How to Distinguish Between Interests and Passions

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During my semester leave from my university, I have done plenty of soul-searching especially about my major. I am a computer science major but often find myself to be too different from my peers, in ways which really terrifies me. They are always on the go, moving on quickly from modules to modules, even when they faced any setbacks like uncooperative group mates, horrible lecturers or getting a bad grade. I find myself constantly grieving over my bad grades and feeling extremely bitter about myself.

Subsequently, I started to skip lectures and tutorial classes and give many excuses to justify my behavior and make myself feel better.

“Lectures are pointless and I don’t learn anything, so why should I waste my time by attending? 8 a.m. classes just aren’t worth it. Watching recorded lectures should be just fine. I went to sleep at 3 a.m. yesterday and sleep is important. Making food is more important than going to class.” Do all of these excuses sound familiar to you? I believe that most college students would go through this phase at some point in time due to the overwhelming workload.

However, I knew that deep down, I definitely did not want a life full of excuses. I was gradually losing myself and becoming a type despise: a slacker. All my expectations and aspirations prior to college slowly but surely broke down one by one and it seriously hurt. Ultimately, I found myself becoming more and more indifferent towards my major. I couldn’t be bothered anymore.

I have always been interested in technology and the idea of integrating it in our daily lives, which made computer science seem like an obvious choice. All the ideologies and multiple career paths in computer science just sounded enticed me. I just decided to go for it without any preparation. To put it bluntly, I was just not ready for the many challenges and failures ahead of me. Each failure just hit me even harder than the previous one. My self-esteem hit rock bottom even before I realized it.

I started to question if I was truly passionate about computer science or just interested. Many people would argue that there is no difference between passion and interest, so why is there a need to explore this issue? Like many, I was really confused between these two terms in the beginning. After conducting some research and based on my personal experiences, I discovered a big difference between the terms.

How do you know if you have an interest in something? Firstly, you would pay attention to that activity and do it in your spare time. For example, I have always enjoyed music. When my mom asked me if I was interested in learning to play the ukulele with her, I was immediately on board. I looked forward to every Saturday evening that we plucked the strings. However, if something important came up, I would not hesitate to skip the lesson. Having an interest means that you are willing to invest some time for it amidst your tight schedule however you would still have other higher priorities. An interest is also transitory and temporary, meaning that your feelings towards it could fade very quickly if you face a major setback. You would feel a need to move on to something else more worthwhile.

What about passion? Passion keeps you going no matter how many times you failed at a task. You would want to talk about it all the time. You couldn’t possibly take a break without coercion. As much as I enjoyed learning about the different areas of technologies and computing, I would never want to invest more time on it than I had to.

During my computer science internship, I witnessed how much passion my coworkers had for their jobs. They went the extra mile to research the latest technologies and possible technical enhancements for the company’s product. They talked about the recent technical events during lunch. They sought different opportunities every day at work. For myself, I felt mentally exhausted just trying to keep up with them.

For me, my interest in computer science couldn’t pass the “fake it ‘til you feel it” process. If I had to work hard to feel something for activities which didn’t really appeal to me, I worried that in my adult career, I’d fall into counterproductive behavior like constant absenteeism or burnout. In my opinion, you can’t force feelings that you don’t feel. I realized that although I may be interested in certain areas of computer science, I won’t find my passion among all the nuts and bolts of the field.

Yes, having a passion means that you accept the whole package, meaning that you are more than ready to embrace all the pros and cons and experience the highs and lows. Failure would never extinguish the flame in and would instead make it burn even brighter than ever. You would be more motivated and enthusiastic to scale another summit, regardless of pain or hardships.

The days are long but the years are short. Living each day studying a major or working a job which you don’t really enjoy can be really detrimental for your psychological wellbeing. You would be so depleted at the end of the day whereby you wouldn’t have the energy to think of future possibilities. Never be afraid to explore and pursue the things you love and never make money your ultimate goal because there is nothing else even more rewarding than doing the things you love daily.

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