Friday, October 13, 2017

Back at the Wheel

At art festivals you’ll find me intently observing a potter at the wheel. I’m mesmerized for hours as the artist works the clay, drawing it up and back down. Starting with nothing and ending up with a beautiful bowl that has her touch, her fingerprints, her distinct design.

My interest in watching other potters led me to believe that I’d like to learn how to make pottery. I thought I’d love to work with clay and create beautiful bowls. Even more than making pottery, I wanted to look beautiful while making pottery, like the pictures that often appear in magazines of an attractive woman at the wheel with lovely bowls and other pieces stacked on the shelves behind her. The lighting is perfect. The bowl is perfect. Her hair is perfect.

I thought if I could experience this, I could be passionate about making pottery, which is why I signed up for a 7-week pottery class. And then another 7-weeks. And after that, yes, another 7-week class. I didn’t keep signing up because I was feeling passionate about making pottery. In fact, when the instructor asked me if I loved making pottery, I said, “I want to love making pottery.” Until now, I was mostly frustrated and discouraged. I didn’t have much to show for my time and expense. So, after finishing up three 7-week classes, I decided that pottery is not my passion. 

When I speak to audiences about planning for retirement, people often say, “If I was passionate about something, then I’d know what to do in retirement.” People feel pressured to find a passion, and fast. The problem is, for most of us, passion doesn’t happen fast.  In fact, scientific research suggests passion can’t happen fast.

For some subjects, passion only surfaces after gaining a certain level of skill. Once we get further along on the learning curve, then we can experience a psychological state referred to as flow, where we are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. That’s what I want—to be so absorbed in the process of making pottery that I lose track of time and all that’s going on around me. I want to emerge from the experience feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Other potters tell me, “It’s hard, until it’s easy.” Not much in-between time. I’m still at hard. But knowing that passion only comes after I gain more experience and skill encourages me to keep at it. To get back on the wheel—to give pottery a second chance to become a passion.

Retirement is a perfect time to pursue new interests. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the first time you try something, you’ll find your passion. Sometimes you only need to be passionate about the idea and keep showing up to the work. Then one day what was hard and frustrating may become rewarding and engaging. You may have found your passion.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

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