Finding your passion(s).




First Quilt

As a college professor, one of my major thoughts was to encourage my students to find their passions.  In fact, it seems that many universities suggest that students take elective courses in a variety of areas so that they may discover new ideas and thoughts.  I thought about this quite a bit and wondered if we were being fair.  Many students sat in my office worrying about finding their passion.  How do you find these elusive interests?  I don’t know, but I can talk about finding my own.

My career passion came to be working with college students…. watching them learn, grow, question, and change.  I cherished the hours when I could actively listen to my students’ thoughts, empathize with their joys and disappointments, and watch them become the person that had been within all along.  Did I know early on that this was a passion?  Not a chance.  I discovered this in a serendipitous way.  In the late 1970’s, my husband (at that time) had just completed his Ph.D. and was interviewing for positions.  In one interview, they asked about his wife.  When he told them that I had a Masters in Accounting and was teaching at a junior college, their eyes lit up and I was invited for an interview.  To make a long story short, I soon found myself as an Instructor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. However, that’s not the point of my meanderings.  At one point, my department chair asked me if I would be willing to take on the task of evaluating student transcripts for meeting graduation requirements.  I discovered that this would also involve meeting one on one with each student to discuss their (ahhh…. the debate about “their”!)  situation.  At first, it sounded overwhelming, but I reluctantly said, “Sure.”  It was during that hectic process (we had more than 75 seniors at that time) that I discovered how much I enjoyed this activity.  And a passion was found.  For the next 30+ years, I spent my professional life teaching, advising, and engaging with college students.

My second passion involved taking yet another risk from an unexpected choice.  During that same time period, I was in graduate school and studying for the CPA exam.  I barely had time to eat or sleep… or anything else for that matter.  But, a friend of mine invited me to go to the Arts and Crafts fair at War Eagle, Arkansas.  I knew I did not have time and that I would regret being gone for a whole day.  But, just like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, I took off on an adventure, though hardly as interesting as his.  My friend and I visited numerous booths and saw so much talent.  There was one item that kept calling me back … a simple oak lap desk painted with beautiful daisies.  I debated in my brain for hours.  The cost was $15, but at that time the grocery budget for a month was only $70, so I knew I could not really afford this.  However, I bought it.  And for months I stared at those daisies.  Finally I realized, I wanted to learn to paint.  So… I found a class, spent another $15, and my life was never the same.  Now I must give a little background; in the eighth grade, my art teacher told me that I was  probably more suited for a shop class, and Art was my only C in my secondary educational endeavors.  Yet, I have been painting for more than 40 years.  Am I talented?  I don’t think so.  But I am so in the flow when the brushes and paints come together.  In fact, my last painting of daisies looked quite painterly!

And now we come to a third passion.  Again, I took a risk.  When my daughter was pregnant with her first child, she asked, “Mom, could you make the baby quilt and the nursery bedding?”  Of course, I said, “Sure.”  Now I had been sewing since my teens, but my major tasks involved making clothing and a few curtain panels.  My daughter, her husband, and I designed the quilt, chose the fabrics, and then I thought, “Now what?”  I knew NOTHING about quilting.  I had none of the helpful or even essential tools.  I measured with a yard stick and a ruler. I interpolated the measurements from a picture of a quilt.  I cut all of my fabric with scissors (quilters will smile at that one).  I didn’t know the seam allowance should be 1/4.” I had no idea what batting was.  And the binding …. well that was a mystery.  So I made a quilt (the one pictured above) and while from a distance it looked cute, it followed no quilting guidelines whatsoever. In fact, I shudder and laugh when I look at it now.  But… I was hooked.  I soon found myself studying quilt making…. buying books…. spending a lot of money on essential notions and tools, and even more money on an upgraded sewing machine.  Every step of quilting began to fascinate me.  And here I am, 6 years later, designing, making, and (sometimes) selling quilts in an Etsy shop.  (  Yes, I am passionate.

So how will you find your passion(s)?  No one can answer that for you.  For me, it involved taking some risks, spending some time and money, and listening to my heart.  Wishing you a super duper (to quote Henri, my grandson) day of peace.

Now.. go forth and take a (reasonable) risk…. who knows?




  1. Christine

    Omg…I miss you! You are inspiring and all of your students still wish you were with us at Drury…and we talk about you often! I know I’m honored to have been one of your many students! So excited for you on this new journey…congratulations! <3


  2. Janice Gabbard Pownall

    I am a dinosaur, not yet quite extinct, but getting there. My first passion was to be a wife and mother. I tried college, but I just couldn’t stand being in a classroom one day longer. I had jobs, but no career. I married at 19 and helped put my husband through college. Our first baby was born right before he was commissioned in the Army, and baby two and three soon followed. I was not going to let someone else spend their days caring for my children, so we structured our lives around one salary. That was almost a necessity as a military family, as there were limited working opportunities for spouses anyway. I volunteered my services to clubs and on committees. I thrived in my home with my husband and children. My days of soccer mom driver turned into designated driver. It was time for my children to live their own lives. My children did what I did not and graduated from college and moved on…as they should. I am still passionate in every sense of the word with their father, my husband, my best friend. Family is a wonderful passion.

    Oh, I’ve had a lot of likes in my life….reading, sewing, traveling…but I could never call my likes passions. I’ve had dreams of rving, living on a property and raising a few chickens and a small garden..check, check. Mostly, I just wanted to live with some space and no HOA..check, check….the no HOA I am passionate about😊.

    My personal passion of today was started as a child and exploded through the years with every step of new technology. I love to take pictures…always have. My first camera of my own was an Instamatic 104. Then I had a Polaroid, followed by several 35mms and several digitals. I bought a dslr with 2 lenses in 2008 and upgraded both camera and lenses in 2013. I haven’t taken any classes….just practice practice practice. I knew it was a passion when I realized I was always looking for the next “capture”. It doesn’t matter what or who it is, I’m always looking. I let many things go undone around the house when I’m on the hunt. Cleaning the kitchen can wait if I’ve spotted a butterfly….it will get done in due time.

    Life often gets in the way of passions….family, careers, avoiding poverty…..but when a passion is discovered or finally acknowledged, run with it. Find contentment in your happy place. Share what you love with others…..who knows, maybe your passion with bring happiness and inspiration to others. Leave a little of yourself behind…in my case, I’m leaving behind what I see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *