The Hidden Costs of Pursuing a Passion
I make a lot of jokes. Most of them bad. Many of them repeated ad nauseam, if you have known me for any length of time. One of them is that Brazilian jiu jitsu is a demanding mistress, that it requires much of those of us who want to improve.
Like many people who became obsessed with training, I used to think I needed to surround myself with other people who train - to the exclusion of everyone else. I reasoned that no one else would understand why I do it, and why it requires so much of who I am. But I have revised that stance, and now I believe that anyone who pursues a passion can understand. They get THAT Brazilian jiu jitsu inspires me, even if they don’t necessarily get WHY, because their particular preoccupation with archery, horseback riding, scuba diving, or sculpture inspires them in the same way.
People pursuing a passion make difficult choices sometimes. They make the tradeoffs I alluded to in my most recent athlete journal entry. But there is something about the passion that almost forces the choice. And this leads to repercussions, many positive, but some challenging, in all aspects of our lives:
Pursuing a passion takes time, of course. Frequently grapplers start out training maybe three times a week, in the evenings after work and/or on the weekends before spending time with family and friends. But eventually, the bug bites harder, and these same grapplers find they want to train more times per week. Then they may start to attend tournaments, schedule private lessons, and/or attend seminars, all outside of regular class times. Some of us even get possessed enough we completely rejigger our lives to accommodate the passion. I used to be a nine-to-fiver, but now I fit my job(s) in around my training; another of my terrible jokes is that my career is grappling, but since I don’t make enough in my career to support me financially, my hobby is making a living. Bad joke, but it does help explain how I prioritize my time.
Pursuing a passion takes money too. All the things mentioned above - training, tournaments, privates, seminars - cost money. So do gis, board shorts, rash guards, travel, DVDs, books, and other trappings of a jiu jitsu lifestyle. (Or, if you don’t train jiu jitsu, think of your passion and the pieces of equipment and events related to it. I’m sure you can think of dozens.) And if you decide you want to train more and work less, well, you can figure out how the math might start to work eventually, and how more tradeoffs might enter the picture. Please note that the purity of one’s love for one’s passion does not absolve one of the responsibility of supporting oneself financially, though some people seem to operate under this misconception. Those of us who have figured out how to pay our way AND pursue our passion find these people irritating.
The effects of having a passion on our relationships are frequently the most unexpected and therefore the most difficult to navigate. When you spend more time and money on your passion, you have less of these, and less psychic energy, to devote to the people you love and who love you. They may not understand why you are so engrossed, and you may not understand why they can’t understand. I remember getting flak from friends back in the day when I would go home early on a Friday night rather than go out with them to blow off steam after a long workweek. But I wanted to get to bed early so I’d be fresh for training on Saturday morning. I was never available in the evenings to get together because I was training. And these are friendships. Trying to introduce jiu jitsu into a romantic relationship represents an even trickier navigation.
All of these issues - temporal, financial, relational - can contribute to the psychological costs of training. They complicate life, which for all of us is already probably pretty complicated. And then there are the internal factors: the self-talk, the preoccupation, and the drive we all feel to improve and progress. Pursuing a passion can do a number on our beliefs about ourselves, and, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, our beliefs about who we are.
So why do we do it? I know why I do - in a nutshell, I believe my pursuit of improved performance in BJJ makes me a better person all around. I just have to keep my eyes wide open about the demands, because they will affect me regardless of whether I am aware of them.
What demands does your passion place on you? Why is it worth pursuing anyway? Post your thoughts to comments.