All of us have a passion (whether it’s cooking, playing musical instruments, or flying planes). These obsessions are at their summits when we are young and have the abilities to dream as freely as the wind. However, somewhere around the time where we enter high school, the craze over our passions fizzles out...not because we are no longer obsessed, but because we are told by others around us that we must start thinking “realistically about our lives.”
Suddenly panicking that going abroad to Asia to teach will be too difficult, or moving to New York as an actor will be too financially burdensome, we sweep away our lifelong passions in favor of traditional paths that will satisfy others and help us fit into the world. Do not get me wrong – there is absolutely nothing wrong with following an established path, such as becoming a lawyer, accountant, or engineer. If that is your calling, then excellent! There is, however, a problem when we give up our actual obsessions or dreams in lieu of those established careers. This is what is happening too often today.
Following your passion may seem difficult or daunting, especially since there is uncertainty associated with it. Normal careers are secure and stable. My ultimate message, though, is that if you build a resolute determination to shoot for your calling, no matter what, it is possible to make it a reality. You do not have to give up your passion to go down traditional paths where you are unhappy. There is a way. You may have to be more creative or resourceful to discover it, but there is always another way.
Let me tell you a story about Andre Ozim. He was born in a small town in Oklahoma to a Nigerian mother, before moving to Washington DC. As Andre grew up, he lost himself in various sky-high dreams. However, as he got to high school, he was shoved, like many of us, into taking up something “reasonable,” like law. Andre ran with it. He got an internship as a paralegal in Washington DC. For some reason, no matter how hard he tried, he could never feel fully happy being a paralegal. He wanted to do something else, but had no idea what. Many of us in this situation would likely stick with the paralegal job and just forget about those feelings of unhappiness.
In the famous words of Robert Frost, Andre took the “road less traveled.” One day, he got so fed up with his internship that he simply quit. He had about $40 total to his name. With that money, he decided to go out and discover his passion. How, you ask? He jumped on a bus towards one of the hotbeds for inspiration – New York City. Having just $40 and not knowing anybody there, he began the search for his calling.
Andre initially stepped into New York City as a model. Everybody around him encouraged him to try modeling, because they were sure that he would be great at it. However, Andre discovered that modeling was not for him. He spent time exploring his other talents. It took almost an entire year for him to find what excited him most…but he ultimately found it. After working on the set of Wolf of Wall Street and meeting Leonardo DiCaprio, Andre became curious about pursuing acting. He started small, by first listing himself on casting websites for student and independent films. It was not long before he got cast for his first short film, Land of Dreams (directed by Lionel Cineas). From there, Andre found what he was effortlessly talented at and what gave him deep satisfaction. He set himself on the path to acting.
Today, Andre has already become a successful actor. He was one of the lead actors for Jahar, a short film that was recently chosen for this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (2016). While there is still a long path ahead for Andre, he knows that he made the right choice. He will be happier as an actor than he ever would have been as a paralegal. Choose to be happy. Follow your passions instead of settling for an unattractive path that someone else urges you to take.