A Raisin in the Sun: Why Following your Passions is a Risk Worth Taking
I was a really lucky kid. Not in the sense that I managed to avoid cuts and bruises or got everything I wanted. I had more than my fair share of stubbed toes, had one hell of a battle with the chicken pox, shared a room with three younger siblings who knew how to push my buttons, and often experienced the heart wrenching pain of driving by McDonald's when all I wanted was a Happy Meal.
I’d been moved away from everything I loved in Barbados to (far too hot) Florida when I was just 10 years old, and planted among children who made fun of my accent. And of course, once I finally got settled in there, I was moved thousands of miles again to (way too cold) Canada where my family, struggling to make ends meet for a while, got real familiar with thrift shops and food banks. I’d already dropped the accent but the kids teased me for being skinny, flat chested, and friendless. No, my childhood and adolescence were not a breeze by any stretch of the imagination, but I was still very much a lucky kid.
I was lucky because I always knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I loved reading from the minute I learned how to do it. I started writing poetry when I was six. It was around that age that someone explained to me that editors get to read all day long and I decided right that minute that I was going to be a writer and editor. All my classmates had big shiny aspirations to be astronauts, athletes, ballerinas, and princesses, and there I was, dreaming of being an editor. And I never changed my mind.
All through elementary and high school, I read like my life depended on it and wrote with the same ferocity. In my grade 12 year, I applied to three different universities for writing/journalism programs and ended up at York University studying professional writing. Three years ago, I started editing my friends’ essays and writing a blog. Last summer I graduated top of my class and started freelancing for a few other blogs while expanding my editing to referrals from my friends. And today, I am putting it all together in a way that gives my passion a home. My six year old self would be proud.
This is the result of a tiny seed planted in my mind and heart when I was still young enough to whole-heartedly believe in following my dreams. It is a seed watered with hard work, sleepless nights, the support of so many people who believed in me, and the unwavering belief that this is what I was meant to do and nothing else would suffice.
So many people abandon their passions and their purpose because it doesn’t seem practical, it’s financially unstable or there’s more money in something else. A lot of people quit because pursuing your dreams is hard, and obstacles will crop up every time you make progress. People quit because their friends and family aren’t supportive and they’re scared to attempt something so grand without the backing of the people they love. People give up on their dreams because the space between the dream and its realization is enormous and requires a leap of faith and no one likes falling.
But I am more afraid of looking back on my life in 20, 30, 40 years and hating myself for not having taken a chance. That thing you love doing that sets your soul on fire, is probably your purpose. It’s the one thing you are absolutely meant to do and pretending it isn’t is not going to change that fact. Hiding it away is like shoving old grapes into the back of the fridge as if they’ll somehow disappear rather than just turning sour back there (and not even the good kind of sour that makes wine, but the kind of sour that smells like death).
Langston Hughes really understood this when he wrote “Harlem.” He asked:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
He’s probably right. That dream you’re deferring is probably going to dry up, fester, stink or sag and none of those things sound particularly pleasant. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should run off and quit your day job. I’m not even saying you need to follow your passion into a career. But I’m telling you, there is no sweeter feeling than doing what you love, what you’re meant to do. I don’t know what it feels like to deny your purpose, but if it’s the opposite of the euphoria I am feeling at committing to mine, it’s got to be awful.
Life is too short and time is too precious to spend it all running away from what you love to do because it’s unstable, unprofitable, or scary. You should be scared. Money isn’t everything, nothing in life is guaranteed and dreams that don’t scare you probably aren’t big enough. There was a seed planted in your heart and mind at some point in your life and it wants to blossom. You want it to blossom. So stop choking it. Live your passion, in whatever way you can, because regret is too bitter and fulfillment is too sweet for you to do anything else.
I want to thank everyone who has supported me through this process. To every teacher who built the foundation; my family who believed in me; my boyfriend who helped me through the moments of self-doubt; the friends who always had faith; the clients who trusted me wholeheartedly with their words; and my mentor who saw my potential and hasn’t stopped pushing me to aim higher and do better: you are all the water to this garden that I won’t ever stop growing. Thank you.