E. Winter Tashlin

Passions & Burdens [Picture Tells A Story]

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | April 11, 2015 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: burdens, careers, life changes, passion, planning, PTAS


The word "passion" gets bandied about quite a bit these days. People are forever being told to follow their passions, to explore their passions, to find their passions. And it is easy to see why, in a world that can seem grinding and soulless, having something that one feels incredibly strongly about can be a (sometimes literal) lifesaver.

Less talked about is that our passions can also be our burdens. For some, that is a quite literal thing, such as when you find someone carting an accordion around a street festival, while for others the weight of our passions are born by our spirits rather than our bodies. We see this often in LGBTQ activism circles, where people's deep passion for equality and freedom winds up a priority even over self-care for too many, with the specter of burnout always lurking around the corner.

It is easy to get drawn deeply into the pursuit of what excites our passions, and it isn't uncommon to make major life choices based on that pursuit. My father for instance, chose to live where he does in no small part for the easy and year-round access to golf - one of his greatest joys. Friends of mine spend every ounce of their vacation time on attending kink/BDSM festivals. Within my own household, there have been difficult financial choices made in order to support my photography "work."

When we care about something deeply it makes us vulnerable. For instance, I'm an ardent intactivist (an activist working to end non-consensual genital cutting of female, male, and intersex minors) and find it challenging at times to engage with people who don't share that viewpoint. Likewise, as a photographer I struggle to connect to people who don't see visual arts as having value. Of course, like many, I can wind up taking people's contrary viewpoints as a personal affront, because these are all things that are deeply personal to me.

I had the dubious privilege of having derived my living for several years from my deep love of the sex and kink world, spending three years as the assistant producer for a kink event company. That work also gave me the freedom to pursue photography and for a while, to be the associate editor here at The Bilerico Project. Having one's passions intimately tied into one's financial stability can be an incredibly dangerous thing. On the one hand, living one's passions are the ideal that my generation had drilled into our heads growing up. On the other, just like it's often a bad idea to meet your heroes, making a career out of one's passion can put one hell of a strain on said passion and said career.

The sex-positive and kink education worlds are not so flush with free cash or paying jobs, and while I may be a good photographer, I am years away from being a great photographer - if that is even a goal that I have the capability to reach. Stepping back from a life dedicated to the pursuit of one's passion is a difficult and delicate dance, but in the interest of financial solvency, it is one that I am working to find the necessary steps.

Although speaking of passion's burdens, a career in the sex and kink world doesn't exactly excite potential employers, no matter how sanitized one's resume sounds. Toss in barking like a dog, and it's easy to see how I ended up working unconventional jobs. Either significant Tourette or years spent as a kink educator, on their own would be a hiring challenge, together they could prove to be the kiss of death.

So why then do we get so deeply passionate about the things that matter to us? Part of it may be tribal, the desire to connect to other people over a shared identity. After all, even the most solitary passions can bring people together as anyone who has ever bonded with someone else over a shared love of the same book can attest. Other passions may be driven by a sense of duty or desire to change how the world works - something that motivates many LGBTQ activists. Or maybe it is simpler than any of that and part of why we devote so much to our passions is simply that doing so makes us feel good for any of a variety of reasons.

Perhaps it makes me juvenile and pampered, but a career built on one or more of the things that truly excite my soul does remains a long-term goal of mine, as I am seeking out new perspectives and avenues for doing so. Nonetheless, even as I work to lay foundations towards that end, I also have to get the hang of more mundane ways of being financially stable, despite the fact that it feels like the "wrong" direction in the broader picture as someone who has spent so long chasing the tail of his passions in the hopes of finding a way to make them pay.

There aren't clear right or wrong ways of living and exploring one's own passions, so I'll just leave you with this video from the fabulous David Mitchell, who humorously reminds us to take a close look at what passion is and isn't all about:

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