It's OK that some people aren't drawn to a passion
I’m always impressed when kids find a calling or a passion at a young age. Seeking out this year’s Whiz Kids for the March issue of OC Family magazine, I was once again delighted and surprised by all of the interesting things kids are doing right here in Orange County. One young Girl Scout, Alicia Serratos, actively campaigned to have genetically modified organisms removed from Girl Scout cookies, and her persistence paid off. The organization recently announced the launch of its first non-GMO cookie.
Eleven-year-old Carson Knopfl designed a skateboard that can fit into a school locker and is now selling different versions online.
Isabela Kimmel, 17, created a sustainable library with thousands of books and school supplies for a small indigenous village in Costa Rica.
Sean Oliu of Anaheim discovered a love for playing mariachi music and raised money to form mariachi music programs at two local elementary schools.
I don’t want to give all the juicy details away in this column, but you get the idea: These kids are impressive and passionate about what they do.
Some people never figure out what fuels them, or never feel driven to do one particular thing or support a cause or an artistic endeavor. And I think that’s OK. We can’t all be as driven and focused as the 10 kids who will be featured in the March issue of the magazine. If we were all like these kids, the world might be on overdrive all of the time, and lots of important jobs would go unattended. I think there is some merit to drifting through life a bit until you find your “thing.” If we were all forced to choose our paths at age 12, it’s likely no one would pick the essential jobs that kids probably don’t think about or notice.
Who, for example, would choose editing this article as their primary pursuit? No kid would think to do that, but finding grammatical errors and detecting faulty logic is a very essential job, one that fuels our entire magazine and the news world at large (or at least it should).
Who would design and fix the plumbing and electrical systems in our homes? Who would figure out trash collection for big corporations? Who would mow the soccer fields or build the hospitals?
Growing up, most of us had glamorous notions of what we wanted to do or be as adults. Many of us gave up on those ideas early on, or later when they didn’t pan out or we found a profession we hadn’t known existed when we were kids. Or maybe, a profession found us. Because much of life seems to work that way: People fall into jobs or luck into careers. We don’t always actively choose what we want to do.
I’ve been worrying about my son lately, who is 16 and doesn’t have a lot of direction or drive as far as I can tell. But my mother offered some wise words, telling me that she never really had a specific goal or passion in life either, and she turned out all right.
And she’s right. She did wander into college and career without a lot of direction, but she ended up being such an excellent grade-school teacher that we still meet former students who remember her fondly. She’s retired now, but still helps in local schools each week, and the kids still look forward to seeing her. Her work was important and she affected many lives in a positive way, without setting her mind early on to doing that.
Many of my friends also wandered into careers haphazardly, but now seem quite happy doing what they do. They weren’t particularly driven, even in college. They got degrees in topics like history or English, then found jobs that eventually led to bigger, more interesting jobs, or they learned new skills along the way and expanded in a different direction.
I have been passionate about writing since I was young, but I always imagined myself teaching at a college. I did teach for several years, but eventually landed in journalism, a career I never even considered early on but one that I ended up loving. I still write, but the trajectory of my career surprised me.
So while most of us didn’t start out as Whiz Kids, we ended up finding our thing eventually. And sometimes the more circuitous route can be just a rewarding as the straight line.
Contact the writer: Heather Skyler is the editor for OC Family magazine. The March "Whiz Kids" issue will be on stands at the end of February.