Finding your passion is a bit like Finding Nemo, only you are the clownfish dad and your passion is the son, Nemo. There may be a forgetful Dory in your life, and the encounters with ocean life and dangers are comparable to land life and retirement.
It wasn’t easy for Nemo’s dad, Marlin, to find him. Finding your passion isn’t an easy thing to do either, especially if you have never really been called to any particular thing. Many people I’ve talked to say they hope to find their passion when they retire so they can spend their time engaged in something that inspires them. But, finding your passion before you retire is not the same as planning for retirement. It is one thing to organize your finances, take up a new hobby, or buy travel books. It is another thing to find something you really enjoy doing, something that energizes you and, let’s face it, makes it a whole lot easier to get out of bed in the morning. Finding your passion, and it may be more than one thing, is something that just happens.
My friend Kathie Cram admits she was obsessed with retirement planning and wondered if she was ready financially and emotionally. She talked to a lot of people and read a lot of books. Then, when an opportunity came up through the Saskatchewan Health Authority, her employer for the last 18 years, she decided to retire a year earlier than planned.
“I was very busy when I retired, and that actually became a problem. Life was too fast-paced. I wished I had more time. I wished I could just sit and read. I was worried about being bored and lonely, and I did everything the retirement gurus said not to do.”
“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Kathie quickly put her retirement plan into action and filled her time volunteering with several organizations including the Saskatoon New Democratic Party, the Canadian Federation of University Women, and Saskatoon Unitarians. She also found time to do aqua fit, spend time in her yard and at her cabin, take classes and workshops, and see family and friends. That was five years ago.
“I took a workshop called Read Like a Writer and the facilitator talked about the stories behind the stories. I found that very interesting. I was reading a novel about a library in Europe where characters from books escaped and created havoc in a village. So, I held an “Art Salon” and had a group of friends over to discuss one of their favourite pieces of art. The next day, I thought, if books can come alive, can art come alive?
As a result of that process, in 2019, Kathie published If the Sky Could Dream, an illustrated chapter book in the Fantastic Realism style featuring the dragon Athena and her journey around Saskatoon. She sold all of the books and donated the proceeds to the Saskatoon Mothers’ Centre. At her book launch, a child asked her a question about the main character’s future, and she quickly thought up a response. That prompted the idea of doing a children’s book, and in June of 2021, Let’s Fly, was published. After a summer of promoting Let’s Fly, she is starting to see a profit.
Writing was definitely not part of Kathie’s retirement plan. Although she journals every day, she hadn’t done much writing before, other than non-fiction pieces related to her work. There were a couple of attempts, though. She remembers writing some poetry for her high school newspaper, but an overly critical teacher’s remarks doused the flames of that idea. In 1991, after returning from a stint working in Bolivia with CUSO (Canadian University Services Overseas), she decided to write a novel, but that was set aside because of other commitments.
Thirty years later, Kathie has picked up the threads of that Bolivian novel and has started working on it again. Grants from the Sask Arts Council and Saskatchewan Writers Guild have paved the way for further learning opportunities, including working with a mentor.
“The passion for writing took me by surprise. I had dabbled in a number of things and took some classes because I was curious, not because I was interested in writing. It must have been buried somewhere in my mind because I kept being drawn to things related to writing.”
It is hard to imagine Kathie not writing. Her passion for her craft is infectious, and it is exciting to see where she is taking this newfound love. She was in a very negative time when she left her former job, and her brain did not play. When she distanced herself from work, her brain began to play. “That’s the best part of being a writer—you can create your own little world.”
Writing has shaped Kathie`s retirement journey in many ways. She has connected with new people, and she has some structure in her life. “It gives me meaning. It gives me an identity. It keeps the intellectual juices going. There are a lot of workshops about writing, and I love learning. I have external validation now that maybe I can do this. During the worst months of COVID, the writing really gave me structure and purpose.”
For Kathie, and for many of us, when you retire, you lose a part of yourself. How you identified before is gone. When a non-retired person asks what you do and you answer, “I’m retired.” the answer is usually an awkward “oh” then and the conversation ends. However, when a retired person asks that same question, a conversation usually blossoms about how you spend your time.
Kathie only recently started calling herself a writer, and that was only after other people started calling her that. Just recently, she completed a form and, under occupation, wrote “author”, not “retired”. It felt good.
“When you retire, there is a hiatus in how to identify yourself. I didn`t identify as a writer. Now it is part of my identity,” says Kathie. “I didn`t know a lot about myself, and it took a while to sort it out. I stumbled a few times, and I stumbled across the writing.”
Kathie now spends the majority of her time writing, being with friends and family, doing aqua fitness, and volunteering with the Saskatoon Unitarians. She has her priorities and she has learned what feeds her soul. She has many ideas for future books and is always dreaming up more. What is her advice for new retirees?
“When you do paid work, you are so consumed that this other, more creative part shuts down. Let yourself stumble. Find out what feeds you. Find out what is good for your soul.”
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey
Finding your passion is about following your heart, but most of us put too much thought into it. How much will this cost? Should I really do this? Am I too old? What will people think? Will I be a success? Well, it’s time to stop thinking about it! Just do it!
You can try new things. Take a class. There are so many free introductory classes online that will open your eyes to a world of possibilities. And if you don’t feel any of them, that’s okay. You didn’t invest anything but a few hours of your time. Don’t worry about being too specific. If you really like golf, that’s fine, but it doesn’t have to be your passion. It can be something you are passionate about. There is a difference. Your passion may be something you aren’t even good at. That’s okay. You will love learning more about it, and if it makes your heart and soul sing, you are good at it. If you are stumped, take a look at how you are spending your time. What brings you joy?
Tony Robbins, American entrepreneur, and best-selling author says human beings have six needs: certainty, significance, variety, love/connection, growth, and contribution. You can read more about what he has to say here. As we learned in my Nov. 17th blog about finding balance, it is important to keep a balance between those needs. Knowing what you are passionate about will help to keep those needs in check.
The important thing is not to worry about finding your passion. Relax. It will find you.
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein