Jeanne Givens had always dreamed of becoming a surfer. When her son, Jove, was attending a surf camp during the summer of 2020, Jeanne grabbed a surfboard and paddled out while the other moms watched from shore.
“I still remember the visual of the nose of the board starting to go fast in front of me and that feeling just absolutely hooked me,” she recalls. “My whole body was sore from using muscles I hadn’t used in a really long time, and I had that feeling of exhaustion and the excitement of doing something new.”
She threw herself into the sport, surfing nearly 100 times in a few months. Now, she thinks about surfing all the time. “It’s like something got woken up inside of me and I felt I had something to live for. It’s also something I can share with my son.”
Before becoming a mother, Jeanne made time for hobbies like sailing and artwork. When her son was born, she moved from the east coast to Maui and struggled to balance motherhood and her career as a wedding floral designer. “My job was so demanding I lost all of my passions,” she says. “I didn’t have time to be creative outside of work.” The pandemic gave her a much-needed pause to devote time to herself—and to get to know herself again.
Reintroducing Passions into Your Life
Sandra Possing, a San Francisco Bay area life coach, says she sees this trend among many female clients. “A big part of my job is reintroducing women to themselves,” says Possing. “In most of Western culture, the ideal woman archetype presented to us is selfless and takes care of everyone else. Our mothers, grandmothers and aunts were our role models and we watched as they strived to be the perfect housewife, super successful career women, PTA moms and porn stars in the bedroom. We’re taught we must achieve and accomplish to be worthy and that doesn’t leave a lot of time for ourselves.”
If you feel guilty leaving your kids with their dad so you can go mountain bike or take a yoga class—or if you’ve gotten so consumed with adult responsibilities that you don’t even know what lights you up—you aren’t alone. Yet embracing self-care is the first step to making time to cultivate new passions in life, says Possing. “I call it radical self-care,” she says. “It’s almost an act of rebellion to prioritize your health and wellness and honor your passions.”
Prioritizing Your Passions
Making time for what makes you healthy and happy will ultimately affect the people around you. If you’re tired, depleted, and resentful you can’t be a good wife, mother, or friend. If you’re rested and grounded, you’ll have more energy for your kids. You’re also setting a good example and teaching them the importance of self-care.
Your partner also benefits, adds Possing. After all, a woman who radiates confidence is sexy. “When you aren’t lit up, you’re probably not as stoked to do naughty shit in the bedroom,” she says. “When you’re excited about life you feel energetic and daring.”
Here, Possing shares her top tips for discovering and developing new passions at any stage of life.
Listen to Your Body
“All humans are designed to have desires,” says Possing. “We’re conditioned to ignore them, but we should use them as our compass. The clitoris has 80,000 nerve endings and their only purpose is pleasure, so clearly women are meant to have pleasure in life, even if it comes from a hobby, like gardening.” Pay attention to how your body reacts to new experiences. Do you lean forward? Do your eyes widen with curiosity? Or do you pull back? Are you feeling ahhh or blah? Take time to explore the experiences that energize you. “Listening to our bodies is one of the best untapped resources,” she says.
Recognize What Doesn’t Excite You
If you’re recently emerging from a work vortex, a stifling relationship, or years absorbed in motherhood, you go through a thawing period, says Possing. “It’s like you were living in a block of ice and need to learn how to come back to life.” If you have no idea what excites you, start by figuring out what is on the no list to narrow the field and establish parameters, she says. If the idea of baking all day on a Saturday sounds miserable, that’s likely not your thing. If you enjoy the outdoors, but hate being cold, skiing probably won’t be your new passion, but maybe hiking could be.
Learn to Flirt with Time
You can’t have an all or nothing approach with a new passion. “If you’re working crazy hours at a corporate job, you probably can’t spend three hours a day on self-care,” she says. “Start by flirting with your new hobby. Anyone can find ten minutes a day.” Spend ten minutes journaling with your morning coffee. Meditate before bed. Or set aside one hour each week for an ecstatic dance or improv class. “You need to find time to explore and experiment,” she says. “When you know what you want to do, schedule little pockets of time to honor that activity. You’ll look forward to that time.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Go it Alone
“There is nothing more badass than a woman showing up alone at a meet up,” says Possing. “Too often we have a victim mindset around doing things alone. You need to reframe the conversation from ‘I’m scared or embarrassed’ to ‘I’m excited I get to go to a new place alone because solo travel is one of the best ways to meet new people.’” Kristin Yantis had dreamed of climbing the Seven Summits since college. “In my 40s, I found myself divorced and needed something to fill my cup,” she says. “My life coach had me write down my dreams and asked what was preventing me from going after them and I realized it was me. So many of my friends are married and have kids and don’t have time for outdoor adventures. I realized if I didn’t start doing things alone, I wouldn’t do them.”
She got over her trepidation about solo travel, signed up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with an outfitter in 2018, and prepared by spending her summer hiking the trails around her home in Colorado. “Reaching the summit boosted my confidence and lit a fire in my belly,” says Kristin, a 50-year-old public relations firm owner. “It made me realize you can dream it and make it happen if you put in the time and effort.” She’s continued to feed her passion by signing up for a trekking adventure in Peru next year and plans to volunteer as a hiking guide with a local outfitter in Colorado next summer.
“Self-care should be non-negotiable,” says Possing. “You are the only one who can say no and prioritize your needs.” Jennine Cohen’s newfound passion, kiteboarding, taught her how to set work boundaries. She devoted her 30s to her career, where she traveled the world as a global sales director for a Bay Area luxury travel company. “I was a workaholic,” she admits. “Throwing myself into work was easier than feeling and dealing with my emotions. I built up my career at the expense of my health and relationships.” When the pandemic shut down travel, she was recently divorced and in Mexico. With no reason to return to California, she rented a house in the Yucatan. “I spent weeks watching kiteboarders out front of my house and craving human contact finally asked if I could try,” she says. “It was very humbling. I spent months crashing in the water, but the sport has literally given me wings. It’s changed the channel on my life.” Jennine’s kite obsession inspired her to relocate to Baja, Mexico and take a job with a newly launched travel company. To carve out kite time, she has to be disciplined and laser focused, she says. “I know the wind is good in the afternoons, so I wake up as early as 4am to work and will not taking meetings in the afternoon. If I need to, I circle back to work in the evenings.”
Even though Jeanne Givens’ six days a week surf schedule has adjusted since weddings have resumed post-pandemic and her business has picked up, she prioritizes her new hobby, waking up at 5 a.m. four mornings a week to drive 30 minutes to surf. When work gets too busy, she hires someone to help so she doesn’t have to sacrifice her surf time. “I’ve learned I have to make boundaries for myself if I want to lead a healthy lifestyle and not burn out,” she says. “A lot of women get stuck as moms, in careers, in their own bodies, in aging, and it’s a dangerous cycle. We’re not trained to put ourselves first. We live for relationships that fulfill us. Surfing helped me create a relationship with myself again.”