05/23/2014 12:02 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2014

The Thing About Passion

I have been a real-life adult for exactly 10 days. Well, I graduated from college 10 days ago. It's the closest thing I've ever felt to adulthood.

This year -- my senior year at Idaho State University -- I found people finally want real answers to the questions they've been posing for years. When they ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" it is no longer acceptable to say, "Olympic bobsled racer." When they wonder if you're seeing anyone, they don't want you to say Harry Styles. (Unless you're really seeing Harry Styles, in which case, {insert fist bump emoji here}).

In addition to the outside pressure of college graduation, I was pressuring myself even more. As a freshman, my favorite professor challenged me to turn my 10-year-plan into a five-year-plan because, "How old is Taylor Swift?"

In my head, 22 seemed almost past my prime. I didn't have time to get on my feet in a smaller city -- I needed to hightail it to New York. I felt inadequate, but I applied for dozens of jobs at fancy PR firms and talent agencies because that seemed like the fastest way to the top. Wherever that was.

I ran for student body president when I was a junior at Idaho State. I was super involved in my campus -- and working two semi-professional campus jobs -- but I thought I could still do more for my community. Had I won, I'm sure I would have done a good job, but I couldn't help feeling like I was playing dress-up during the entire election. I thought I was a worthy candidate yet none of it felt natural.

That's how I felt after filling out every job application this past semester. Of course I could do it - I had the necessary qualifications -- but it all seemed like a stretch. And, it left the biggest question of all, "Where is this all leading?" essentially unanswered.

I'm a huge daydreamer -- I walk everywhere to allot time for this -- but the daydream is never the same. Sometimes I'm married to the boy next door with three kids and I bake cookies everyday. And sometimes I own my own sports agency and fly around the world on my private jet and my humanitarian work is profiled in Vanity Fair. At the end of the day, the only thing my fantasies have in common is the whole, peaceful feeling that day's version of myself feels.

However, the daydream version of Elizabeth and the real thing are two very different people. For starters, daydream Elizabeth always has long hair. Real me lets it grow to my shoulders before I have a mental breakdown and cut it off again.

So. What makes the real, shorthaired version of Elizabeth whole?

I had been looking for prestige, validation that I was becoming a fully formed human. But validation isn't what daydream Elizabeth really wants. She wants passion.

Now would be a good time to mention what I've been up to for the past four years. As a freshman, I found myself in an internship with the Idaho State Sports Information office, one usually reserved for upperclassman and graduate students. I was expecting a Miranda Priestly, Devil Wears Prada sort of learning curve, but it never came. There were new days and new challenges that left me feeling terrified. Don't tell anyone, but I passed out from fear in the soccer press box on my first day. But I never let those fears stand in the way of pressing forward. Sure, I couldn't eat for the entire day before I first ran my first volleyball game-day, but when the time came, I felt peace knowing that I could handle it.

I've spent the last six months trying to convince myself it was time to challenge myself, to step up and become the "Taylor Swift" of college graduates. Daydream Elizabeth felt scared and lonely and a bit failure-y because she thought I was lagging behind in our goals, mostly because I felt comfortable. What she failed to see was how great the real Elizabeth was doing.

Sure, it wasn't challenging for me to keep up in the sports information office, but I had the opportunity to be innovative. I was essentially in the same job for four years, but I was gifted new responsibilities and new opportunities at every turn. I wasn't doing anything award-worthy, but I was standing on my own two feet, learning new things every day and being an integral part of the team.

I told you a secret earlier about me passing out from fear on my first day at sports information. I went to Hawaii with our volleyball team for the NCAA Tournament this winter and was so nervous I couldn't even enjoy the beach until after the game was over. Despite years of training and reassurance, sports information can give me more butterflies than any cute boy, even Harry Styles. But, until I became an adult 10 days ago, I was ready to move on from it because unlike my supervisors and co-workers and parents and friends, I wasn't able to see my passion and amplitude for it the way they were able to.

Taylor Swift became Taylor Swift when she was 17 because she was, well, Taylor Swift. She stays true to her passion and never lets herself believe she has made it, and that is precisely why we all love her.

And that's the thing about our passions, the places we thrive.

• First, it is impossible to really feel confident in them. It is the thing we study, we watch and we truly understand. With anything else, we can settle for good enough. But not with our passions -- they have full permission to kill us.

• Second, we can't see them because they fit us and are as much a part of us as our skin. If it's really your passion, it doesn't feel like work or like you're wearing a costume. It just feels like you.