We can talk about many mysteries about being human beings on this planet but this topic is the biggest mystery to me when it comes to human beings and why sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. To me, motivation, resilience, passion, drive – they all mean the same thing. It’s that intrinsic thing that makes us want to accomplish something, something that means we have to make a change or sacrifice to accomplish something we want. I don’t care how many studies have been done – I don’t think anyone has figured out the answer yet as to why some people are so damn good at it and others aren’t. Once again, like so many things, it’s a spectrum. We all have it but it’s the degree to which we have it that causes my questions.
Let’s start with the more obvious examples. Every time I hear a song on the radio, every time I watch a big league sporting event, every time I see politicians on the news, every time I hear about any public figure – I wonder, how did they get to where they are? What was different about that person versus millions, billions, of others that got them to their “top”? Don’t think I’m fame hungry – that’s not what this is about. But, famous people to me are obvious examples of achieving goals. I’ve said before that once I’m interested in something, I get obsessed and need to know as much as I can. I think part of this curiousity is me looking for the answer to this question. What was different about the way they were raised, their experiences, who they are as people, that got them to this place?
Have you ever noticed that many famous musicians or bands have written or released a song about how the life they’ve earned isn’t the one they want anymore? In my reading about bands, I can’t believe the struggles they’ve gone through to get where they are. Many go through years of being penniless, relying on bars to hire them to play so they get a few bucks. They disappoint their families, pursuing a dream that looks unachievable. They lose friends and sacrifice themselves all with the hope of getting their music heard. Then it happens for some – they make it big. Then, for the world, it’s no longer about the music – it’s about fame, public image and fans. Many of them self-destruct as a result. There’s story after story of how fame isn’t worth the price yet some young musicians still want it – they give up everything to try to get there. Why? How? There’s many good, even great, musicians that don’t have this drive. What makes the ones who achieve fame different? Luck? I’d like to think not.
Athletes! Let’s talk about them for a minute. I’d guess the majority of kids play some kind of sport. At what point in a kid’s life do they think, I’m going to be the best at this. I’m dedicating my life to being the best. I’m going to put my sport ahead of academics, social life, even health. They all know the odds of actually making it big but they pursue it any way. What is the trigger for these kids? Intrinsic talent? I’d like to think not.
Now let’s talk about the less public figures. Let’s talk about the people who have a life goal and achieve it. Simple, right? I think not. How many of us have achieved what we dreamed of when we were teens or young adults? At some point, I’d say for most of us, we live day to day and stop focusing on those dreams. What do you think causes mid-life crises? Why do we all now talk about bucket lists? We never forget who we wanted to be and as we get older I think we try to find a way to get back there. I think that’s why so many people project their own dreams on their kids.
I think it’s safe to say that we all had dreams and aspirations about our lives in general. Why do some people pursue those dreams with everything they have and others don’t? I used to believe it was about parenting. This belief came from trying to answer the question for myself about why I have never had any true passion, drive, motivation to accomplish anything. I blamed my parents for not being there – never having my back and pushing me forward. As a kid, I danced, played ringette, modelled, academically achieved. I never did anything with any of it and I always thought it was because my parents never really supported any of it. My mom made my dance costumes, took me to ringette practices, was there for my games but then it stopped. I remember being up sick at night because I needed a modelling outfit and make up, had no money, and my parents just didn’t care. I will still tell the story to whoever will listen about the expectation on me growing up that I would academically achieve and attend university. Then it happened – I got accepted to every university to which I applied. My parents were separated at that point – my mom was re-living her missed young adulthood and my dad was angry about the way his life had turned out. I didn’t get to go away – I got to go to our local university where I completely failed my first year. I spent more time attending friends’ classes than I did my own. In my parents’ eyes, I wasn’t allowed that mistake so had to then go to work full-time and attend school part-time. I am proud that I did find it in me to still get my degree but it looked so different than what I’d imagined as an honour roll high school kid.
Now I’m raising my own two children, both who are in their teenage years – one who only has a year left of high school. I thought I’d done everything different. I have made it a mission to be there for every single moment and interest in their lives. Academics is big for me so I’ve always done everything I’ve could to support good grades and I’ve been fortunate that they are both academically intelligent. When one said, “I want to learn to play guitar,” I found him lessons and sat there week after week, teacher after teacher, and have shown genuine interest in every song he’s learned. Teachers have said he has a natural talent, excels and could play any instrument. He still plays – he plays at school and for himself but has no drive to pursue it any further.
In a smaller Canadian city, knowing the craziness of parents and hockey, my husband and I had always agreed that we wouldn’t go down that path. Then my second son, at four years of age, started saying he wanted to play. We thought it would pass. At six, we gave in and put him in hockey. For his first practice, my husband was working out of town so me, knowing nothing about the sport, got a friend at work to draw me a diagram of how to put his equipment on. He played for six years. We were there for every game, every tournament. We were invested in the game of hockey, the parents, players and the life. Then, at 12, he said he was done. I convinced him to give it one more year. At 13, he quit. He never had the drive or passion.
Going into grade 9, my oldest decided he was going to play football. Quite the shock to me. Two things in life I figured I’d never take the time to learn – football and the stock market. He almost missed the chance to play but ended up on the team. High school football then became his life. As a result, football became mine. I learned all the rules – both Canadian and American. I picked him up every day from practice, racked his brain about what he’d learned and attended every game. He became pretty good at his position and the word is he’s the best in the city at his position. But, aside from high school football, he won’t do anything with it. He’s had opportunities to go beyond and refuses to take advantage. My youngest goes into high school next year and now he says he’ll play high school football too.
Compared to how I grew up, like I said, I believed that parental support was the difference. Now, seeing my kids, I don’t know. Even in writing this, maybe I’ve gone too far? Maybe the line is letting them have something that’s just theirs with background support? I’m not trying to re-live my life through my kids – I’m just trying to make sure they know I’m interested in their lives and their interests matter enough that I’ll educate myself about them. I’m also not going on a self-blaming path because, I might have these thoughts but what I’ve really learned is committed parents or not, some kids just have it – the motivation, drive, passion, resiliency. What is it and where did they get it? If it’s not about parenting, what is it? That’s the true mystery.
Realizing that, though, makes it even harder for me to accept the fact about myself that I can’t blame anyone for not being a motivated person without a true passion. If I wanted to dance, play ringette, model, go away to university – why didn’t I? Sure, my parents probably had a part but I need to accept and explore in myself that I had choice and my choices have made me who I am today. There’s people who have a lot less and do a lot more. I still don’t have the answer as to what makes the difference and I probably never will. As a parent, I really wanted that answer but will only continue to do the best that I can to support both of them in wherever life takes them, at their own discretion and based on their own decisions. Maybe that’s my passion!