Michael J. Thom Father. Nerd. Race fan. Musician.

27Aug/09

Passions

Author’s Note: To those of you looking for information regarding the discontinued NBC soap opera, you will be dismayed. Furthermore, this post will not deal with Dictionary.com’s first five definitions for the word “passion,” three of which deal with “sexual desire.” Sorry to disappoint.

Editor’s Note: This post is long. Also, it is a relatively “personal” post, instead of the usual commentary on life in general or specific things in society of interest. If you’re not interested in reading something personal, just move along…

Producer’s Note: Yes, the Author and Editor are one-and-the-same. Or is that two-and-the-same?

Why is it often so hard to figure out what you truly enjoy doing the most? I’ve never been a big fan of the career aptitude tests some high school students take to help guide the college major selection; I’ve always believed that an individual will know what is right for them to pursue, whether as a college major or a career.

I must admit I’m having a little trouble with this myself, though.

Most people know me as a music guy. I play trombone. (Or, if you know me from church, perhaps you know me as that drummer who plays some guitar on the side.) “So where are you teaching now?” I get asked by old friends and acquaintances, those who knew me during my tenure as a music education major at Ball State. Though I appreciate the conversations, I hate having to answer that question, largely because I don’t have one, “perfect” answer.

Brief aside: I don’t think it’s right that we, as a society, put so much importance on our jobs that when we meet someone it seems the only important things to find out are “what’s your name?” and “what do you do?” Nonetheless, this is the world we live in…

I am set to start working on Tuesday, September 8th, as a substitute teacher in Lawrence Township schools. I am thankful for a job (albeit a “full-time” job at “part-time” wages), but it’s not my life’s dream. I don’t take any particular joy or pleasure in teaching, especially middle-school kids (which is where I will be). It’s not my strongest suit. So I find myself daydreaming about, applying for, and occasionally even interviewing for other jobs (especially ones that are actually full-time and salaried!).

The problem is, as I sit there thinking, I cannot seem to settle on one or two main things I enjoy doing, things I am passionate about. Dictionary.com’s sixth definition for “passion” is as follows:

a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music.

I have too many things that I have some level of fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for. I’m struggling to “limit” myself by choosing just one as a career and relegating the others to the “hobby” category (and, in reality, doing away with some entirely for lack of time and/or funding). Here I will hash out a few ideas.

Music

Music has always been an important part of my life. I love listening to music of all kinds. I enjoy making music, whether playing trombone, playing drums, playing guitar, playing bass, singing, or even arranging music. I do enjoy teaching music, particularly being in front of an ensemble and making music through the players in front of me (again, why I would enjoy high school/college over middle school).

I’m just not sure that it is something to do professionally, full-time. I have said since finishing high school that if I could get a full-time orchestra gig, playing with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, or the Cincinnati Symphony, or Cleveland, etc., I would love that. To get paid to play my trombone is awesome. (I am fortunate enough to be playing with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra “full time” this year, but the MSO’s full-time is still very part-time.) The reality is that it is very unlikely that I will ever win a full-time orchestra audition, so I cannot bank on this.

Computers

Literally as long as I can remember, I have been using computers. 8088, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, PII, PIII, Celeron, Centrino, AMD, Motorola (PowerPC) Mac, and Intel Mac, I’ve had them all and used them all. I installed an internal modem with my dad and my grandpa (his dad) when I was probably 8 years old. And yes, I helped, because I wanted to jump ahead to set the jumpers (yes, those) before my grandpa was ready to move to that step. (I recall this because of his reaction, which taught me a small but important lesson: “One problem at a time.” I don’t always remember this lesson very well…)

But what to do with my computer skills? Many friends and family know me as the go-to guy when it comes to fixing/building computers. And yet, lacking any formal certification or training, I’m not terribly marketable to potential employers who want someone with “proven” computer chops.

I have had some good friends of mine suggest I start my own computer-repair business, starting by just putting fliers on mailboxes and going door-to-door in area neighborhoods. This may in fact be a terrific idea, but I’m terrified of 1) not making it financially, especially as I’m building [and I don’t have enough in savings to truly invest in a start-up project], and 2) the notion that, even in that arena, no one will trust my abilities and knowledge because of my lack of certification: why would they pay me to fix their computers when they could pay someone from the Geek Squad to do it? (And trust me, I have about a million answers to that, but that’s not the point here… and no offense to any Geek Squad employees reading this; I’m sure you’re all lovely people.)

Politics

“What? Michael can’t even read!” Yes, politics. There are times that I get very deep into reading, listening, and learning about current events and issues and historical events and issues, and at these times I feel that I would love to be involved on some level in politics and current events. That might be as intense as actually running for some local office. That might be as far from that as just writing and commenting about issues. As anyone who truly knows me can attest, I am very opinionated. I wish I had the time (the “reason”) to spend truly becoming knowledgeable about issues. If I did, I would love to use that knowledge to help make a difference.

Law Enforcement

Yeah yeah, it’s dangerous. But what kind of a man am I if I am more concerned with my own physical safety than the safety of others? I enjoy a certain level of risk in most things I do, so that wouldn’t bother me. I am respectfully aware of danger, though, not recklessly unsafe. I am also very alert, perceptive, vigilant, aware of my surroundings at all times, and I would love to use these traits to help protect and serve others.

Some may know that I already have gone as far through the application process at Fishers PD as they would let me (about halfway, I finished 37 of 68 when they took the top 34 to the next level). I am just about to start the same process with Indianapolis Metro PD. Fully aware that IMPD is statistically a more dangerous jurisdiction than FPD, I still want a foot in the door to the world of law enforcement. (And let’s be honest, despite the increased crime rate in Indy versus Fishers, only six IPD/IMPD officers have died in the line of duty since I was born over 23 years ago; with all due respect to the deceased, that’s not that terrible.)

Summary

These are just the main four areas that come to mind as I am writing this. If I had to pick just one of even those four to focus on, it would be very difficult – a near-tie between law enforcement and computers. Computers I have more experience and direct knowledge about, but I feel that I have a great aptitude toward both; I probably would receive more direct pleasure from law enforcement. See my quandary?

I enjoy serving people. I think that is apparent in what I’ve already written as well as in what I didn’t write about: my recent history, college experience, and full-time employment with a church last year. I’m just trying to find the best way to use the gifts God has given me to serve Him by serving His people. This should be a happy experience, and it mostly is, I’m just struggling to find the best fit for me. The job market isn’t helping much, to be sure, but ultimately it is up to me to make an opportunity for employment.