Breaking Up with Your Passions

Image by DieselDemon, available under CC BY 2.0.

Breaking Up with Your Passions

Written by Emilie

Topics: Goals

They say that the death card in a tarot reading isn’t necessarily a bad omen. It means the closing of one chapter and the opening of another– a new beginning, if you will.

I wonder if scanners get more death cards in their tarot readings than other people…

My “Career” as a Musician

I used to be a superstar songwriter. Honestly, not to toot my own horn, but I was really good at crafting melodies and writing infectious choruses. I used to drive to songwriting conventions in other cities, study song structure, and attend summer music programs at prestigious New England music colleges.

Out of everything I dabbled in growing up, music more than anything, seemed like my likeliest career choice. It wasn’t just that I had honed my writing skills, I was driven. I believed deep down that music was my calling.

And then one day – just like that – I wrote my last good song.

I couldn’t write anymore. The passion was gone.

An Identity Crisis

Honestly, it was sort of devastating, my loss of interest in a musical career. But more than anything, it was confusing.

What was this, prolonged writers’ block? Why couldn’t I write? How come every time I tried coming up with a new guitar riff, it sounded uninspired? Why were all my lyrics coming out so cheesy? Where had my drive gone? How come songwriting was no longer fun?

It felt like I had lost my life’s purpose, and as hard as I tried to hold on to it, I just couldn’t.

What I later realized is that I had gotten so proficient at songwriting that it was no longer a challenge. It no longer held any mystery for me, and I was bored.

It was time to end it.

Saying Goodbye Doesn’t Make You a Failure

Dan Savage talks about how society views any romantic relationship not ending in death as a “failed relationship”. But sometimes you’re with a person for exactly as long as you’re meant to be with them. If when you part, you each look back fondly on your time together and come out of the relationship healthy and happy, then why should it be considered a failure?

And yet, if your passion for something (or someone) wanes– if it doesn’t last a lifetime, that’s seen as tragic. We’re told that we selected the wrong mate/profession or that we’re afraid of commitment and are self-sabotaging.

Multipotentialites are Wired to Explore

I’m not saying that some people don’t get scared and give up on their dreams. It happens all the time.

But some of us aren’t giving up when the going gets tough. Some of us have simply reached a level of mastery or contentment and now we need a new challenge. If we hold on to something once the passion has dried up, we risk becoming miserable.

This is just how us scanners are wired. We’re meant to shift paths and explore new interests. It’s in our blood.

New Opportunities

If I hadn’t let music go, I wouldn’t have gotten into film making or web design or law or blogging! Had I clung to that identity of Emilie = musician, I would have missed out on all kinds of wonderful experiences.

The closing of one chapter is a time to celebrate. It means that you got what you came for and that there’s something new and exciting waiting for you behind the next door.

Listen to what your heart is telling you. If it’s time to leave, then leave.


  1. I had a similar experience. I wanted to start my own fashion line.( I still will) But writing captivated me to the point of never going With writing, i feel liberated and amazed. I have broken one passion to pursue something greater. Thanks for sharing.

    • Emilie says:

      Exactly. And who’s to say you can’t still start your fashion line. The idea that we need to be only one thing and just trek on down that one path in some linear fashion is so false.

      Thanks Jonathan!

  2. Julie says:

    I totally understand outgrowing a passion. Sometimes these outgrown passions are stepping stones to a bigger and better passion down the road. Or, are stepping stones that strengthen a re-newed passion that you once lost.

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, I agree Julie. There tends to be a bigger plan of some sort that each passion contributes to. Even a non-linear path has some sort of greater meaning.

      Thanks for the thoughts.

  3. Morgan says:

    First going into this article, I was scared at what the content would be. I thought you were going to tell us to break up with our passions for one reason or another. Hah!

    But this is a really interesting point. Something that has happened to me more than once or twice. This happened to me with the piano. I had such passion for it when I was younger, but the passion just disappeared. I tried to hold onto it over the years, but after realizing that the struggle to keep the passion alive was getting stressful, I just had to let it go.

    Great post. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Heh.. controversial titles go a long way. ;)

      Yeah it’s interesting how that happens, isn’t it? I bet you’re happy to have the musical background though. I know I am. That kind of thing sticks with you throughout your life. It’s always useful to have a musical ear, even if you don’t stick with your instrument forever.

      Thanks for the comment Morgan.

  4. James says:

    another wonderful post Emilie: ). You have a way of putting things into words that I’ve been learning in the background all my life. As a fan of Jung, I always appreciate anyone who can make subconscious understand conscious.

    On another note, I bet a community of even 100 scanners would have a more intense and varied list of old passions than 10,000 people that spend their life with the television on. Sometime I’d love to see that list… your old music collection included:). A fond memories farewell to years and months past. Here’s a relic from my own history:

    I used to love applied math and physics. I put that crazy thing together from complete scratch in about a month in my free time. I may or may not have skipped several real homework assignments because of it:p. Never quite got the spray from wave breaks working right though… probably because I got stuck on figuring out what the heck a jacobian in a large two dimensional vector field even meant. Good times, good times.

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks James! I like Jung too. I took a class in undergrad that was all about him and his consciousness stuff. Found it really interesting.

      Whoa that water thing is cool! Nice one.

  5. Cara Stein says:

    I had a similar experience with my yarn dyeing business. I thought it was The Answer to that much-hated question of what I want to be when I grow up! I adored it and threw all of my being into it… until I burned out on it. Now it has no pull for me at all. I still think maybe I’ll care about it again some day, but maybe not. It really bothered me for awhile, especially since everyone was always asking me “how’s the yarn?” with that happy/expectant/proud-of-me vibe that made me feel like a huge failure for not caring about it any more. But I guess I’ve gotten used to it. I hope I want to get back into it at some point, but if I don’t, whatever.

    Anyway, thanks for this post! I’m really glad I’m not the only one!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Cara,

      Ah yes, thinking you’ve found The Answer… That happened to me many times. It was always so exciting, and then such a disappointment when I realized that I was wrong. Also, I HATE people’s reactions like the ones you mentioned. That’s going to be a whole other post…

      Anyway, what a relief not to have to worry about this stuff anymore. Life gets so much easier when you stop searching for one path and just accept your multipotentiality huh? :)

      • Lex Mosgrove says:

        Oh, yes, I hear both of you there. People can get really irritated when you jump from one idea to the next, or suddenly give up That Lifetime Job(TM). It’s the same with interests that don’t pay off in cash right away.

        Looking forward to that whole other post. I got a few really weird comments to share. Maybe someone should make a collection one day, called “100 Stupid Remarks You Shouldn’t Have To Hear” or somesuch. :P

  6. ayngelina says:

    I like Dan Savage’s view. I’ve always believed that people come in and out of your life to teach you things but it doesn’t mean they should be there forever.

  7. Lach says:

    I think it’s a case of learning not to identify so much with a particular outlet. The creative force remains strong, it’s just expressing in different ways right now. I totally relate to this idea of being immersed in a particular medium for a long, long time and coming to identify with it. When you’ve had something at the centre of your life for so long, to suddenly let go of it can be very disorienting. But holding onto those past identities when we’re ready to grow past them is really inhibiting and restrictive. Better to find that deeper connection that transcends any particular outlet and express it whichever way seems right in the moment. That’s what it means to be a multipotentialite, no?

    • Emilie says:

      You’re so right about this Lach! Being a multipotentialite isn’t about being attached to medium, it’s about being a creative person and being able to channel your creativity into multiple mediums! I’m totally writing a separate blog post on this. I feel like I’ve danced around this point many times, but you’ve just helped me distill it into a simple takeaway. So so true.

      Thank you Lach! Srsly. :)

  8. Marco says:

    I was wondering if someone can be a scanner and a pretty mediocre person. Or is it really just a prerogative of bright minds?

    • James says:

      Interesting question Marco.

      What does mediocre mean to you exactly? If it’s low grades, I’ve got some kick ass role models that failed out of high school. (John Carmack, the guy behind “Doom” is one example that comes to mind).

      I feel like there are a few traits that really set scanners apart.

      curiosity, willingness to let go of old beliefs, ability to think outside the box, willingness to act on ideas. (willingness to take action being the most important one)

      None of those things connect to any kind of ‘intelligence’, you know? I feel like the only mediocre people are the people that have ideas and then just sit on them. Luckily that’s a super easy thing to transition out of: ). I used to be a pretty mediocre person in that regard -_-.

      Here’s an awesome article I read the other day:

      bottom line, if you fall short of where you think you should be, it doesn’t mean you’re mediocre. It just means you’re en-route, and prime for taking a new paradigm and running with it.

      sorry for ranting on your blog Emilie:). What’s your take on this?

      • Emilie says:

        I agree with you, James. Isn’t that what Outliers was all about?

        But yeah, I think it depends on how you define mediocre. I definitely got some mediocre marks in law school! Heh… But am I a mediocre person? Hells no.

        I actually don’t know what a “mediocre person” is. If by mediocre, you mean “boring”, then I’d say that multipotentialites tend to be the least boring people on the planet!

        They usually have so many grand ideas and plans bubbling inside of them and they’re really curious about the world too. So even if a scanner hasn’t quite reached the point where they’re ready to take action, I wouldn’t label that person “mediocre”. They’re probably still wildly creative and just haven’t been able to express it yet.

  9. Nania says:

    great read. Moving on can be hard but I think living our life and growing up is letting change come in.

  10. Angela says:

    I don’t see anything wrong in trying something new, learning from it, loving it, gaining new skills, growing as a person, then moving on to the next adventure when the time is right. We need lots of little adventures to keep learning and growing as a person. Good for you for trying new things.

  11. Thomas says:

    Hi Emilie
    This is my first visit to your site. It seems like you have a lot of different talents. I will check in on your site again when I have better time.

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