06/26/2013 12:01 pm ET Updated Aug 26, 2013

When Passion Begets Indifference: Education and Beyond

In recent years I have seen passion transformed into mere indifference, watered down by the ideas of youth and complacency coupled by adolescents' lack of interest, and unrealistic standards held by institutes of higher learning. This indifference has rendered education of adolescents meaningless. Education has transformed from excitement and discovery, to listless monotony.

The incessant discussion of college is inevitable in the adolescent age bracket, especially during high school. Adolescents (I use this term because being referred to as a "teenager" is cringe-worthy and pejorative) are often asked from a very young age what their intended study is, what college they wish to attend, instructed to take the most advanced classes, get a perfect SAT score (how about just a sub-par one?), and be a "well-rounded" student. This list of expectations is intimidating and discouraging for some.

On the quest to achieve the aforementioned ideals of collegiate perfection, the true meaning of education is diluted, passion begets indifference. In my own high school experience (granted I am only a junior), I overhear many peers reiterate constantly "it's just about the grades," "I hate (insert course) but I am going to take AP (insert course they hate)," "I am just joining (fill in the blank) because it will look great on college apps," "when are we ever going to use this word in real life?" I am not exempt from any of this. Sadly, "real life" is not an abstract moment in time, rather a perpetual state of past, present and future coalescence -- at some point "real life" is the one we are living, right?

The desire to learn is seldom exhibited, our own ignorance and complacency in our knowledge and what we deem to be practical takes precedence over the new and unexplored realms (for instance those areas in which there does not exist a SAT subject test). Passion and desire to learn revert to routine and indifference, something that we have to do, rather than want to do. That is not to say that there are not things in life that leave us bereft of any morsel of interest, because there are. Sometimes settling for mediocrity, platitudes of "trying our best," and vulnerability, lends greatness to passion; from there we grow, and discover what is worth our time and interest. Rather than to "do something with passion or not at all," it may be better suited to say to "do something with passion, despite the result of mediocrity." Shooting for perfection in high school and collegiate studies is close to useless if neither passion nor mediocrity as a byproduct are exhibited; mediocrity is the enzyme for growth.

Indifference in one's work spans beyond education in high school and higher learning, entering the workplace. Perhaps it is the people I am acquainted with or the brevity of my life experience that causes me to make the following assumption: true passion for one's occupation/work is a rarity.

As depicted in film and reality, the "tortured artist" grants creativity to their adversary, and I now coin that the "tortured worker" grants indifference to their career: waiting for the weekend while the mundane tasks of the week loiter. I cannot help but wonder whether practicality, vacancy, or indifference has guided many in their career decisions.

Providing a youthful perspective on this matter, I note that often times I feel that adolescents trade in their occupational desires for occupational practicality, they swap the idea of not knowing what they are going to do with their lives for a false sense of certainty. In my eyes, there is no greater a way to lend yourself to indifference than this haste. In the words of Daria, "My goal is not to wake up at 40 with the bitter realization that I've wasted my life in a job I hate, because I was forced to decide on a career in my teens." Sometimes passion takes time, and must be coddled.

I recently stumbled upon a quote (via Twitter) by Joyce Carol Oates that highlights the culmination of this struggle: "My ideal college would not admit 'well-rounded' students at all. Expecting excellence in many areas is unrealistic and encourages subterfuge." I am saddened at this paradox of education, yet grateful at its acknowledgement. To question our assumptions regarding education and growth is to dispel jaded illusions on what success is measured by and lend room for true passion.