Conversations On Passion: Miranda Aisling of Miranda's Hearth
Conversations on Passion is an interview series with those who have found and are living their passions in some form. If you'd like to be profiled or know someone who would be a great fit, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had the pleasure of meeting Miranda at TEDxBoston 2013. We each stood awkwardly looking around at all of the people who seemed to be involved in epic projects like solving world hunger through refrigeration, visualizing information to influence national elections, or designing new living spaces for Boston residents. I felt woefully outclassed. In an effort to bridge the gap, we struck up a conversation and found that we both shared similar goals. She had recently published a book (which I quoted in this early post) and was looking to build a community. I've since been heavily involved in her efforts and have seen the fruits of her labor blossoming. With a slightly unorthodox path through her education and an uncanny ability to connect people, Miranda is well on her way to building her dream. Read on to learn more about Miranda, her passions, and the projects she's working on.
What is passion to you?
Passion is like the kind of energy you get from a shot of espresso, except it’s always there. It’s this constant driving force that makes you get up in the morning even when all you want to do is stay in bed and that makes you stay up working late into the night even when you know you have to get up the next morning.
Sometimes it’s wonderful. Like the cup of coffee that gives you just enough energy to open your eyes a little wider, to notice a little more and think a little faster. That’s the nice part of passion, the part that makes you live more deeply. And sometimes it’s just a pain in the ass. Like the cups of coffee you drink to pull an all-nighter, when your body, your mind, and your energy are just done but there’s still this unnatural current running through you that won’t let you stop. That’s when you know what you’re experiencing is really passion, not just infatuation. It’s an obsession, a drive, a force so strong that it almost seems unnatural.
What are you passionate about?
I have two intertwining passions. The first is making things. I know this sounds broad, but it’s actually very specific. Although I paint, sing, and write, I am not passionate about any of those activities. What gets me going is the actual act of creating, of sitting down and using my hands and my mind to churn out something that wasn’t there before. Something that wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t made it.
My second passion is connecting people. I think people are fascinating, don’t you? The things they say, they make, they look at. I love helping people see these things in each other. Like two musicians whose sounds are perfect for each other, or a teacher and a lawyer who are both passionate about education reform, or even two people who may not have anything in common but I just have the feeling that they’ll click.
(Of course, creating connections is still making things, so you could argue that I only have one passion after all).
How did you come to find your passion?
I discovered my passions by connecting all of the other things I thought I was passionate about. My friends and I had a running joke trying to figure out what job I could ever get that would combine everything I like to do: playing music, making art, working with people, writing, teaching. (We always came up with kindergarten teacher...) It was by analyzing what I gravitate towards, what I like to do, that I realized what was actually connecting everything underneath. And once I could name my passions, they only flared up more.
Has your passion changed over time? How so?
I think my passions have matured along in tandem with the rest of me. They’ve always been there, but for a long time I couldn’t separate them from everything else. Now I know what they are, I can name them and interact with them, and because of that I can feed them specifically.
Do you believe in having just one passion?
My first reaction is, “oh, god, no.”
But the longer I think about it, the more I realize that my passions are all connected. That maybe, in the end, they’re all part of one overarching passion. The problem with saying this is that so many people believe you have to specialize, that you can only be passionate about one thing. So even though everything I do is connected, in the end I would say I have many passions as does everyone else, even if they’re only facets of a whole.
Are you working towards building your passion beyond a hobby? How did this impact your love for your passion?
Absolutely. I don’t think my passion has ever been just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle, it’s an irrefutable piece of who I am.
Currently, I’m starting Miranda’s Hearth (http://mirandashearth.com), the first community art hotel, which will combine my two passions with my experience as a teacher, artist, and administrator. I want to and already am doing this work, making things and connecting people, every day.
Deciding to make a business out of my passion has definitely changed the way I approach it. But not in the terrible way most people foresee. Instead, turning my passion into my career has made me take it more seriously and that has made my passion grow and mature into something I never would have seen if it stayed on the sidelines.
Is there a relationship between your formal education and the work you do now?
There is, although not everyone sees it. My schooling is in education and studio art while I now work in administration at an art center. On the surface level it’s not necessarily connected. But what I’m actually doing is filling out the skill set I’ll need to create Miranda’s Hearth.
Did your passions influence what you chose to study?
They did, although I think the best way to phrase it is that I discovered my passion through what I gravitated towards in school. I started college at 14 with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. Originally my list of possibilities was about half the majors my school offered. So I just started taking general education classes and fell in love with all of the courses where I made things: art, music, writing, etc. I ended up double majoring in Pottery and Painting and minoring in piano performance, art history, and psychology. By the time I was looking at grad school, my passions were more defined so I could get exactly what I wanted: a Masters of Education in Community Art.
What about your life experiences do you think helped you in your pursuit of your passion?
I am lucky enough to come from a family that is very supportive of what I do. We have our dysfunctional oddities like all other families, but when I told my mother I wanted to be an art major she supported me, she was a theater major herself after all. She did, however, ask me what I was going to do with it. Did I want to teach? To become a gallery artist? An art therapist? These questions made me take my art and myself seriously from the very beginning which is a large part of why I’ve taken my passion as far as I have.
I also am not a perfectionist. Sure, I like things to look good, but I’m more interested in them actually existing. Because once something exists, then you can make it better. But trying to make "nothing" better isn’t very helpful. As Michael Landon said, “Ready, Fire, Aim.”
Are there are any tips you would give to others to help them in their search for passions?
The best thing is to spend some time with yourself. Sit down and talk it out, write it out. Think about what you like to do, what you’ve always ended up doing, what people expect you to do. Nothing is too silly or insignificant. Because passion isn’t logical, it’s part of your wiring and you have to take the time to write your own manual.