of what judges and juries are supposed to do with every case. I swear this isn’t me claiming I have the credentials to be a judge (though my parents did say that I should become one from the day that toddler me started arguing with them over what is and isn’t fair). This is, however, me saying that I think I’d be better at seeing the validity in both sides to a case than a decent number of judges I’ve read about. 

The same thing can be said for the relationship I have with my love for running. In high school, I was pretty much forced to have an unbalanced relationship with the sport. I loved my coach to pieces, and I know she only wanted the best for us, but my naturally injury-prone body did not fare well when it came to running 3 to 9 miles almost every day. Still, I was absolutely in love with everything running put into my life. I felt so validated by the act of setting and accomplishing goals, and I also relied on my runs almost daily to give me clarity with whatever was going on in my life. It was the epitome of a passion, and I didn’t really know how to give it up once I wasn’t running competitively in college anymore. I joined the club team at my school and even ran a half marathon with them, but my other responsibilities and involvements didn’t allow me the time or mental/physical energy to devote to running passionately like I used to. Running now is something I root in balance instead of passion, and while I’m constantly working to refine what that relationship exactly looks like, I know that I’m significantly happier doing it this way. The sport is now something I do to stay healthy and tone muscle instead of something I do to win all the medals I possibly can. It’s still one of the best coping mechanisms I have and a priority for my summer break this year, but it’s not something I feel forced to do on days when my body is begging for rest. The clarity I used to get from a 6 mile run is now just as easily attained by a 2 mile run and a half-mile walk with my dog. I might not be able to come even close to hitting the times I used to when running was my true passion, but I now have more time and energy to spend on my other interests. This balanced view has helped me fall in love with the sport in new ways that I didn’t know were possible when the sport was my whole life, as odd as that sounds. 

Lastly, balance has been a core element of the way I’ve structured my life’s priorities for the past few years. While on the outside I probably come off like a workaholic, I’m extremely proud of myself for always seeking and pretty solidly implementing a balance of rest, social time, extracurricular activities, and studying throughout my college experience. I know that I’m the kind of person who needs to study something a million times before I can actually retain it for an exam, but I also know I’m the kind of person who will go absolutely insane if I spend the whole day in the library. I also don’t go out as much as some of my friends do, but I still make sure to embarrass myself at a bar or party at least a few times a semester. I know some people are genuinely SO happy living in excess when it comes to this, especially if you think about how the stereotypical happy college experience is painted, but I’ve never really gravitated towards that. 

If you’ve ever taken an introduction to microeconomics class, you’ve probably heard of an indifference curve. For those who haven’t, the curve basically shows all of the different bundles of two goods that someone would be equally content with. For example, the average ~rational thinker~ could be equally happy with getting either 10 units of Good 1 and 2 units of Good 2 OR 5 units of each good. While people prefer means to extremes, the consumer can be equally happy with less of Good 1 if they get more of Good 2. The whole time I’ve been writing this post, I’ve had a whopping indifference curve living rent free in my brain. I hate that my economics class has manifested into my writing, but I do think it’s a pretty interesting metaphor. My preference for balance in everything I do would make my indifference curve look pretty abnormal, as I’ll always prefer the means over even the slightest extremes. I suppose it makes me not a typical rational consumer, but economics is pretty fake anyway, so it’s okay. 

As long as you find fulfillment in what you do, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a means or extremes type of person. In fact, maybe that dichotomy doesn’t exist for you, and you’re able to see more of a gray area between passion and balance. I do, however, wholeheartedly believe that spending some time thinking about what underlying value your actions and priorities are rooted in is vital in developing your understanding of yourself and the way you want to spend your time on this crazy spinning ball we call Earth.  

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