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Escaping the Passion Vacuum

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What is a Passion Vacuum?

A Passion Vacuum can represent any person, place, object, situation, or other factor which actively prevents or drains the passion from a subject.

Such as:

Any situation that overwhelms someone so much they cannot focus on anything but the situation, thus eliminating any pursuit of passions.

A person that actively discourages another person from pursuing their passion by continually dismissing their achievements, absorbing all of the energy and time with their own desires or otherwise thwarting attempts to grow.

A workplace with a culture of overwork and under-stimulation which prevents employees from having the energy to pursue new knowledge and other interests that they are passionate about. As a result, they may feel empty and lack motivation. Their skills will eventually grow stale and the company will suffer from low quality and limited innovation.

Physical pain. It’s tough to describe just how bad of a Passion Vacuum physical pain can be. When you’re focused solely on the physical pain it becomes a part of your identity and can become self-perpetuating or self-worsening. The health challenge I currently experience causes a variety of different sensations that range from mildly distracting to completely debilitating. Because this came into my life at a young age, I didn’t know enough to avoid allowing it to become a part of my identity and even now I’m challenged with creating space between the conscious being that is observing the physical body, but the more I recognize and seek the space the better I become. Just like any Passion vacuum, its an ongoing force to overcome.

Recognizing the suction throughout life.

I was recently discussing the Passion Vacuum with a friend and thinking about the value of this article. She shared her own story of feeling the Passion Vacuum and having someone help her identify what was happening. Identification is the beginning of healing. How did I get caught in a Passion Vacuum in the first place?

Letting my Passion become the vacuum.

Making music and performing is my ultimate dream, but even when the band was on a roll, I was starting to feel the suck! How did my passion become the Passion Vacuum? Running the band became complicated, I lost my well-paying tech job and ended up taking on two lower paying jobs to keep going. With my tech skills I was self-recording, making our website and promotional materials while continually working on the songs for our first album alongside my jobs and managing the band. Taking on too much can take out the passion and when your focus is fractured in too many directions, and you become maxed out on effort and energy. In that state the smallest thing can send everything spiraling out of control, like getting a new boyfriend. That first iteration of Premium Bananas was amazing, but short lived because I didn’t know not to stretch myself so thin and to only focus on what was truly important. Of course, I didn’t really learn that yet, I was still only 20.

Getting stuck in the suction.

Even during this time of relative peace, I struggled to complete the songs in the time frame I desired and I would come home from work without any energy left. The job was not particularly demanding, certainly not physically and even mentally, most of what I was doing was simple and all done by the end of each day. The Passion Vacuum at this workplace came from the personalities and attitudes of the other employees. Each day was filled with pointless gossip and trivial arguments. There was no growth opportunity in the location I was at and since what I was doing was not growing me into any tech field, job wise I was stagnant. Management was making decisions based on personal interests and keeping important information from me. They certainly weren’t supportive of my attempts at pursuing my dreams or a healthier lifestyle.

During this period in addition to experiencing heartbreak, some health issues due to my poor diet and lifestyle were creeping up on me. When our bodies aren’t happy and especially when they are in pain, it can suck the passion right out of you! It took a major attack to discover I had gall stones and would eventually need to have the gall bladder removed to avoid issues. Already experiencing a chronic health challenge, this new situation took up my focus for the greater part a year while I tried to avoid the surgery with dietary changes. Recovery and the return of desire to continue to pursue my dreams was slow and would remain in a muted state for years.

Sucked into roles; career and wife. 

There were several factors that made the IT Buyer/Planner role a Passion Vacuum. I was never given the proper tools and resources to effectively perform my duties, so I was constantly wasting time and effort on manual processes and always had a backlog of work waiting for me each day. This is extremely common in IT Procurement and ITAM roles where employees are wearing too many hats. Even though I was her right hand, my manager couldn’t give me full autonomy and couldn’t allow me to work from home when my health declined. The effort it took me just to get dressed and drive to work each day could be all I could manage, by the time I’d get home to the husband and life at the house, where is the room for the passion? The culture overall had been suffering from the 2008 financial crisis, which caused the company to have rolling layoffs each quarter and sadly the employees that had been at the company the longest were the first to go. This caused an amazing amount of technical debt, which while a different topic, can contribute to the Passion Vacuum by sucking up effort on issues that no one is left knows how to resolve amongst other challenges.

I celebrated my 60 days at Hyland by performing in my first show in front of hundreds of other Hyland employees, friends, and family. Already, I had met several musicians and started what would become lifelong relationships. Like any company growing exponentially, unfortunately some growing pains happened along, and way and my role evolved into more of a Passion Vacuum than ever before. The factors that were keeping me at my prior employer still existed and my husband hadn’t turned his new trade into a profitable career for more than a few months here and there, so risking changing employers was always a tough call to make. Maybe after some amount of time assuming I wouldn’t be able to leave, I started to pour more and more of my personal feelings into the role or maybe they were always in it. Over time there was a buildup of unpleasant emotions around certain topics, other employees and several stagnant situations surrounding my role that I couldn’t change.

Years spent in the vacuum blur together, but I had the lifeline of my mom, and the hope still alive in my heart. COVID was a Passion Vacuum for some, but for me it was also an amazing opportunity to perform in live virtual streaming events and even host some. Where my health challenges and lack of energy had kept me from getting out and performing, COVID brought audiences into homes, and I hope it’s opened doors to exploring the live music available from independent artists on social media. Determination to move to WA and be near the Pacific was the push that eventually broke the suction of the vacuum, but that also included the breaking of my marriage. I could probably write a novel, and maybe I will since I started one, about the rollercoaster love, marriage, divorce and cross-country real estate in less than a year can be, but even after the papers were signed and the one minute Zoom session in front of the judge was over I hadn’t fully broken out of that Passion Vacuum. I still feel the suck from time to time over a year after the move.

Starting to break the suction.

Once I had broken free from the vacuum and role of wife, the pain-body amplified my role at work looking for something to keep hold of as I was starting to feel more clarity. As Eckhart Tolle says in chapter four of “A New Earth” “It’s not what function you fulfill. Whether you identify with your function to such an extent that it takes over and becomes a role that you play. When you play roles your unconscious. When you catch yourself playing a role, that recognition creates a space between you and the role, it is the beginning of freedom from the role. When you’re completely identified with the role you confuse a pattern of behavior with who you are, and you take yourself very seriously. You also automatically assign others roles that correspond to yours.”

Identifying the Passion Vacuum.

I caught myself big time, I could see the role that I had created around my career and I was taking myself way too seriously. Truly the core to continually overcoming these vacuums is the observation that all the creativity, drive and even joy are being pulled away by the force of something out of your control. But not really out of your control. Once you can observe the Passion Vacuum in your life, you need to decide, is this something you can change, avoid, or remove, or are you willing to accept this and still move on. Standing still shouldn’t be a long-term strategy for anything, relationships, career, even hobbies should evolve and change along with you. Some stagnancy is normal, but it can be easy to fall into the hold of the Passion Vacuum as months and years go by.

Someone to help pull you free.

Having check points, personal or with a friend or family member can be supportive, and now we can even use AI to assist us, like I explore in Episode 2 of my series of blog posts and YouTube videos “AI All of Me”. This topic of movement, momentum and determination feels like a life-long challenge to me, but there are a lot of successful, organized and collected people out there that have written or spoken on this topic. I’ve used counselling and therapy as a catalyst for avoiding getting stuck in the vacuum, but depending on the other concerns of your therapy and the person counselling you this can even become a vacuum itself if you have the wrong expectations and associate your mental health with your life passions and goals.

Having someone to help you identify when you’re caught in the Passion Vacuum is priceless, and I’m blessed to have my mom by my side. This doesn’t mean I was always able to hear her or understand her observation with the right perspective. Sometimes hearing we’re anything but perfect from our parents is hard, learning to understand our parents as friends and more is an entire topic unto itself! Hold onto trusted friends, mentors or colleagues that will agnostically observe, provide unsolicited feedback, and respond honestly when you do ask for their opinions. These can be hard to come by, and keep in mind, you must be that person in their lives in order to earn it in return, so you have to keep balance to avoid allowing any relationship to become a Passion Vacuum.

Shutting off the workplace Passion Vacuum.

When you’ve identified a Passion Vacuum in the workplace and you want to stay with that company, department or even role, there are ways to attempt to make the environment more vacuum proofed. Finding ways to bring joy into your day like music, learning or games can keep you refreshed. Use something positive on lunch and breaktime instead of doom scrolling social media or just complaining to your soup. The culture of a workplace can change with enough momentum, and you may be the one to reverse the flow. Start by sharing your experiences with trusted co-workers and see if there is a common feeling. It can be risky to put yourself out there as a catalyst for change, but it can be even riskier to go through life without feeling engaged and passionate about your work. Ultimately if you cannot regain the passion in your role and cannot change you may need to move on.

Self-reflection and tools to keep the vacuum away.

Practicing meditation helps with refocusing and identifying when you are focusing on the distraction rather than your passion. Even now as I write I have to keep myself in the flow of what I want to say and not distracted by pain, planning for the future, mulling over the past, reading social media, learning something new, singing or sleeping! Keeping a journal or some form of regular self-reflection is key to staying vigilant. The longer the vacuum has had a hold, the harder it can be to separate and continually regroup in each moment.

Faith can set you free.

Faith in a higher power. OK, I know I could risk losing people here, I know I could spark debate I’m not ready for on the internets and socials, but to me, this is an unavoidable topic. No matter what you believe, if you believe that there is a force to help, guide and love you then you’ll always have it in your darkest times. I believe in a source creator energy that loves and guides our experiences, which I choose to call God. And I feel anyone that believes in loving yourself, everyone else and the world around equally, is on the same path. My relationship with God hasn’t always been clear, or strong but when I was a little girl and I laid in the grass and I looked up in the sky, I thought God was watching me and could hear me. No one was next to me, telling me what to think and I keep that memory strong. Regularly talking with, praying, and just feeling that connection can keep you from getting stuck in the vacuum.

Passion is different for everyone!

Not everyone has to find passion in their career, or in being a creator or artist. There is a different path out there for everyone, don’t lose what drives you to be the best you can be every day. No one can tell you what to be passionate about but we can all help each other avoid having that passion sucked out of our lives.

Pull the plug on your Passion Vacuum today!

When you find your way out of the Passion Vacuum and into creative freedom, celebrate! Love yourself and share it with the rest of the world. Experience it and see if you can record, write, or somehow capture that feeling to remind yourself the next time the suction starts up! I’m writing this first and foremost for myself, so that the next time I’m feeling that tug I can remind myself not to let it hold me. Maybe it’ll even help someone else!

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