Financial Funk Series: Do what you’re passionate about (4 of 5)

No matter how much society tells us otherwise, we can’t afford to do what we don’t like for the sake of security alone.

So many of us are used to giving up on our dreams and what our hearts truly yearn for, for the sake of security and because “everyone does it.” But mark my words: it always catches up to us.

It’s really simple and quite logical, if we quiet our mind enough and tap into our hearts.

If it’s physically impossible to continue to swim upstream without your arms tiring and you giving up at some point, why would it be different for our spirits? How long can we force our spirit to go against the current of our joy and flap fruitlessly upstream?

Living a life doing something you don’t like for the sake of security is like swimming upstream. 

Unfortunately, financial funk happens when your spiritual arms tire and you find yourself no longer able to swim against upstream.

To illustrate that point, let me tell you a story about my mom, one that has personally left an indelible mark on me.


Let me tell you how my mom got laid off when she was in her 50s.

I saw my own mom lose her job of twenty plus years when she was in her 50s.

My mom worked in the apparel industry for 30 years as a sample maker. Sample makers sew clothing designs from patterns before the clothes can be mass produced. It was her job to find out and pinpoint any problem areas in the pattern before it gets released for production.

Anyway, although my mom wasn’t passionate about her job, she was good at it and took pride in the fact. She once told me that her own parents couldn’t give her stability when she was growing up, so as an adult, she became the type of person who values stability above pretty much anything else. And knowing that she was providing stability to her family gave her life purpose and meaning.

Here's what my mom's daily routine looked like.

Unfortunately, the apparel industry in the United Stated started shifting and changing at the turn of the millennium. Companies actively started to outsource work to developing countries where the labor was a fraction of the cost of labor in United States.

My mom watched anxiously as her colleagues got laid off one by one, when finally the day came when she was laid off as well. She told me she felt so betrayed that the company she was with for over 20 years laid her off in one swift chop. And so at the late age of 50, she fell into a financial funk.

Of course, like everyone whose life has changed drastically overnight because of a job loss, my mom started to internalize the situation.

On and on she thought, blaming herself for somehow bringing the situation upon herself. She felt helpless to the bigger shift that was taking place in her industry, and sat with a yucky feeling that somehow she was to blame.

Seeing her fall deeper and deeper into anxiety and depression killed me inside.

I tried to reassure her as best as I could, but she felt like an outdated gadget thrown away after 20 years of use. Her pride in herself and her competence took a sharp nosedive as she fell into thoughts of being irrelevant. She felt old and worthless.


But the truth is, there’s more to than what meets the eye.

I know it’s easy for people like my mom to blame the industry or blame the economy when they suddenly find themselves without a job and the security it brought them.

But I see it a little differently.

Our lives are often not what it seems to be on the outside. We’re not the victim that our mind makes us to be. There is an underlying spiritual narrative that tells a very different story from what it seems on the outside.

There’s a spiritual story to everything, every occurrence and every life event. Nothing happens without a reason. The Divine in you is always tugging at you to walk the path that is most aligned with the authentic you. Understanding the spiritual story is always the fastest route toward healing your pain and getting on your soul’s journey.


The fact is, everything changes and grows over time.

Contrary to how my mom interpreted her situation, I for one don’t see that she was a victim to a shifting industry. I think she was left behind because she didn’t change with it.

Rationally thinking, all industries change and grow over time. Not one industry stays the same over the course of history, not one.

Why? The simple answer is, it’s because people change. People evolve over time and so do industries, since they are run by people.

That’s why expecting the industry to stay the same in order to continue to supply people of their jobs, is similar to expecting your child not to grow up. You can't expect your child to stay the same just so that you can keep feeling relevant.      

So the question shouldn't be, “Why did the apparel industry change and take jobs away?”

But it’s really, “Why hadn’t my mom evolved along as the apparel industry evolved?”


It all comes down to passion

To be completely honest, she wasn’t passionate about her job from the beginning.

As far back as I remember, she did her job for stability, not really because she enjoyed it. In fact, she spent a lot of time being miserable, feeling anxious, and enduring through work-related physical ailments. She’s one of the kindest, the most giving person as a mom, but she definitely believed that pursuing her own personal joy is selfish.

Whenever she wanted to do something, she would suppress the urge, because she believed that it was selfish to spend money on herself.

She was so used to restraining herself in everyday life, that this habit translated to her job as well. She didn't know how to pursue what she wanted even at her job.

Because she didn’t enjoy her work, she had a stagnant view about it. She didn’t travel outside of the lines of her duty, and didn’t get creative with it.

So why is not having passion a problem, you ask? Lots of people do their jobs without having any passion for them, you say?

Here’s my point.

When you choose a career based on surviving rather than passion, it’s like putting a clamp on your creative juices: barely a trickle of your creative juice will drip through, and so doing anything will be a real effort.  You’re not going to make much progress doing anything without your creativity propelling you forward. 


You’re trying to swim upstream if you do what you don’t like

As I said earlier, doing something you don’t like is just like swimming upstream: you have to conjure a lot of energy in order to keep yourself in line, all the while, making very little progress forward. You strain your body, and eventually, every joint and muscle start to wear down. Your back, your neck, your cholesterol, your digestive track, etc. Every morning, you have to contain the resistance to go to work and ignore the meaninglessness of your daily tasks.

Even if you manage to numb yourself enough and fight the internal resistance that arises each morning, you can’t keep it up for a long time. Eventually after some time, you’ll be forced to give up the fight. Your health fails you to a point where you can’t continue. Or, like my mom’s case, the industry changes.


Doing what you like is like swimming downstream

On the other hand, if you do what you like and have passion for your work, then it’s like swimming downstream. You flow right along with the current, and one small action would carry you far. When the stream changes and splits, you would flow right along the new channel without a problem.

If my mom was passionate about what she did, she would’ve evolved right along with her industry. She wouldn’t have simply tried to maintain her job as a sample maker, but curiosity led by passion would’ve gotten the best of her, and would’ve tugged on her heart to exploring various ways to express her creativity within the industry. She could’ve easily become a pattern maker, and then a designer. She could’ve explored tailoring or gone into a small business of her own, reinventing clothes. Passion would’ve made her creativity come out and play.

The fact is, yes, the apparel industry in United States took away a lot of seamstress jobs, but it also gave birth to many other positions. If my mom wasn’t so focused on maintaining her job, she would’ve been excited about exploring those new positions. 

In fact, millions of people in the industry made the shift along with the industry. But my mom wasn’t one of them. She just didn’t have the internal drive to do so.

At the end, she lost her job because she didn’t enjoy it.

I believe it was the Divine’s way of inviting my mom to think about what gives her joy, what makes her happy day-in and day-out. And also to think about where true stability comes from. Through her job loss and financial funk that followed, she did think about these issues a lot more.


So the lesson…?

I wish my mom had lived a happier life. I wish she had done everything in her power to be happy. I wish she had chosen a career she loved rather than one that would merely allow her family to survive.

But she didn’t. And as an adult woman, I can understand why.

It takes a lot of courage to block out the voices of survival and pursue what you are truly passionate about. It takes courage because a lot of times, if you’re pursuing what you truly love, you’ll most likely have to construct your own path instead of mindlessly following a path that others have paved, since you’ll find that your path is as unique as you.

And this can be very lonely and scary.

At first, you won’t know if you’re doing it right or wrong, because there won’t be a road map to follow. You’ll definitely feel unsteady, and even lost and aimless. You’ll probably doubt yourself a million times a day, wallow in moments of depression and in bouts of what looks like laziness to those who don’t understand.

But then slowly, you’ll start to gain some internal leg muscles, and even get a few happy moments where you stand up on your own all by yourself. And in those moments, you’ll get glimpses of what could be and what’s awaiting you not too far away. So, with renewed resolution, you try again and again no matter how many times you wobble and fall.

Then one night, deep in the timeless quiet, as you toil away at your craft, just as you’ve been doing countless of nights before, you’ll suddenly realize that you’re actually good at what you aimed to be good at when you started on this road.

And from then on, you’ll gain such momentum that it’ll truly feel like flying.

That’s what living with passion feels like.



Enjoy reading the series on "Five Steps to Getting Out of Financial Funk":