This was originally written for the Tufts-in-Madrid program blog. I was having trouble thinking of a topic for this week, so someone told me to write about something interesting that had happened during the week, and this is the result.
The professor is standing at the front of the classroom, with a diagram of a marine ecosystem behind him. He’s explaining how the species are stratified on the rocks based on competition. The final panel shows what happens if the starfish in the ecosystem are taken out: the barnacles have taken over (and everyone knows that you don’t want that to happen).
As I furiously scribbled what I could understand from the professor’s rapid Spanish, I realized how crazy it was: all these diverse animals have evolved to fulfill a specific niche that complements the niches of all the other animals in the ecosystem so that none of them go extinct. It blew my mind, and I was immediately reminded why I’m studying biology.
A few days later, I’m sitting at lunch with some friends including another student in the marine biology class. I turn to him, and enthusiastically ask if he was as excited as I was during class this week? He shakes his head, and says no. I press further, but he just doesn’t seem to care.
The next morning, during our tour of Toledo, this same friend animatedly describes European history in response to many people not know who the Visigoths were. He tells us how Germanic tribes were deputized by the Byzantine Empire to govern parts of Europe, and he cites specific battles in which territories were won or lost. Though it is interesting to hear, I just can’t really invest myself in what he’s saying.
In that moment, I realized that neither of him nor I are right or wrong about being interested in marine ecosystems or the Visigoths; we’re just interested in different things. Correction: we’re passionate about different things. And that’s the crazy thing about being passionate: there is no right or wrong.
The last time I seriously heard someone talk about passion was when I was applying for college. In regards to the dreaded College Essay, everyone’s advice was to “write about your passion and you’ll be fine.” As floundering high school students, we didn’t really know what we’re passionate about, so we come to college to discover it. Some of us already know what it is; some of us don’t, so we search. We take classes, we join clubs, and maybe we go abroad. And hopefully, somewhere in the midst of this process, we discover what makes each of us tick.
So what am I passionate about, you ask? I’m passionate about science, and medicine, and using science and medicine to help others. But that’s not the point of this blog. The point is, that we are all passionate about different things; and that’s what is important.
What’s important is that sometimes, especially when abroad and in an environment like at Tufts, we feel compelled to be passionate about (and do) everything offered. Not only is this stressful and unhealthy, but doing so distracts us from focusing on where our real passions lie, or don’t. And that’s okay.
*The title of the post is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein.*