Passion vs Obsession

Before I get into the central topic of this thread, I’d just like to give a shout out to my cousin Cortney. Happy Birthday, hope it was a good one!

I’ve been sitting around the house for most of the day, not really doing much of anything. I read some email (not much, though, as I don’t have much lately), and chatted on IRC for a while (in fact I still am, in #applegeeks over on the Aniverse servers). Mostly what I’ve been doing is thinking about what is important to me, and what things no longer are, or at least not AS important. I’ve been thinking about streamlining my life a bit, organizing it, pursuing my personal goals more and worrying about other people’s expectations less. I haven’t come to any concrete conclusions yet, but I think overall it has been helpful.

Now, it’s around 8:50 in the evening, and we’re back from trying another restaurant in the area (sushi, so my choices were a little [self]limited, but I managed alright). I’ve discovered the music channels on the cable service, and have some jazz playing in the background. Now seems to be a good time to reflect.

In the process of trying to shift gears with my life (a process I started last night before bed), I considered aloud the concept of dropping as much as possible of things that are time absorbers that I’m not sure I’m doing for the right reasons (for instance, UberCon and getting a job, but also “hobbies” of mine like Avatar). Cut out the chaff, and just focus on school and expanding my abilities. Develop a really respectable skillset, advance my craft to a point that I actually feel proficient in it, instead of the half-assed plateau I feel like I’m at in so many things. Mickey was supportive of the idea, which is encouraging. An entertaining thought, but I’m not ready to take that drastic a step quite yet. We’ll see what comes of these next few months. Who knows, maybe this coming semester will be so intense that I’ll take those steps anyway. We’ll see.

This brings me to today’s thoughts, which include reflection upon what I wrote last night, and the subsequent responses from my father in law, which have a lot of merit and should be read if you haven’t read them already. To his latest comment, delineating being “passionate” vs being “obsessive,” I thought of just posting another response comment, but decided this is really worth a separate post.

Would it be better if we substituted the word “passionate” for “obsessive”? When we were at the Baha’i Temple a couple of weeks ago, I’d say that you were passionate about what the photographs you were taking, not obsessive. A person can be passionate about a number of things (photography, Mickey, etc.) while obsession seems to be more single-minded.

This begins to get into the heart of what took me years of depression and several months of therapy to grasp. There is absolutely a difference, though sometimes that difference is a hairy line. Looking back, I was obsessed with obsession, with the thought of normal everyday activities taking on the role of addictive substance. Where I grew up, it seemed like the only thing one was allowed to be publically passionate about was sports. Sports did not interest me in the least, which left me in some ways a self-imposed outcast. Self-imposed in that whenever I chose to impose myself on other peoples’ presence, they rarely seemed to mind per se, so much as they were bewildered as to what I was doing there. It was not until halfway through my sophomore year before I found others outside my own family (my family kept me sane, there is no doubt) that were passionate about similar things to me.

This was largely online, however. It was the sense of empowerment gained from my time interacting online that allowed me to reach out more and discover other people interested in similar things to me (sci-fi, anime, others). I didn’t get a chance to get all that close with many of them, though. What few I did are still my friends now. It’s a fairly small group.

At the same time that I was beginning to find others who shared similar interests to me, though, I was finishing several years of squashing my “addictions” (nothing more than being passionate about things… being “too passionate” about anything was what I sought to quell). I found, and continue to find that I now had (and have) lost a fundamental aspect of who I was: a geek. Namely, someone who is passionate about a given subject, and speaks passionately about it. I was still a geek: I could and can spout off with the best (or worst depending on your point of view) of them. But I now feel hobbled, unable to concentrate and absorb information beyond this threshhold I set so firmly in place (passionate but not TOO passionate).

This has manifested itself in a variety of ways. The first thing I noticed was my academics. I could no longer absorb information like a sponge. Latin, which I had strolled through in Latin I and II (to the point of doing extra credit, and starting work on a Latin website… I was even using small bits of conversational latin in every day life) became a struggle in Latin III and IV. I still WANTED to learn it, but found that my mind simply stopped. I had to work twice as hard as I ever had to retain half as much as I used to.

The next thing I noticed was my loss of interest in reading. I had previously been a 2-3 book a week person, primarily rather substantial works of science fiction. One day I picked up one of my favorite books, and could not finish the first chapter. Even now, 5 years later, I still have half a dozen books that I made it halfway through and put down, not because I wasn’t enjoying them, but because I couldn’t read further.

Okay, both of the “signs” I’ve listed could be a variety of causes, ranging from ADD and/or poor health/bloodflow. They are both fairly “cerebral” in nature. So let’s try something “lightweight:” Games. Video games, to be precise. Games I used to enjoy, games that I WAS ENJOYING, I reached a level of proficiency in the game, and just stopped. I still had plenty of room for improvement, and knew that I COULD improve if I put in the effort, but rather than do so, I put it down, often to never return (“Devil May Cry” was played for maybe two hours and then was put away. “Vagrant Story” was played for an hour. “Parasite Eve II” never made it into the machine).

Stemming back to earlier in this post, I commented that I was considering dropping the time-consuming “extra” stuff. This makes more and more sense, overall (still not ready to do it, though). Think about it: if I’m having trouble advancing in things that I WANT to improve in, does adding more time consuming activities REALLY make sense?

So how does this connect back to Passion vs Obsession? It does seem like I took a little of a detour, but it is actually on topic if you think about it for a moment. I, in my obsession with avoiding obsession, blockade myself from developing a mastery in ANYTHING. This is the line, for me at least. I said that the line was hairy, and for me, “Mastery” has become ensnared in it.

This is by no means over, but it will take further consideration. I’d welcome comments.

2 thoughts on “Passion vs Obsession

  1. I think you are definately heading towards a useful insight.

    Though I miss you both tremendously, I think the move to the other coast is *just* what you need. I allows, almost requires in a lot of ways, you to find out what YOU expect of you, and do that, rather than be controlled by the opinions of others, even though they care a great deal about you. As you may recall from years worth of discussing this, moving away from *my* hometown was what enabled me to find myself and make moves towards MY future.

    Add to this what Mom and I observed from your wanderings around the country, and I’m convinced you are moving in the right direction.

    I’m also convinced that what I see as a tendency to not rush into the changes you are considering is healthy. It will allow you to move in a thoughtful, rather than reactionary fashion.

    And I agree with Peter that there is a difference between obsession and passion. My thought is that obsession is energy robbing while passion is energy giving. (Heh, that insight just popped into my head as a result of this post. Thanks!)

    From my standpoint, there is a little bit of a genetic component to all this. Sorry! ;-)

    Pray a little, relax a little, DO and you will flow to YOUR balance point.

    And count your blessings. After all, you *could* be normal!


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