To the majority reading this, nothing I write will be new or surprising. You all know what I’m talking about before I even start. Maybe your non-dance friends will gain some insight if you forward the article to them.
Nearly every adult starts taking ballroom lessons because ballroom dancing is fun! It has the perfect mix of social, physical, and creative qualities. Meet new people, get some exercise, have fun, and escape the “real world” for a bit. What more could you ask for?
Some of us do ask for more. We want to be challenged and have concrete goals to work toward. We don’t want to just learn to dance the steps, we want to know all of the intricacies of the movement. We want to stretch ourselves and see how far we can push past our original limits. The ballroom world provides solutions in the form of recitals/showcases and competitions.
At what point ballroom dancing goes from being a hobby to something more serious is dependent on the person. A surefire way to determine which side of the line a dancer is on is to watch their reaction when you call their dancing a hobby. Any hint or flash of “WTF did you just say?” on their face means they have gone beyond a hobbyist. For them, ballroom dance is a passion and something they take as seriously as any other commitment. Some, like myself, are serious enough to start a business around their ballroom passion.
For us passion-driven ballroom dancers who pay (as opposed to get paid) to dance, perform, and compete, with sometimes nothing but memories and a few photos or videos to show for it, it’s not uncommon to be met with raised eyebrows when we try to share our passion with our non-dancing friends and family. You spend how much? Didn’t you go to a workshop last weekend? Why are you going again? Then later, well if the expense is stressing you out so much, why not just quit or cut back? There are cheaper ways to go out dancing.
Yes, we are choosing to spend thousands of dollars on our ballroom passion, but that doesn’t mean that we can choose to go back just as easily. It can feel unimaginable and even insulting to hear a casual suggestion that whatever we’re struggling with related to our passion would be solved if we just stopped dancing so much.
That’s because when you have a passion for something, you form a deeper relationship with it. It isn’t just something you do on the side of your life; it’s an important part of your life. Pursuing a passion requires a higher level of commitment, which comes with responsibilities and obligations that would be easy to brush off if this were a mere hobby.
This willingness to commit even when you know there will be much more practical sacrifice than practical reward (i.e., in areas of time, energy and money) is a trait I truly admire. No matter what your passion is, it’s the same across the board. You’re willing to do what it takes. Whether that’s getting up at 4am every day to train for your next marathon before you go to work, giving up free evenings to practice at the dance studio, or investing in high-end camera equipment to capture that perfect image, you know your passion is worth it. The reward is the experience and the personal growth that stems from that experience. The reward is the exploration of something that lights you up from the inside out.
I love talking to people about their passion. Even if we don’t share the same interests, we share the same kind of feelings toward that interest. We all light up in the same way when we’re doing or talking about our passion. We all willingly make sacrifices and put ourselves up for torture for our passion. In those ways, we can find a connection.
Not everyone harbors such strong feelings toward a particular pursuit. They are fulfilled with just going for morning jogs, social dancing on the weekends, or taking photos with their phone. Or maybe there isn’t one particular thing that interests them. Maybe they’re still searching, or they’re just enjoying exploring multiple possibilities.
I love how Elizabeth Gilbert describes two types of people: jackhammers and hummingbirds:
I feel like I’m somewhere in between since I’m pursuing ballroom dance, writing and entrepreneurship all at the same time. The three passions definitely get cross-pollinated and influenced by each other, and I’m also very clear that these are the things I am meant to pursue.
During stressful parts of the journey, I sometimes lose connection with my passion. A rough week can make me start questioning why I’m making all of these sacrifices and consider how much easier Life would be if I just gave it all up. The questions stop when I pause and remind myself why I dance and write in the first place. I remind myself why these interests are not just hobbies, but qualify as passions for me, and then I’m able to remember why the rewards are actually so much greater than the sacrifices.
Maybe after reading this, your non-dance friends still won’t quite get why you barely see them anymore because you can’t, you have dance. That’s ok because passion is an internal driver. You don’t need the approval or validation of others to know this is or isn’t your passion. Hopefully, they will be satisfied knowing you are happier and more fulfilled in pursuit of your passion than you were before you discovered it. And if you’re still trying to discover your passion, do as Liz suggests and instead, follow your curiosity.
I’m curious to know if you think you’re more of a jackhammer or hummingbird. Let me know in the comments!