Stutzman: Identify your passion, make it important in your life

In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday I thought it appropriate to share my story of the pursuit of passion. In high school our ag-science paraprofessional Mr. Lewis asked me what I was passionate about.

I didn’t really understand the question at first. You mean, “What do I like as in hobbies or something?” No. What are you passionate about; what lights a fire in your belly and you get so excited you can’t stop thinking about it? I couldn’t answer the question. There were lots of things I liked doing and lots of things I was good at but I wouldn’t say that any of them pulled a fire alarm in my soul.

It would be years before I fully understood what Mr. Lewis was talking about but along the journey I’ve kept his question in the forefront of my mind. The origin of the word passion is from the Greek verb meaning “to suffer.” It is an intense emotion, interest, or admiration for a person, thing or cause. In this sense, a person who “suffers” from passion for a certain thing isn’t necessarily in a negative state. It could be an incredible passion for woodworking, or a passion for painting, or a passion for being a teacher.

After high school I went off to college, still ruminating on the question proposed to me one sunny afternoon in Bill Bartow’s fifth hour at Alpena High School. I thought I had it all figured out. My passion as it would seem was marketing and communications. I had been drawn to the field since I was a kid. I was always reading about it, taking classes (in addition to regular school), and found it to be fun and challenging. So I assumed this was my passion.

A couple of years ago I realized that just because you are good at something or possess a certain skill set doesn’t automatically mean that it is your passion. While I have no doubt that my chosen career was the right one, I began to realize my job was not my passion. I enjoyed my work but I didn’t get fired up about it.

I do get fired up about this community. I love living here, raising my children here, exploring and adventuring here, and sharing our special place on the map with others. I am passionate about writing this column, so much so that I have often stayed up until 1 or 2 a.m. to get it done. This is my passion. It has become a part of my personality. It is the fire in my belly that feeds my soul.

Are you living a life of passion? Do you have an activity or cause you feel so strongly for that it has become a part of your personality? How many of us trudge from one day to the next existing for the mere glimmer of hope provided by the weekend? I believe there is great passion inside every single one of us. Each of us was put on this earth with a special set of skills or interest to share with the world and we can’t let life beat us into believing we’re nothing special.

Sometimes to discover your passion you have to get back to basics. Go back to a time when life was less complicated. If money didn’t matter, what would you do every day? What would be your ideal job? What do you wish you had more time to do?

This Valentine’s Day give your life the gift of a passion to live for. We will never reach our full potential as a society until each of us realizes, accepts, and gets fired up about the difference we were meant to make in the world. What difference were you meant to make?