There are two phrases I really, really hate. The first is “Don’t stop believing.” For that, I blame the band Journey. This is one of those lame expressions designed to sound really profound, but actually amounts to a bunch of nothing. Or, to steal a phrase from Kansas, another 1970s band known for trying way too hard, it’s nothing more than “dust in the wind.”
The second is “Follow your passion.” This pesky myth I blame on people who have friends who are going through tough life transitions. People say this in a genuine attempt to give good counsel. But unless that friend already has a passion, the command ends up heaping a bunch of pressure on her instead. Author Elizabeth Gilbert has spoken on this topic before (and way more eloquently). But Gilbert’s advice was more general. I’d like to focus on a specific group of people who are subjected to this terrible advice all the time: women who are going through a divorce.
Women who are reeling from a divorce are likely to be a combination of stunned, disoriented, forlorn, and terrified. Ordering them to “follow their passion” is like telling a woman who just miscarried to pick a baby name, decorate the nursery, and set up a college fund.
Rather than making her feel better, the advice underscores both her loss and the murkiness of the waters that she is currently attempting to navigate. She doesn’t know where she’s going to be living in six months or even whether she will get through her trip to the grocery store without bursting into tears. How can she possibly know what her passion is, let alone follow it?
So, if you’re a person who thinks she doesn't have a passion, just stop here for a second. Not only should you not sweat it, but in many ways you should consider yourself lucky. Plenty of people live their whole lives without an easily identifiable passion — and there’s nothing wrong with that. That doesn’t make their lives any less meaningful. And if one of your friends orders you to find one, know that even though she probably means well, she has no idea what she’s talking about.
While I’ll never advise you to find or follow your passion, there are a few things that are you can, and will, figure out about yourself during divorce. These are gifts: no pressure required.
1. You will find things that interest you (just you).
Every divorce is different, but the one thing that comes standard with most divorces is more time to yourself. At first these stretches of time can be daunting — especially if it involves being separated from your kids. That’s why people advise you to follow your passion: They want you to have something meaningful to do in your free time. A better idea is to simply keep an eye out for things that interest you.
I’m not talking about tackling anything major like turning your spare bedroom into an art studio so you can dabble in painting. I’m talking about simply being open to new things. Lectures. Concerts. Cycling. Hiking. Cooking. Gardening. Automotive repair. Movies. Book clubs. Volunteer work. Whether you pick one thing and stick with it, or try something new each week, filling your time with interesting activities will result in a life rich with meaning and fulfillment.
2. You will tap into your sense of humor and resilience.
Divorce tends to make you forget how to laugh — and it’s easy to see why. After all, your personal life has been completely upended and you’re scrambling for cover. There’s not a lot funny about that. But the truth is, when it comes to getting through this, your sense of humor is an important tool.
You won’t be laughing all the time, of course. But if you make it a point to zoom out from time to time, you will find that there are definitely opportunities for a good laugh. When you find those, be sure to share them with your close friends — the ones who are on the front lines of supporting you right now. Laughter provides a much needed respite for everyone — but most of all, you.
3. You will make friends, even if you don't try.
Over the course of your life, friends come and go. Most of the time, you are able to accept this ebb and flow as a natural part of life. But when you’re going through a divorce, the loss of friendship can be really painful.
Even if your friends aren’t taking sides in your divorce (inevitably some will end up closer to you, and others will end up closer to your ex), shifts in your friendships after divorce can be hard to take. But rather than stewing over the friends that you lose, see this as a chance to rework your friendship roster.
As you open yourself up to a "new life" per se, you will talk to new people, and find yourself being vulnerable in unprecedented ways. This is how friends happen ... And remember: new friends can help you redefine who you are because they will take you as you are today.
Ultimately, these discoveries will happen to you. No "finding your passion" required. Because ultimately, you are your biggest source of strength and wisdom; and realizing that will make your transition to your post-divorce-life that much easier.