Marissa Skudlarek, late, lamenting.
This column was not written out of passion. It comes to you a day late, after many hours of agonized rumination and then one hasty writing sprint. I am writing it with grim determination and a clenched jaw.
I didn’t know I’d have such a hard time writing about Passion and Desire, our blog-themes for this month. I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that they frighten me. And before you accuse me of being a bourgeois good-girl who was socialized to deny and fear her own desires, hear me out.
Passion has messed me up, and I’m not just talking about the sleepless nights and the bittersweet agonies that everyone undergoes when they have a crush. I mean the very idea of passion as the highest goal in life. There’s an OKCupid question that asks “Which is more important, passion or loyalty?” Years ago, I unhesitatingly answered “Passion.” Now, I’m not so sure. Loyalty’s important too. Or perhaps devotion – a word that seems to combine the better qualities of both loyalty and passion.
My father is fond of the motto “Follow your bliss,” which I do think is a good way of ensuring that the world stays full of joy and passion and creativity. But the trouble is that one cannot follow one’s bliss every moment of the day. The dishes still need to be washed; the tub needs to be scrubbed; I need to work forty hours a week in an office in order to live in this beautiful city. And, even in my artistic life, it’s not all delightful creativity and following of bliss: I need to send boring emails, I need to write even if I feel like the Muse has turned her back on me. Some people make it sound as though once you’ve discovered your passion, you’ll never be unhappy or uncertain again. I find that patently untrue.
I guess I’m trying to push back against the idea of Passion and Desire as always being these romantic, positive, heart-throbbing things. Like most abstract concepts, they work in mysterious ways.
In Allison Page’s last blog post, she talks about her play Hilarity, which I think is fair to describe as a “passion project.” But look at the way she talks about it: “I’m making it not because I think it’s for everyone and that they’ll love it and lose their minds. I’m making it because I couldn’t let it go. It’s been brewing for 4 years in my brain, and at some point I just figured that I had to find a way to make it happen because otherwise I’ll be forever bitter at myself for not doing it. It just stuck with me like nothing else has, and I have to think that’s because I need to do it.” We usually consider passion to mean a kind of romantic fervor, but for Allison, passion is stubborn and single-minded.
That’s pretty much how I felt last year, too, when I self-produced my play Pleiades: I did it because I couldn’t imagine doing otherwise. It also took me months to admit to myself that it was something I needed to do, that it was what I desired! The idea did not come to me in a rapture; I considered it until I was sure I could make it work, and then I set about my task with determination.
I produced a play because I couldn’t imagine doing otherwise. I write this column because I’d regret it and feel ashamed of myself if I didn’t. That’s passion of a sort, but not the hearts-and-flowers kind.