When Passion and Purpose Don’t Pay

Elena Shelest sitting in a park

There is a lot of talk about finding one’s passion, following life’s purpose, and doing something that ignites the fire inside. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” types of slogans sound very appealing when we begin our journey into the real world. But what if you tried to go after your dreams and found that they don’t always line up well with the need to survive financially in the 21st century? What do you do then? A life void of passion and purpose leaves us empty and unfulfilled.

I remember pacing the floor of our small kitchen at eighteen, mere weeks before graduating high school. My mother was sitting at a table, listening to my ramblings regarding college. There was no question whether I should attend or not, but I had no idea which degree to pursue.  

Just a few years prior to this, my family and I moved from Ukraine into the Land of Opportunity with several bags of clothes and a bunch of fuzzy expectations. Before we immigrated, I was already attending art college and wasn’t intimidated one bit by the prospect of joining the ranks of poor artists who sold their paintings on the streets of Odessa. 

What was different this time?
Was I simply becoming more adult-like with a sense of responsibility and a realistic outlook on life?
Or was I giving up on an opportunity to pursue my passion? 

“Go into healthcare,” my mother said. “You will always have a job.” 

Elena finds passion and purpose though writing and painting
Elena finds passion and purpose though writing and painting

And So I Did. 

Even though I don’t regret my decision, I wish my choices took me in the direction of my creative beginnings. In my pursuit of the American dream, I was swamped with the financial demands of daily living. My self-expression was set aside for many years as I divided my time between career, business, and family. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I realized how much I missed my artistic side and how empty my life was becoming without it. 

I decided it was time to invest in myself. With grown kids and stable income, I had the means and the time to return to art as a hobby and to work on my creative writing. Something amazing happened. It was so much more fun to do these things without the pressure of performance or the need to conform to any standards of what’s popular at the time. 

I Was Free to Go After My Interests to My Heart’s Content. 

Over the years, this turned from a hobby into something more. My first book, The Seven Lives of Grace came out, inspired by my dream to see myself, and everyone else, utilize their talents. My blog, Five Minute Discovery, became an avenue to express my thoughts and to encourage others. And my art made my life more colorful. 

Writing the Seven Lives of Grace was a voyage into passion and purpose
Writing the Seven Lives of Grace was a voyage into passion and purpose

Why Am I Sharing This? 

A lot of people, myself included, are having a hard time aligning the need to make an income with their true purpose and passion. The notion of a starving artist is a real thing on the road to success. But material well-being and creativity doesn’t have to be an “either or” choice. 

When I meet creative individuals who are channeling their entrepreneurial spirit into the income-producing pathway, I am always excited to hear their story. It’s a gift. They get to do what they love every day of their lives while most of us have to keep a day job. But we often don’t know about the hours of hard work these people had to put in to achieve their dream. They rose before dawn or stayed up at night for years before they saw any fruit. It’s all about perseverance. 

Let me give you a bit of encouragement – true passion will always prevail and will get its reward. 

So, go ahead, get a degree that pays well, get a job to support your family, but don’t give up on your talents and gifts either. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to follow your aspirations. The time will come when the world will notice and will appreciate what you have to give. Others will see your heart in it and will thank you for staying true to who you are. 

Until Then, Embrace Your Passion and Purpose, Keep Creating. 

Allow your imagination to soar. Follow your vision. Be original and innovative. Be you. Do it not only when you write, paint, sing, dance, jot down your ideas, but in everything you do. Because without this fire, life fills up with materialistic dullness. And if you think you’ve lost your creativity or never had any, read my blog post about that too.

I want to finish with this quote by Pablo Picasso:

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Pursue your gifts and share them freely – this will fill you up in return… if not your plate, your heart for sure. 

Visit Elena’s website: Five Minute Discovery

Find Elena Shelest on social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon

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