There is something about quotes, song lyrics, movie lines, etc that have a way of sticking in my head. It’s funny how, at the most random of times, these snippets of words will appear and they just fit the moment so perfectly. It is, to me, one of the greatest things about language—the way something can be stated just so. The moment when I write a sentence or a line of dialogue that is just right…it’s as euphoric as it is rare. One such occasion happened as I am sitting in a Starbucks in College Station taking a short break from GRE cramming…er…preparation. Looking through some of my old writing and flipping between different graduate school applications, a line of dialogue came to mind from one of my favorite and read-to-pieces books, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley: “It is not a comfortable passion.” The character is referring to his peculiar affection for the strange and unpredictable land in which he finds himself living. It is a very interesting phrase in general, however, and it begs the question: is there such thing as a comfortable passion? If there is, I would love for someone to tell me what it is. I know I have been writing about passion somewhat ad nauseum lately but as doom…I mean graduation…is fast approaching, I have really been forced to evaluate the things in life about which I am passionate. Obviously the big one is writing. But I’m passionate about other, smaller things—Aggie football for one. And, as a longtime fan, I can assure you it is NOT a “comfortable passion.” But, isn’t that what makes it so exciting? The heart-stopping moment when a player is breaking tackles or is down on the field unmoving? Or the times when a player finds a gap and is running all out and you’re screaming your throat raw, just knowing that if you yell louder he will make it to the end zone?
Should passion ever be comfortable? I don’t think it should. Comfort is great when it refers to shoes or clothes or squishy armchairs—but passion? Passion is supposed to prickle the hairs on the back of your neck and give you that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach that is often called “butterflies.” It should awaken the mind and the senses and keep you up at night; it should bring you joy and it will most likely bring you pain in some form as well. Comfort implies stability but it also can mean a life that is static, unmoving, never progressing. As someone who dreaded change for the longest time—and still dreads it in certain aspects of my life—I have had to realize that life is rarely “comfortable.” Does change necessitate unhappiness or stress? No, not always, but anyone who thinks that true happiness in life is floating along on a cloud that insulates you from the world is deluding themselves. As cozy as that may sound, doesn’t it also seem ridiculous? How long would it take for boredom to set in if the white picket fence never gets dirty, the roses are always in perfect bloom, and the green lawn never needs cutting? No one wants to read stories about people living perfect lives where nothing changes and nothing ever happens. Even bedtime stories have to have something happen—that is living. No one wants to live perfect lives. We may tell ourselves that is what we strive for but, if so, we are setting ourselves up for unhappiness. Perfection is unattainable, but happiness and contentment are not.
There is another quote that seems so simple and obvious but is one that has great meaning if you stop to think about it. Oscar Wilde said: “To live is the rarest thing in the world; most people exist, that is all.” That is what passion means, to me at least. To live, truly live, means facing life—including the fear and the pain and the disappointment as well as the joys and the excitement and the celebrations. You cannot have one without the other—it is the prickly, sharp things in life that make the wonderful things apparent.