I am a lifelong dilettante. I love trying new things and am fairly good at many, but expert at none.

I envy those who find early passions in life, and especially those who work hard to cultivate those passions. It took me nearly 50 years to find my passion in life. And to focus my energies on that passion.

My son is studying musical theater in college. During his first decade on earth, he realized it was his dream to be on stage. I did and continue to do everything I can to facilitate his realization of that dream. He began his formal theater study and practice at age 11, and has not wavered from his desire to pursue his craft.

My daughter is a documentary filmmaker, who seeks to bring to life the stories of the underserved in our communities. Social justice has been her calling, and she found a creative way to accomplish her objectives. And she has the talent, skill and perseverance to achieve her goals. I greatly admire her work and desire to help those who cannot help themselves.

In college, I majored in business management, with an emphasis in computer science, because I could not choose for myself. I let my mother choose for me.

I went to law school upon graduation from college because I had no idea what I wanted to do for my career. My mother, an immigrant, wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer. Because I fainted at the sight of blood, she let go of the desire for a doctor in the family. I figured that a law degree could open doors for me, even if I did not ultimately practice law. I knew of professionals in many industries who had law degrees but did not practice law.

Years later, when I took time off from my career to be an at-home mother, I started writing articles as a freelancer, then books. I wrote from my own experience, finding the exercise cathartic. Writing about my feelings helped me process them.

My writings started to reach people in an impactful way. When I went public about my alcoholism and the help I found in a 12-step program, acquaintances contacted me for help with their drinking issues. They had been too afraid to seek help. My article helped them not feel so aberrant and alone.

When I wrote about my own sexual assault, others came forward. They, too, had kept their assault experiences secret for years. And those secrets had kept us broken.

I saw that, in writing about my life’s traumas and tribulations, I was helping others. I was turning my pain into a force for good, and experienced much joy in being able to help other people in this way. I had found my passion in life.

It is never too late to excavate whatever one’s passion may be. And the range of passions is infinite. Passion for some include raising a family. For others, it may be creating art, or visiting the elderly. No one else can determine what your personal passion may be. You alone must find it.

Moreover, passions may change or morph into new things. We are most likely to find them when we remain present, mindful and open. When the student is ready, the teacher will come.


  • Maria Leonard Olsen

    Maria Leonard Olsen is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney and author of “50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life” (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2018).

    Maria Leonard Olsen graduated from Boston College and the University of Virginia School of Law. She is an attorney, radio talk show host of the Washington, D.C. show “Inside Out,” writing and women's empowerment retreat instructor, editor, and public speaker on diversity issues and living a life authentic to one's values. Her work has been published by The Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, Bethesda Magazine, among others. She also served in the Clinton Justice Department prior to having children, and recently returned to practicing law now that she is an empty-nester. Olsen is the author of four books, including the children’s books Mommy, Why's Your Skin So Brown? and Healing for Hallie, and the non-fiction titles Not the Cleaver Family--The New Normal in Modern American Families and her newest book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life.