What is Passion to a 15-Year Old?
“Tell us about what you are passionate about.” says just about every high school scholarship application, program questionnaire, and interviewer I’ve ever spoken to or answered.
This is one of those questions that irritates me every time it comes up. It comes right alongside “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” and “What makes you stand out against other applicants?”.
These questions are so vague and undefined, there’s no way you could explain without more context. To someone as young as 15, they are almost pointless to ask because they can never reflect a true and accurate answer. Here’s why:
What is passion?
In simplest terms, I think passion is to fall in love with something so much so that you want to dedicate your life to it.
This applies in all respects — it makes sense in the context of a career, trying to “find your passion” — meaning find what you want to spend the rest of your life doing for income. It applies to lovemaking — to say “passionate lovemaking” is to say lovemaking so sensational, you want to go your whole life with it. It even applies to hatred — to say “I hate them with a passion” means you hate them so much, you could spend your entire life hating them.
Passion isn’t what you want to spend every waking moment indulged in. That would be treading the line of delusion. Instead, to be passionate is to want something in your life with relative consistency until you reach your inevitable end.
A passion is seldom something you just have, it’s a relationship you have to develop over time. It isn’t something you just find, it’s something you have to fall in love with, and I’ll tell you why this makes sense.
When you are initially introduced to passion, you don’t know anything about it.
At as young an age as 15, the most time you can consciously and reasonably spend thinking about potential passions is 1–2 years. Any consideration before the age of 13, and I doubt you have the self-awareness or mental capacity to really think about the role the potential passion plays in your life. It's commonly known, researchers from the University of Rochester say the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until around the age of age 25, let alone 13. What this means is that it’s biologically harder for us to effectively process information and reach a conclusion, than it is for an adult.
One could counter and say 1–2 years seems to be a reasonable time to be able to say that you have developed a passion for something. People make a commitment as large as marriage in that time frame.
The problem, however, is that as a teenager, you aren’t effectively processing at full capacity. You have a half-developed brain, no shortage of hormones creating emotional imbalances, and your personality fundamentally changes every 2–6 months.
To me, to say you found your passion at age 15 is the equivalent of saying you found your soulmate from reading their Tinder profile with a half-shattered screen.
When you initially meet a subject or person, you go through a very similar process. You get a first impression, whether through the paragraph of an online dating profile or the 2 sentence headliner from Wikipedia.
Gradually, through multiple dates or internet resources, you find out more about these potential passions. At the young age of 15, this exploration is limited, which means the most understanding you can come to isn’t at the very most you should have before you can knowledgeably commit to a passion.
That’s not to say there is inherently anything wrong with saying something is your passion. If you are 15, and you’ve figured out your passion, props to you, that’s phenomenal!
But I’m 15, and to ask a 15-year-old what they want to spend the rest of their life doing seems to create unnecessary pressure, and is just a silly question. All of us change like feathers in the wind; there’s no telling what we will enjoy doing in 10 years.
So for now, I’m okay not having one specific answer, one specific problem I want to solve, I just want to solve problems.
To ask what our “passion” is… is an unrealistic question. It is naive to think that we could say the right thing, because the truth is, we genuinely don’t have a clue.
We all have access to the internet, likely to be one of our greatest resources and source of opportunity in history.
So instead of asking teens to be 100% set on a “passion”, 15-year-olds should be 100% set on maximizing opportunity.
For me, part of what drives me to maximize opportunity is regret, part of that is feeling guilty that on a fundamental level, I have so much more than so many other people. “Am I doing as much as someone less fortunate would in my shoes?”
That’s what makes me wake up in the morning, and that’s what’s going to push me and keep me motivated at making some kind of mark in the world, so that guilt, is okay.
“Am I doing as much as someone less fortunate would, in my shoes?”
Naturally, you could say that my chance of making an impact on the world is minimal, and you’d be correct. Very few people have fundamentally changed the development of human history.
- Isaac Newton
- Siddhartha Gautama
- Martin Luther and his 95 theses.
- Gandhi maybe
And the chances of me being that next big person are very very slim.
But to me, that’s what the game of life is.
It’s a chase, where the goal is:
- First and foremost to make your loved ones and friends feel special, to realize we are all little blips in the enormous history of the universe, and to spend your time with positive energy.
- But second, if I can turn my blip into a scratch of impact, I think that is a life worth living.
So what have I been doing? Well, I’m learning. This is the knowledge accumulation phase of my life. I still have tendencies to ask why, and I still have neurons in my brain that are about to be pruned off (so it’s that much harder to learn skills).
So instead of thinking about committing to one problem to hone all your time into, try to explore your interests. This doesn’t apply just to 15-year-olds, this applies to everyone.
Go out, teach yourself data science, learn to fly a plane, learn to play the violin, practice extreme stoicism for a month, read every day for 6 months, be liberal with the activities you chose to do because it’s better to spend your time on things you want to explore than picking something to commit to when you aren’t sure about committing.
All of this, so that when you figure out what you want to spend the rest of your life doing, you’re in the very best place to go do that.
Thanks for reading!
Hey everyone, I hope you got something out of the article.
My name is Satvik. I’m a 15-year-old Innovator at The Knowledge Society. I currently attend Stuyvesant High School in New York City and have an avid interest in the rise of new technologies, debate, philosophical ideas, and understanding people’s perspectives. Recreational things I enjoy are spending time in the outdoors and photography. Feel free to contact me on any of the platforms below or check out some of the other articles I’ve written.
Satvik Agnihotri - Innovator - The Knowledge Society (TKS) | LinkedIn
Experienced leader with a demonstrated history of working in the civic & social organization industry. Skilled in Team…
You can also signup for my personal monthly newsletter here:
Satvik Agnihotri Personal Newsletter Sign-up
Hi there! Interested in philosophy, exploration, and the mind? Check out my newsletter!
and check out my Medium here: