Growing up, my parents used to advise me, “If you’re passionate about what you do, people will be attracted to you.”
I took this gentle seedling of wise advice and hammered it into the ground. I became passionate about passion. I held up encouraging road-side signs, handed out bottles of electrolyte-fueled water, made up coordinated dance routines to the beat of mildly-rhyming cheers — all in the name of unbridled enthusiasm.
Then reality hit. I found myself working in an industry where enthusiasm denoted something much less desirable: foolish, naive, innocent, ignorant —all words used to describe those who express “too much” excitement. AKA: me.
Nice may indeed be fashionable again — but eagerness? Still lame.
Composure is hard (impossible) for me to maintain. I’m constantly in awe, easily enthralled and chastised for such “childlike” reactions to no avail. Despite my parents’ prediction, it seems no one finds this attractive.
“It will get old,” stoic industry veterans instruct. “It’s not all sunshine & rainbows,” as if my reaction to an awesome opportunity is the result of its newness (and not its awesomeness) or an inability to see the industry’s less flattering features.
Which is probably a bit true. I just know there’s more to it.
Cynicism is safe; getting hurt while hoping for the best is far more painful than when you were already expecting the worst. But being cynical also prevents the rewarding (and revolutionary) long-term power of its opposite mindset.
Would we consider Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and the like to be cynics? Did they adopt apathy to eschew ridicule or rejection? Or because all of the cool kids were doing it? Would we label their enthusiasm as naïve? No!
My affinity for fashion doesn’t compare to the goals of these world-changing leaders. Their enthusiasm, however, reminds me that to be inspired is a gift. It shouldn’t be shameful, because it’s the fire behind the energy necessary to set and meet otherwise unthinkable goals — whatever those might be.
We may conflate the devolution of enthusiasm with maturity, or worse, success; these are things that seem to stem from the passing of time. It’s normal to grow weary. To “know it all” after you’ve been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt and sold it for re-sale at 20% of the original price. That’s life. Devaluing passion in exchange for the exaltation of blasé, however, gets no one off the couch.
Though consistently warned against it, my enthusiasm has proven my greatest asset. It’s allowed me to connect with whomever I meet and remain resilient in the face of rejection. Enthusiasm, I’ve found, engenders more enthusiasm and an ability to see the forest through the trees; the opposite is true of naivety.
Enthusiasm and experience are not mutually exclusive. Enthusiasm is a choice to allow ourselves to be perpetually re-invigorated; to opt for optimism over misanthropy; to prioritize the peaks over the pitfalls. When combined with experience — that’s when its most powerful.
So, sure. Maybe the homemade sideline signs and were a little intense. But sometimes, a little extra electrolyte-filled water is all we need.
Maybe it’s time we start replacing being too jaded to care with caring too much to be jaded.
Ceramic Dino by Brett Kern. Collage by Krista Anna Lewis.