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. 

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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.  

Losing the writing spark

For as long as I can remember, writing was my favorite outlet. When I was in first grade, I filled up more writers’ journals than anyone in my class. These journals contained everything from narratives of my family vacations, to make believe storylines about my American Girl Doll, to acrostic poems about each and every one of my friends. I would often choose to stay inside during recess to write, and even though my teachers looked at me like I was crazy, there was something so satisfying about putting pen to paper even at such a young age. 

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Throughout my K-12 education, this passion for writing only grew. My middle school creative writing club encouraged me to use writing as a tool of soul expression – the kind of expression that most people associate with journaling. My 11th grade teacher taught me to be intentional about every word I write, and this fairly intense scrutiny helped my rhetorical skills grow immensely. My 12th grade English teacher piqued my interest in the linguistics side of writing and implored me to keep writing past high school. These teachers had extremely high expectations of us, and they didn’t let crappy writing slide. When I realized that with a ton of hard work, I could fulfill and surpass these expectations, I grew even more sure of the gift that I had when it came to writing. The passion and knowledge that these teachers shared with me made me confident that even though I probably wouldn’t go into an English-centered career, writing would always be a part of my life. My genuine draw toward writing was the reason I created this very blog when I was a junior in high school during a time in my life when expressing myself on WordPress was the therapy I didn’t know I desperately needed. 

Not only did my genuine interest in writing grow during those years, but so did the validation I received in regards to my abilities. My teachers would often ask if they could hold onto my essays to show future students. I won the English Excellence Award senior year. My SAT tutor said she had never seen someone get an SAT essay score as high as mine. This consistent validation definitely made me grow a big head about my writing abilities, but I think it was pretty warranted. I wasn’t great at every subject in high school (I would say you could ask my physics teacher as proof, but he forgot my name by my senior year, which speaks for itself), but writing was my thing. 

Once I got to college, I realized I was a small fish in a very large, rhetorically-skilled pond. I go to a school with a ton of really intelligent people, and while it’s incredibly inspiring, it also is quite humbling. My friends who are STEM-oriented have created some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read, and they know how to make even an email to a professor or a discussion post sound extremely well-spoken. These friends can create extremely unique and capturing stories even if they’re doing so completely on the fly. Learning that just because I was the girl with the blog didn’t necessarily mean that my writing was the best that had ever existed was a bit jarring, to say the least. I don’t say that to sound self-deprecating, but rather to describe the feeling that I’m sure many other passionate students at my school deal with upon realizing that they are not, in fact, the shit. This feeling has caused me to look at my writing much more critically than I used to. Whether it’s an essay or a blog post, I typically second guess whether or not what I’m writing about is original enough, whether or not it’s coming from a place of ignorance, and whether or not I have the right to speak out on the topic in the first place. I question whether it’s worth writing at all and if people will read it out of genuine interest or out of a sense of obligation. I never thought twice about all of this in the past, and while this perspective shift can be somewhat healthy, I think it’s limited me a lot recently. 

This annoyance with my self-inflicted limitation manifested beautifully a few weeks ago. I was getting coffee with a friend on campus before I left for the summer, and at one point in our conversation, he was gushing about how much he loved his creative writing class this past semester. Hearing the passion in his voice as he described his different pieces inspired me to chase this joy in my own life again. I don’t know what exactly recapturing it will look like, but I know that this blog is the perfect medium for doing so. While this summer is going to be crazy hectic for me, I know I can commit to prioritizing this passion of mine and consistently reminding myself why I started writing for fun in the first place. I’ve used the burnout excuse for far too long, and while there is so much value in giving yourself a well-deserved brain break, depriving yourself of a wonderful outlet out of fear or fatigue isn’t the solution either. First grade Anna never cared how impressive her pieces were or who read them – she just wanted to express herself and share her life and thoughts with the pieces of paper in front of her. If she could do it so effortlessly then, there’s no reason she can’t make it happen now. 

Why Unpaid Internships Shouldn’t be Overlooked

The search for summer internships this year was anything but easy. Last year, I was lucky enough to be hired for the only internship I applied for, and it just so happened that it was my dream position. This year, however, my luck very much shifted. Like many college students, I applied to more positions than I can remember and didn’t hear back from 90% of them. It was extremely frustrating to spend hours and hours researching different organizations, writing countless cover letters, and not knowing when/if there was an end in sight to the search. By the beginning of May, I gave up and became set on working at a fast food restaurant instead to make some extra spending money. It wasn’t the ideal outcome, but I became more content with the idea of it as the days passed by. I was thus very pleasantly surprised when I got an email from the customer service representative at the Pennsylvania Prison Society, explaining that my email somehow went to their spam folder and that they were still looking to fill some internship positions. I very much felt conflicted after reading this email – do I write yet another cover letter that they very likely won’t read? Do I pour a bunch of effort into this application when I’ve already accepted the fact that an internship is likely not in the cards for me this year? Why do I even want an internship so badly – Is it experience that I genuinely want to gain, or is it the toxic work culture that begins building the moment you step into college?  What’s the point of wasting all that time when I could be studying for finals or spending some last-minute quality time with my friends as the semester winds down? At the end of the day though, I decided to bite the bullet and send in that last application. The more I researched the organization and its mission to help the incarcerated and fight for just prison reform, I knew this was a group I would genuinely enjoy volunteering my time to. 

I interviewed with the representative the next day, and the interview went extremely well. When I got hired a few days later, I felt a real sense of peace about the upcoming few months. I knew the once-a-week commute to the Philly office would be a challenge at first, as I had never walked the Philly streets alone before. I also knew I wouldn’t be earning anything, as the organization is a non-profit and cannot offer compensation. Most importantly, I knew that committing to a full-time position for the very first time would require a huge learning curve. Nonetheless, I had a gut feeling that all of those challenges would be worth it, and I was very much correct. 

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So, How is College?

Coming home from college after your first semester is full of catching up on sleep, reconnecting with high school friends, and answering the dreaded “so…how is college?” question. To be perfectly honest, I dreaded this question for the longest time, for college hasn’t been anything like I thought it would be. In a lot of ways, my first few months at William and Mary have been amazing, and in other ways, they have challenged me in ways I didn’t think I could handle. Answering this loaded question can’t be done with a simple explanation, so I figured I’d come on here and write about it to try to put into words the craziness that has been the past four months of my life. Let’s go piece by piece.

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My First Half Marathon

Last year after the cross country season ended, my friends from school and I considered the idea of running a half marathon together. When we first talked about the idea of it, I was super excited. I love running long distances, and I thought that training for it together with some of my favorite people would be really enjoyable. However, senior year was SO busy, and since the only half marathon near us coincided with the spring track season, this dream of ours never came to fruition.

A little less than a year later, I joined my college’s running club (go blitz!!). Since everyone on this team is so wonderfully badass, it’s no surprise that as early as September, many members were talking about their plans to run the Richmond Half (and full) Marathon. As a newcomer, I didn’t know if I had what it took to run a whole 13.1 miles. My longest run up to that point was about 9 miles, but I hadn’t hit those distances in years. Still, I decided I would start training.

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No Time to Mull

For weeks now, I have been looking forward to this moment. I am sitting in the window seat on my train home to Pennsylvania, listening to Allen stone, and doing one of my favorite things in the world: writing. Most people would think of a 7-hour trip home as exhausting and boring, but for me, these next 7 hours are going to be extremely therapeutic.

During my past month and a half at William and Mary, I haven’t had much time to write. Any free minute I got was spent either catching up on Dancing with the Stars or playing Heads Up with my hallmates, and I wasn’t able to dedicate a solid chunk of time to writing. I’m happy I was present in those moments, but holy moly, I really missed the feeling of spilling my heart out via keyboard.

While I’d love to outline all the crazy, amazing experiences I’ve had over the past few weeks, I’d rather save those stories for my in-person interactions with everyone from home. The one point I want to focus this post on is a theme that has been really prevalent in my past few weeks, and one that has made me have a bit of a paradigm shift: There isn’t enough time in college to mull over your emotions, and I can’t tell if that’s super healthy or super unhealthy.

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How to Have the Best Senior Year Possible

Seniors, seniors, seniors. You have quite the year ahead of you. Finishing up your SAT’s, sending in those college applications, embarking on that fun senior trip (if your school is lucky enough  to give you one), getting to slack off after AP exams. It’s a crazy year to say the least. Some say it’s the best year of high school, others say it doesn’t live up to the hype. That’s for you to figure out…but as I sit here waiting to move into my college dorm in just 4 short days, I figured I’d let you rising seniors in on some pieces of advice that I wish I heard as I prepared for year 12 of my education.

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My American Girl Doll

Like most girls, I grew out of my American Girl Doll phase at around age 10, and after that, my sweet little Rebecca Rubin had little purpose. However, one summer night a few years ago, I decided I would play with her once more. I began to rummage through her clothes basket and found all the outfits that I was once so obsessed with. I dressed her up in all of these outfits that night. Every single one.  I tried a bunch of different hairstyles on her, and I read her some of the books that I “hand-made” for her back in the day. That night made me feel like a kid again, and now I have one of those nights at least once a year.

It’s a little tradition between Rebecca and I, and it’s usually something I do solely to feel like a kid again. Last night, however, honoring this tradition meant a little more than just jumping back into childhood for the night. Last night I realized how crucial she was to my growth all those years back.

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The Summer In Between

A few weeks ago I saw someone post a poll on their Instagram story that said “does the summer in between high school and college feel weird?” I honestly don’t remember what the results of the poll were, but I remember feeling an immense sense of relief in knowing that I wasn’t the only one who felt a sense of uneasiness about this chapter of life we incoming freshmen are experiencing.  

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My Pre-Graduation Ramblings

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In 24 hours, it’ll all be over. I will never write a DBQ again. I will never check the Home Access Center again. I will never make my daily walk from the loser lot to Mr. Murphy’s classroom for first period again. It’ll all be over, and I don’t know how I feel.

When I thought about graduation day in the past, I assumed I would be either very thrilled or super upset about leaving high school and moving forward. However, all I feel now is an uneasy feeling in my chest that I cannot fully put into words.

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