I love Star Wars. Like, I really love Star Wars. So much so that I already wrote an entire blog post about it. I’ve loved Star Wars for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching the movies over and over, collecting action figures, acting out my favorite scenes, and playing the video games. Most of my childhood memories revolve around Star Wars. As I’ve grown up, my passion for Star Wars has taken on different forms. I can’t say I’m still playing with action figures or pretending to be in a lightsaber duel. Today, my love for Star Wars manifests itself through the movies, particularly when a new trailer comes out. Whenever I see a new trailer drop I’m giddy and I immediately watch it ten times, taking in as much of it as I can. But I take it a step further. I’m not content to just watch the trailer – I watch reaction videos and analysis videos of the trailer. I intently watch videos of other people talking about the trailer and making predictions about what they think will happen in the next movie. I will literally spend hours watching these videos, gripped by the attention to detail, as they talk about things from the trailer I never even noticed.
Whenever I watch these videos I’m in awe. I’m in awe of the vast knowledge of Star Wars these people possess. I mean, I thought I was a Star Wars nerd, but they put me to absolute shame. More so than anything, though, I’m in awe of their passion. It’s evident that these people love Star Wars and that it’s more than just a hobby or passing interest. It’s their livelihood. This mythical galaxy is their whole world. I have so much admiration for these people because they embrace their love for Star Wars with no shame. I know openly adoring something like Star Wars probably brought these people a lot of ridicule growing up, and probably even as adults, but that hasn’t deterred them from living what they love.
That’s really everyone’s goal in life, right? To live what we love. And that’s what I admire most about these Star Wars nerds. They live what they love without any fear of hiding it. We all strive to truly live out our passions without feeling like we need to sacrifice who we are in the process. In order to truly understand the depth of “live what we love” we need to break it down to the two key words: live and love.
We all have things we love. Each and every one of us have things in our lives that make us laugh, bring us joy, and give us a sense of peace. For example, I love The Office. Whenever I’m down and in need of a pick-me-up I turn on an episode of The Office and it immediately lifts my spirits. I also love donuts, sports, diners, and countless other things. Having things we’re passionate about that make us happy internally is easy. The hard part is living out those passions so the world can see it.
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been self conscious about what other people think about me. I want to fit in and have always been incredibly self aware of my actions and how they might be perceived. So in a sense that means I’ve been controlled by fear. Fear that the things I love are weird. Fear that I may not be accepted because of the things I’m passionate about. That means I’ve always felt the need to hide and suppress my passions. Even at a young age I felt that fear. I wanted to fit in with my classmates and my friends. I wanted to be accepted. If that meant sacrificing those things I love then so be it.
So that’s what I did. I subdued the things I was passionate about for the sake of fitting in. I didn’t talk about how much I loved Star Wars at school out of fear of being rejected. I didn’t talk about how much I enjoyed X-Men, Harry Potter, or Narnia out of fear of being labeled a nerd. I was embarrassed to tell anyone about the comic book series I wrote because I was afraid I would be ridiculed. Countless things that I hid, all so I could “fit in.”
And did I feel like I fit in? Absolutely not. Why? Because I didn’t feel like I was genuinely myself. The interactions I had with my classmates felt so superficial and so fake. The things we talked about had no substance because there was no passion. But for the most part this was my childhood. Living with this intense aversion to living what I love because I wanted to be considered normal. I was willing to sacrifice the things I love, the things that make me uniquely me, all for other people.
As I got older I began to realize just how ridiculous that was. I began to question why I lived my life with that fear. Why should I let other people dictate what’s important to me? Why should I allow anyone else to determine what I love or keep me from expressing my passions? Why should I continue to live for other people?
In high school I began to come out of that fear-filled shell a bit. I gradually started to express the things I loved a little more openly. I talked more freely about my passions and the things that made me happy. And let me tell you something – it felt good. There’s nothing more liberating and freeing than being open about your passions because you’re embracing who you are. The things we’re passionate about, the things we love, the things that make us happy are part of our identities. Not allowing fear to suppress our identity is one of the most incredible sensations in the world.
I’d like to share a couple stories of times I fully embraced the things I love and felt genuinely myself. In high school one day I was driving home from school when this new song came on over the radio by an artist I had never heard of – B.o.B. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, Wow, this guy is really good! I need to listen to more of his stuff. And so that’s exactly what I did. All it took was a couple songs before I was hooked. I quickly became a huge B.o.B fan. One might even say “obsessed.” I listened to every last one of his songs on repeat, whether that was at home, in the car, or really anywhere. His music made me happy and I wanted other people to know about it. I didn’t hide how much I loved his music. It was to the point that everyone knew how much I loved B.o.B. Sure, there were people that gave me trouble for it, people that said they didn’t like his music or who thought it was a little weird that I knew all the words to every song. But that didn’t stop me or deter me. I was no longer allowing fear to dictate what I love or how I express it.
Not long before I discovered B.o.B I began developing a different passion, this one being for my favorite basketball team, the Utah Jazz. I’ll spare you the story of how I became a Jazz fan (you can read all about it in an earlier blog post). Needless to say, I loved the Jazz just like I did the Cardinals, the Blues, and the Rams (insert sad face). I watched every game I possibly could and followed the team religiously. I felt joy in their victories and pain in their defeats. And much like my love for B.o.B, I didn’t hide my passion for the Jazz. Friends, family, and classmates knew how much I loved this team. I talked about my favorite players like I knew them and would eagerly tell anyone I could about their upcoming games on ESPN. And like B.o.B I had people question my fandom. You like WHAT team? Utah has a basketball team? Why don’t you root for a team that’s actually good? In my younger days I would have have either hid my love for the Jazz or backtracked on my fandom completely. But at that point in my life whenever anyone questioned my love for the team I would passionately defend it. It was in those moments that I truly grasped how silly it is to let fear dictate anything. The very thing I was afraid of, people making fun of what I love, was happening in real time. And yet, despite all that, supporting Jazz basketball still made me happy. And that’s all that matters, right?
Living what you love is so rewarding and fulfilling. Feeling like you can genuinely be and express yourself is the best feeling in the world, regardless of fear. But what is also important is being the kind of person that allows others to feel comfortable living what they love. We should all strive to be that kind of person. We should aim to be someone who enables those around us to express their own passions and uniqueness without fear of shame or ridicule. Admittedly, this is not something I’m always the best at. I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself saying the following things:
You seriously like this song?! Ew, that food is disgusting. I can’t believe that’s your favorite show, it’s not even good. Why would you willingly support that team?
That’s a very self-centered mindset. That thing that makes you happy is not something I understand, so as a result I must belittle it. The things I love are superior to yours so therefore I must make you feel bad about it. How stupid is that? Just because I don’t understand what other people love doesn’t mean I have the right to make fun of them for it, just like I don’t want them doing that to me. We all owe it to each other to support what we’re passionate about and what makes us happy. I, for one, would not have been as comfortable expressing my love for B.o.B or the Jazz if not for the incredibly supportive people in my life. With that being said, I’d like to tell you how those very friends allowed and enabled me to live those things I love.
My passion for B.o.B culminated my sophomore year of college when he came to Truman for a concert. When I found out he was coming I literally had tears of joy in my eyes and I don’t think I stopped smiling for a week. The days and weeks leading up to the concert were incredible because there were countless people asking me how excited I was. I’d walk by friends on the way to class and they’d ask me how many more days until the concert. In fact, I had some friends that were counting down the days with me. My college roommate, Matt, gladly allowed me to blast B.o.B music from our dorm room (much to the chagrin of our floor mates). When I wanted to line up hours before the doors opened I had friends tag along and wait with me. I guarantee no one was as excited for this concert as me. In fact, I know I had friends that didn’t really care for his music. But that didn’t matter. My friends were truly happy for me. My happiness was their happiness and that meant the world to me. Their support and encouragement allowed me to live what I love without any fear.
About a month before college graduation my friend Jacob approached me with an idea: a road trip out to Utah so I could see the Jazz play at home for the first time. As amazing as that would be I figured there was no way anyone would want to drive for hours on end so I could go see a mediocre (at the time!) team play basketball. Next thing I know, about six months later, I’m in a car with four of my best friends (Jacob, Danny, Joe, and Kevin) driving to Utah. These guys weren’t just along for the ride, either. They made a point to ask me all about the Jazz, which players to watch for, how the team was doing, etc. While they may not have cared about the Jazz as much as me they still wanted to cheer for the team alongside me.
These friends didn’t just tolerate my interests and passions. They took an active interest in them. That type of support empowered me and gave me that extra bit of courage to fully embrace the things that make me happy.
Living what I love is not always easy. There are still plenty of times where I find myself hiding bits of my identity. But as I’ve learned in my life thus far, there’s nothing more rewarding than expressing yourself truly and completely. I strive to be like those people in the Star Wars videos that live what they love without abandon. I strive to be the kind of person who people look at and say, “Now that’s someone who doesn’t care what other people think!” But I also want to be the kind of person who anyone can feel comfortable being themselves around. I want to be the friend that supports others in their passions and pushes them to embrace what makes them happy. After all, happiness is happiness. Why should it matter where it comes from?