"What's your passion?"
The question has become a cliche' with everyone asking this seemingly deep question, including myself. I say seemingly because we seldom want to dig deep on the answer, just to sound a bit different. We ask it because it is much better than asking about your profession, where you are from or the types of off work activities you like to engage in.
The answer to this question often falls into the category of our occupation. I am passionate about storytelling. Someone else is passionate about helping people with weight loss. It describes what we do, lends it gravity and is usually true on some level. But what is your true life's passion? I wrestle with this question still, having often thought I had it but, upon further reflection, realizing I don't. It's a question that is always evolving and that, if asked enough, will definitely provide answers that will shift your perspective.
I first met Simon Fraser at 1 Million Cups in Charleston, SC. He was presenting his work in videography. His story was phenomenal, the kind of narrative we almost expect from young entrepreneurs. Simon left college, chased his dreams, built things for himself with a fervor and a passion that was addictive. I was working in financial services at the time and I thought I could help him, so we met and discussed his financial position, a simple business meeting.
My story with Simon could easily end there, and many such stories do, but I found myself encountering Simon at event after event, having brief snippets of conversation. In those moments it became clear that Simon was far more than an entrepreneurship narrative. Simon is a student, a constant scholar, a seeker who dives deep into life, philosophy and his journey. The small pieces of conversation we picked up here and there inevitably delved deeper and deeper into life, the universe and, most certainly, everything.
Simon and I met for some coffee at Mercantile and Mash in downtown Charleston, a low light common room frequented by a vast assortment of characters in an array of life stages and professions. I used to come here in another life, but have been returning in this new iteration of myself. As we talk we run into familiar faces, people we know, and some we don't. As often as we run into each other, and many others, it is always a joyous surprise to find someone one of us doesn't know, a gentle reminder of the actual size of the world.
We talk about the roads life takes us on, about change and how we achieve meaning in our lives. Simon talks about life more as a journey, a sea voyage, than as a static image, a snapshot to be held and preserved as long as possible. He truly knows it is the journey more so than the destination. I share my story, he shares his. We talk about hitting rock bottom, about how you cease fearing when you don't think you have anything left to lose, when there is nothing more to fear, when it cannot get any worse. I tell him about drinking, about wanting everything to be over, about feeling incapable of changing anything. He tells me about his rock bottom, about when it is he began his journey up.
We talk about passion and the meaning of life.
For Simon these are both summed up in the same word; growth. Not teaching, not reading, not even developing, but actual growth in all of its facets. He tells me about watching his interns create videos and then give them advice on what they could do better, how they could change. It's not the advice he loves, but the next video they show him, and the one after that, the constant practice of growth, their change as the currents of life and time move ever onward. From the smile on my friends face, you can see the joy, the reflection of it present in the spark ignited in his eyes from memory.
Simon sees his own growth as well. His interests are so varied, seemingly disparate, and yet he pursues them with a relish and even a desire to see how they are all connected within his being. Simon is a traveler, with a love for his journeys and the places he has/will visit. He is a videographer, with some stunning time lapse work that has kept me well away from work at times, and he is beginning his journey as a mountaineer. For him these are parts of his growth, just as my work in writing, storytelling, cooking and coaching are all there for me.
Simon sees his growth, his journey through life, in all of its adventures, its learning, its smiles and its cries. In the time I have known him, he loves to read, to write, to work, not because he is trying to "out grind" someone else, nor because he sees it as a mark of superiority. Simon just truly loves what he does, how he lives and so he does it. PLain and simple.
My time with him is amazing. We dive deep into life, into our stories and into philosophy. At this table, two travellers share stories from their respective journeys, over different timelines, through different lands and within different currents of the world. It is both a moment of incredible generosity and incredible joy, as though we are living the reason we were given language and communication in the first place.
We talk about love, not about the search for it, the elusive hunt, but about the nature of it. Simon tells me how he believes love is based in mutual respect, in true admiration for the other person, an even and balanced appreciation. I tell him what I have learned, about true love being an experience of willful self-sacrifice, shared between two people, neither one being the dominant, but both so loving and wanting what is best for the other that they give something of themselves for it. When it is real and true, it is not only the most beautiful balance, but the most delicate, a rare bloom.
Simon smiles, his eyes lit as his mind turns. My friend is young, my friend is wise, my friend is growing.
We step outside and share a hug before moving on. We talk about how we need to meet for the next talk sooner, our minds and hearts now working through what we have discussed and I am reminded why Simon is someone I seek more time with. He challenges me, not to prove I am right, but to be a better version of me, to be more of what I am capable of being.
Simon dares me to grow because he knows the meaning of life is growth.
Favorite Dinosaur: Pterodactyl
Why: Vision is important to Simon, and the perspective of a flying dinosaur is a reflection of him and what he seeks, looking for truth and reality, what's going on.