The other night, we watched the movie which follows four sommeliers preparing for the Master Sommelier exam. It's an intensive process, the culmination of years of working in the industry and intense months of refining your palate and studying thousands of flashcards on arcane details of wine knowledge. It takes long hours and becomes an obsession, one that pulls you away from your family and friends.
It was fun hearing their insanely detailed descriptions for wine (fresh can of tennis balls? decaying meat?) and nail-bitingly suspenseful as they heard their results. But what stuck with me most was the passion and perseverance that the process requires. One of them stayed up till all hours of the night studying for weeks ahead of time – which, though I am no fan of the all-nighter, was oddly inspiring.
Nothing I do currently requires that kind of intense commitment and perseverance. To be sure, I work hard and will occasionally stay late at the office. But right now, I'm happy to have found a balance – of working and playing and cooking and gardening and exercising and reading. But one day I'll throw myself into something imbalanced – the pursuit of one really valuable thing at the expense of other really great things – and the movie made me newly excited for that.
Because I am not planning on becoming a master sommelier, I imagine that will be grad school, or maybe some especially all-consuming job assignment. And, with Tunisian election season coming up, that day may be coming sooner than I think. From what I understand, the election missions are going to be a throw-yourself-into-it-and-make-it-happen type deal.
Also, sometimes I venture down the road of thinking that the only worthwhile activities are those that contribute to Saving The World, so it seems somewhat trivial, self-indulgent even, to dedicate your life's work to knowing vineyards and vintages.
But the movie made me think about how it doesn't matter so much what you're passionate about, what matters is the passion. The old "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Cliche, for sure, but nevertheless – a good reminder to start with what I'm passionate about and work from there, instead of trying to figure out what I "should" be doing.