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Passion vs. Purpose

I have always sought the contemplative and empathetic life, going for runs through the woods and picking up spider webs in my hair and desiring to reach a heart by just a spoken word. Upon entering college, I was surprised by the chaos that life truly held, particularly within the school of music. I envied those who had standardized schedules and who took normal tests. I began to contemplate the concept of purpose, as opposed to passion. Passion, as defined by the dictionary, is “a strong and barely controllable emotion.” Who would seek such instability? The passion-filled life scared me.

Purpose, “the reason for which something is created or for which something exists.” I sought music therapy in a purpose-driven way. I worked tirelessly to soak up all the knowledge that I could, taking on extra projects and presentations. I methodically taught myself difficult skills through hours and hours of practice. Each day was a new opportunity to check something off the to-do list. Goals and objectives were my bread and butter. According to friends and family, I was created for this profession. Something, however, was missing.

In the past, I had always observed trends of happiness in others, and it was often fleeting. If happiness was indeed what everyone sought, why was it so unattainable for most? I began to realize that I had also lost joy along the way. It had become so easy to get caught up in the planning, execution, and data collection of the profession. Each aspect of the interventions was driven toward a specific and valuable purpose. My schooling taught me to be focused, detail-oriented, and evidence-based. But what about the client’s intuitive emotional needs? What about empathy?

The quote "A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones." by Roald Dahl written in a black font with a light green and yellow background.

Since starting my internship, I have been learning to see joy in the little moments–the times the therapist lets their authenticity show, or the ways in which they quietly engage with the client through a glance or a conversation. Each therapist is still leading with purpose and intent, but is not afraid to embrace passion as well. I have observed gleeful laughter, smiles from ear to ear, tears and frustrations, and every emotion but standard and predictable. Their willingness to accept and meet the client where they are in a given moment is revealed in their practice. Each therapist wakes up every morning and chooses their clients over themselves.

I think this is what self-care might be all about. We have to be willing to embrace the “barely controllable,” the relationships with our clients, and the joy brimming over in each second. Otherwise, the monotony could become unbearable and the chaos overwhelming. I am not perfect, and I struggle to let authenticity show. Each day, however, I learn from the clients as they fiercely share their struggles and triumphs. The rawness and beauty of humanity is present every day.

A drawer that is filled with random things you would find around your house (sunglasses, measuring tape, screwdriver, paper, medicine, etc.)

While everybody is unique, here are some ways to seek joy that I have discovered:

  1. Dare yourself to be content with less.

  2. Have a conversation with somebody new.

  3. Do something that scares you each day.

  4. Embrace chaos. (Leave your mess drawer messy).

  5. Do something nice for yourself and someone else each day.

  6. Eat something fun.

  7. Allow someone to pour into you.

  8. Seek joy in your clients.

What are ways that you seek joy in the little moments? Comment below.

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As a music therapist at the STAR Center, I have had the privilege of going to Jackson Christian School’s ABLE program. ABLE stands for “Achieve Beyond Limited Expectations.” This program provides tran


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