Are you currently working in a job or on a project that you are passionate about? If not, what is preventing you from pursuing it? These are just a few of the questions we will be delving into during my series of Blog Interviews about people following their passions in life. Finding and pursuing work that is engaging and meaningful is a basic psychological need however, this need is only met if we consciously make the decision to pursue something we are passionate about. Yet, we all know it is easier said than done, so sometimes an unexpected event pushes us forward in a direction we have been contemplating.
My first Blog Interview is with Wendy Ploger, a professional photographer in New York City who's story will touch and inspire you. I have been in love with her pictures since the moment I first saw them, especially ones of the famous one-eyed Ernie (how can you not love that face!). So sit back and enjoy the interview.
Discovering Your Passion
When I asked Wendy what is it about photography that excites her she said, "When I take a photo, it is about remembering--capturing a moment that brings you back to that memory of the past. It is also an important way to express myself. In photos, you can sometimes say so much more than words. Visually it is a way I can tell a story."
When Wendy was in college, she was a communication major but decided to change to graphic design as she began exploring her creative side. She took a number of photo classes in college that helped her get a sense of her artistic abilities and also had a great professor who began showing her the subtleties of her work. However, at the end of college she decided to go the path of a graphic designer, "Photography simply didn't seem practical to make a living at."
Wendy points out an important fact of reality that we may have to come to terms with during our early years after college--sometimes our passions are something that, at the time, we simply can't make a living at or we just don't have the experience on how to make money doing it, so we decide to pursue other opportunities that are a better fit for us at the time. The key is to still pursue something we enjoy while on our journey of finding things we are passionate about.
Following Your Passion
Wendy had been doing graphic design in Washington, DC for a number of years but began getting restless in her job. She felt stagnant in what she was doing and was tired of working for people telling her what to do. She wanted to make a change so she started looking into photo schools and trying to find a way to make the leap to follow her passion. During this time, the unimaginable happened.
On September 11, 2001, Wendy's dad and step-mother were on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. After this tragic event, Wendy said that her perspective on life changed. In an interview for the Washington Post, she explained, "I don't know if it was because of 9/11, but I just started to realize that life was too short, and I needed to be following my passion, no matter what the cost," she said. "He would be proud of the direction I've taken." She mentioned to me that after this, "I became less fearful and more willing to take chances," which led her to take more photography classes and eventually move to New York City to pursue photography on a more full-time basis.
(photo of the Pentagon Memorial by Wendy)
Wendy's change in the way she viewed life after 9/11 points to an important psychological phenomenon that happens after such events or even, as I have personally experienced, when we get older--developing a greater sense of our mortality. When we are young we think that we have all the time in the world and often go through our youth not really worrying about time. In some ways it is a great feeling, but the down side is we lack of a sense of urgency to do things that are important to us. This is why our growing sense of mortality can be so valuable to us--it makes us realize that time is our most valuable resource and we have to spend it as wisely. This means following your passion and spending time on activities that make you happy and give you a sense of meaning and purpose. In order for our sense of mortality to be beneficial to us (as opposed to it causing us anxiety), it must drive us to take action.