May 14 – The sparks of passion

May 14 – “Passion is born the moment you catch a glimpse of your potential.” (Fred Smith)

There are a few things in my life for which I feel some level of passion. My family, of course, is first on the list. And there are others. I have a passion in my heart for photography, speaking in public, visiting lighthouses and camping to name a few. For each of these, I can remember seminal moments when that passion was first sparked within me. I may not remember the exact, first moment that the passion ember was lit, but I do remember the feelings that came with those early experiences.

When I was in the 8th grade I had a hard teacher. I was in Catholic School, and my primary teacher was a nun. She was known for being difficult and demanding with her students, and for being a disciplinarian. Given my tendency to talk too much in class and attempt to be the class clown, that additional discipline proved quite valuable. One of the things she did was have class members come to the lectern to read passages from the day’s lesson. At first I was apprehensive. I saw my classmates struggle with their early attempts. When it came to my turn I was scared, and I had lost my place in the text. I began reading in a spot that had just been read by my predecessor. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain between my shoulder blades as she roughly poked her finger into my back. She got me back on track and I began to read from the correct spot. Within a minute or two I was reading fine in front of the class.

Soon after that she asked me to do more reading before groups. We had assemblies of students about 3 times a year. Parents would come in to see performances from their children, and a couple of 8th graders were the masters of ceremony. I was chosen for one of these. I read and practiced and did a good job. I remember being terrified before going on stage. That fear was soon replaced with a rush from the adrenaline that I felt when I was speaking. I felt that spark of passion for public speaking even in those first few moments.

The first time I went to a lighthouse, it was somewhat against my will. We were taking a week long vacation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My wife had planned the trip, and I was following along on the course. We saw many of the attractions she’d read about in books and magazines. Along the way she wanted to see some lighthouses. I went along, and pulled out my camera to snap some pictures of them, mostly with the idea of documenting the visit.

While visiting Whitefish Point, I started to get into the picture taking aspect of the experience. Along the beach there were some large pieces of driftwood, which I tried to use to act as an interesting foreground for the light. I could feel the sense of enjoyment at exploring the lighthouse and surrounding area. I snapped a few more pictures, but what was important was that feeling I had. When we got back and the pictures were all developed, I was in love with lighthouses. That passion for visiting lights has grown deeply within me.

I can also tell stories of my early attempts at photography and my first experiences camping. All would share a common theme with me. For each, in those first few attempts, I saw something that was bigger than the moment. I saw that I could do something with this. I could see that there was either a talent within me for what I was doing, or a tremendous amount of satisfaction with the activity. I can remember those feelings in part because I still get them whenever I am involved in those passions.

If you traveled back in time to visit me in the 8th grade I probably wouldn’t be able to articulate that there was a passion for public speaking within me. As an adult in the year 2000, on the shores of Lake Superior, I may not have realized what was happening. For me those moments become clear in retrospect. But those feelings, those sparks, those small and glowing embers were lit within. They became the passions that today are my hobbies, and even a part of my professional life.

I may not have been conscious of the fact that I was getting a glimpse of my potential, but I did know in those early moments that there was something that I was meant to do.

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