So what issues am I passionate about?

That’s a great question in any era. It’s particularly pressing in late 2010 – considering that the United States is still feeling the chilling effects of the worst national recession since the 1930s.

Given the economic shocks, housing foreclosures and gloomy financial forecasts, it’s easy for some to say that passion has left the picture. Try numbness.

But caring deeply about an issue – enough to tell friends and family – serves a purpose.

Passion for issues enables us to focus. Focus can guide future actions. Of course, that passion, sense of purpose and actions can lead to progress.

As that old saying goes, all of this helps you bounce out of bed in the morning. It helps you stay up late, thinking about what you’re going to do the next day. Try perseverance.

For me, my passions boil down to three things:

Clarity: I’m a former newspaper journalist and always have enjoyed information conveyed in an uncluttered – and when possible — compelling and memorable way.

History: Acknowledging the past and pulling lessons from it is important – especially when clarity and progress are forefront in your mind, as it is for me.

I’m a third-generation Chinese American. Studying history and traveling to noteworthy places have enabled me to draw conclusions about when things have gone right and when things have floundered.

History not only encourages enlightenment through ideas, personalities, facts and opinions. Understanding it helps you take future steps.

I grew up in a Northern California suburb. In the 1990s, I returned to my family’s ancestral villages in China’s Guangdong province.

As I stood near my grandfather’s crumbling, mud hut near rice fields, I realized why he left China’s countryside. While leaving your home can be difficult, the dirt floor in the hut was the same as the ground outside.

Community: One important lesson that I learned as an undergraduate is that we – as humans – are not islands.

I like to think of community in a physical sense as well as a virtual one. I have neighbors, relatives and friends. I like participating in Asian Pacific American community events in Seattle.

I like meeting people in a community, talking with them, learning what’s new and seeing how they are. It makes life more meaningful.

Another way to think about these topics is to consider their opposite meanings: Befuddlement, the future and loneliness.

It can be taxing to go through life with all three swirling in your head: You’re confused, unaware of the past, and take each step by yourself.

Doing so can make for interesting, circular life stories. But I prefer to live one with a sense of clarity, history, and community.

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