Passion. It lies within us all...sleeping...waiting. And though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir. It will open its jaws and it will howl!
It speaks to us. It guides us. It rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have?
It is the source of our finest moments, yet it hurts sometimes more than we can bear.
If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow souls...empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.
The saddest people I've ever met in life are the ones who don't care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there's nothing to make it last.
If we know what we want, we are more likely to get it because we are aware of it. It also works the other way around, we will know what we want if we listen for the signs. Even if we have not been listening in the past, we can look back over the stories of our life and find the signs today.
We are constantly given hints about our passions, but as with all things in life, it is totally up to us to notice them. I believe that these signs are their strongest when we are young and growing up. This is the time when we are exploring the world around us and within us...this is when our passions are first revealed to us.
When I was six years old, I had my first glimpse of what it would be like to be a writer...
We had a local radio station that was helping to promote our town library. Those of us children who listened were asked to write a story about something important in our lives and send it in. The best five stories would be read on the air.
So I sat down and wrote a story about my hero...my grandfather...about his journey from Italy to America, across the wide Atlantic Ocean when he was a young boy not much older than I was.
I gave it to my mother to read before I sent it in. It made her cry...tears of happiness and pride. I remember how it made me feel to know my words could have such power in them.
The radio station picked my story and one Sunday afternoon after we came home from church, we sat in our living room and listened as they read it on the air. When it was over, my mother and sister stood from the couch and clapped for me. Even my father told me how good it was.
I decided right then and there that writing stories was to be my life’s mission. And for a while it was true...I just loved telling my stories.
When I was twelve years old, my father gave me my first camera...
We traveled a lot when I was young. My father had a job that gave him an entire month of vacation each year. He wanted my sister and me to know how big, how beautiful and how diverse the country in which we lived truly was and so every summer after school was out, we’d pack up the station wagon and take off for another adventure in another part of the United States.
By the time I was twelve I had been to forty six of the forty eight continental States. My father seemed to know that with time, what we’d experienced on those trips would begin to fade from memory. And so for that reason, he took roll after roll after roll of photographs and reel after reel after reel of Super 8 movies.
I became utterly fascinated watching him as he would find just the right position for a shot...just the right light...at the perfect moment. He was an incredibly good photographer. I can remember when I was very young, watching him develop some of the rolls of film in the bathtub, much to my mother’s dismay and protest!
He gave me my first camera in the summer of 1965. We were going to drive all the way across the country to visit my great grandparents...all the way to San Diego.
“Here,” he said to me one day quite unceremoniously, “There will be a lot for you to see on this trip. You should start taking some photographs of your own.”
The camera, a Kodak Duaflex II, wasn’t new by any means. He had actually bought it the year he married my mother…1950. Yes, it was old and yes, it was well-used by the time he gave it to me, but it suddenly became my pride and joy.
I took my new responsibility of photographing America quite seriously. And once the rolls of film came back from the developer, I would sit for hours looking at the black and white photos I'd taken. When my friends would come over or our relatives would come to visit, my mother insisted I get out my photo albums and show everyone.
Many of the scenes in those photographs remained fresh in my mind, as did the stories behind them...all in living color.
This is when I first realized that I could tell wonderful stories with my photographs too...as wonderful as the stories that would spring from my imagination and be told in words.
When I was fourteen years old, I decided I wanted to be a teacher...
When I was in junior high school, I admired many of my teachers. Suddenly, I became aware that I could be a teacher as well as a writer. So I would hurry home from school to do my homework, locking myself in my bedroom. Opening my closet, I would change my clothes, taking off my jeans and T shirt and putting on my Sunday white shirt, clip-on tie and sport coat. I would then sit behind my desk and pretend my room was a classroom, filled with students who would hang on to my every word.
I would stand up, open textbook resting in the palm of my hand, and moving my arms in the same way my teachers at school would move theirs, read aloud my homework assignments. In pretending I was teaching an imaginary class of knowledge-hungry students, I would learn my homework lessons in ways that have stayed with me for all these many years.
Writer. Teacher. Photographer. Storyteller…I had all these ideas from the age of six through my college years. But once I stepped out into the real world and felt its weight, somehow...for myriad reasons, I did not think of them again. Not for decades.
Then came the divorce...the loss of my children...the business failure...the first heart attack! After that, all those goals and all those possibilities began to come back to me. And they kept coming back over and over again through the years, until I realized they were my clearest visions of the life I wanted and truest callings I would ever experience. The strongest passions I have today are the first passions I had when I was young.
We have this incredible gift of life and while we've got it, we are fools if we don’t live it with all the passion we can muster!