September 25, 2023 | Rome, Italy

When passion wanes

By |2018-03-21T20:01:58+01:00July 30th, 2016|"American Girl"|
In work just a means of adding to the noise?

#8220;I need to change the direction of my life. I need to do something I’m really passionate about.”

It was my neighbor Ava on our morning walk to work. She’s usually upbeat and gregarious, sharing stories about her four-year-old daughter and giving me updates on her apartment renovation.

But today was different. Her head was bent in introspection. She seemed lost in thought. Her normal walking pace slowed and her bright eyes were cloudy.

She’d just changed jobs and I knew it hadn’t gone smoothly.

Ava had always wanted that elusive perfect job. But her latest choice had turned into anything but that.

The hours were demanding and she had less time with her family.

“It’s getting better,” she told me when I asked about work. “But my heart isn’t in it.”

On the surface Ava seemed to have the perfect Generation X job. Schooled in the digital world, her natural facility with social media helped her build a career in PR. She worked with a top agency on audience engagement. She directed Tweets and posts on Instagram for national brands. It seemed like good work to me.

“Maybe what I do does matter,” she sighed. “But I worry I’m just adding to the noise.”

We walked a bit further, passing bodegas selling egg and cheese bagels and dog owners walking their beagles. My favorite part of the 10-block walk passed through Fort Greene Park. When we entered, the world went quiet. Linden trees lined our path creating a canopy of dappled light over our heads. It was here Ava stopped and turned to me.

“Did you watch the Democratic Convention last night?”

I nodded.

“Did you see the video feature where Hillary Clinton broke the animated glass ceiling? On the other side of the glass she sat with a room full of young women and girls saying, ‘I might become president and one of you could too.’ “

I remembered the vignette but it seemed hokey to me. But not to Ava. Her eyes welled up in teats. It had truly moved her.

“What was so powerful for you?” I asked.

“I just want to do something that makes a difference. I want to find a way to give back.”

It was wonderful to see Ava so touched and inspired. But from experience, I’ve learned that being inspired is the easy and heartwarming part. Feeling motivated to a higher calling and purpose gives life meaning. Attaining it is another matter.

Life’s realties have slowly taught me that the simple routine of work and leisure, living within one’s means and saving for the future is the more sensible route. Passion comes and goes all too easily. A steady life is decidedly less exciting but it has come to sustain me in ways my passionate search for something larger never did.

“I think I’m going to quit my job and enter public service.” Ava said. “Maybe work to help the underprivileged succeed or improve public education. I want to be an example for my daughter.”

We were now leaving the park and entering the subway station. There, we merged into the throngs of people on the platform waiting for the train into Manhattan.

For me, it was another sensible day moving my life forward. For Ava, suddenly filled with emotion and renewed passion, it was an inspired moment, the continuation of the American Dream.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.