I know this sounds awful and makes me seem like a deadbeat, but I don’t want to be that type of person. My girlfriend of three years is even contemplating everything because she can see how little ambition I have. How can I change my thought pattern on life? — Not Excited
If your sole pursuit in life is excitement, then you are right: you’re going to be thoroughly disappointed. Excitement, in whatever part of your life, is temporary. Excitement isn’t sustainable; it isn’t meant to be sustainable. But that doesn’t mean that what comes when the excitement fades is less worthy or less fulfilling or less wonderful than the experience during the peak of excitement.
Take falling in love, for example. Falling in love is SO exciting, mostly because there’s an element of disbelief. It’s as if we’re walking around in a haze, thinking, “I can’t believe this is actually happening to me! I can’t believe this person I adore so much feels the same way about me! I can’t believe this is my life!” That’s thrilling and fun. But if you stay in the relationship long enough — say a few years — the initial excitement of falling in love and the immediate stages afterward (like moving in together and/or planning a wedding, getting married, being newlyweds, even having a baby) fades and I’d argue that what you’re left with (if you’re well-matched), though not as exciting in the traditional sense, is so much better.
What you’re left with in a relationship that passes the milestones of falling in love and committing to each other and spending a few years together is an actual LIFE together. You no longer walk around in a haze of disbelief; instead, you believe very much. You believe that, yes, this is real, this person does love you, you are worthy of the love, and this IS your life. What you are left with is trust and faith and stability and security. What you are left with is someone to make plans with all the time, both long-term and short-term. You’re left with someone who, hopefully, deeply understands you, who not only knows and sees your flaws, but also accepts you and loves you in spite of them and doesn’t ask or expect you to change. This is, honest to God, so much better than falling in love when you can only hope that once your flaws are apparent, you won’t be rejected for them.
Let’s use another analogy I am well-acquainted with: parenthood. I have two kids (7-1/2 and 3-1/2) and there was nothing so exciting as when I was pregnant with them. It was a new experience – and one I knew I’d only have once or twice. There was so much unknown, which is thrilling – so much to look forward to. Now, 7-1/2 years into my parenting experience, I can say that the excitement I feel comes in small, sometimes unexpected, ways: watching my kids learn new skills (reading, riding a bike, speaking in a different language — hell, just going to the bathroom); observing my kids making connections to life lessons I try to instill (experiences are more valuable than material objects, for example); seeing them develop new interests, independent of anything I myself might like or am purposely exposing them to (i.e.: they are becoming their own people, with their own opinions and thoughts—-how exciting!). But parenthood, for as exciting as it can be from the first positive pregnancy test to watching your children grow up to be contributing members of society, is a lot of work — something you say you dread. And, yet, it’s hard work that brings the biggest rewards. And rewards are exciting!
You know what isn’t a lot of work? Taking a nap. Naps are wonderful, but unless you’re someone exceptionally sleep-deprived, I wouldn’t call them very exciting. And that brings up another point: Sometimes being withheld certain pleasures or rewards makes the eventual delivery or experience of them much more exciting. Take chocolate cake, for example. I fucking love chocolate cake. I get excited when I eat it. Why? Because I only eat chocolate cake maybe, I don’t know, five times a year or so. If I ate it every day, it would not be exciting.
You want to change your thought pattern so you can enjoy adulthood more? Don’t pursue excitement relentlessly. Pursue it sparingly, like I pursue chocolate cake. Let excitement surprise you as you pursue other things such as: knowledge; new skills; paying your bills; making life a little better for someone else; practicing gratitude. There is excitement in these pursuits, I promise; it will find you as you reach a goal you’ve set for yourself or when you figure out something that’s been puzzling you or when you discover that you can be self-sufficient.
The fact is that unless you die an early death, which I sincerely hope doesn’t happen, you don’t have much choice anyway but to keep moving forward. You don’t have a choice but to become an adult, to earn a living, to contribute in some way to the world around you. Maybe you haven’t yet figured out what that way is going to be. Maybe you wrongly assume that the only contribution you can make is through your job or that “ambition” relates only to pursuing career goals and so you can’t be ambitious if you aren’t excited about working. But what if ambition exists outside of career pursuits (spoiler: it does) and what if you can contribute to the world simply by making one person’s day a little better? And what if being kind did the trick? What if you could make someones’s day better by being kind? Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that an ambition worthy of pursuing?
Here’s another spoiler: Your life as an adult is going to be full of tedium, challenges, disappointments, frustration, and occasional boredom. It is also going to be joyful, rewarding, and, yes, even exciting sometimes. The key to managing the hurdles is to expect them, to know they’re coming, and to fully embrace the joyful moments as your reward for getting through the harder ones. Another key to managing the challenges and disappointments and occasional boredom is to get yourself a circle of people (and animals too) that you love and trust and like being around. Hold them up when they stumble on their own hurdles, and lean on them when you cross yours. Celebrate the joy together. And accept that excitement, like every other human emotion and experience, is fleeting. Whether for better or not, this, too, shall pass. Isn’t that exciting?
Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
Kay April 30, 2019, 3:03 pm
The solution seems simple enough. Don’t dump all your money into going to school. Instead, find a job you can tolerate, live within your means, and put the money you will inevitably save toward whatever it is that DOES excite you. You don’t have to have a degree(s) and/or ambition to be a “success.” You’re 22, you don’t have to have it all figured out. Just do what makes you happy.
Sarah April 30, 2019, 3:57 pm
It’s possible the LW May be suffering from depression. That’s how the letter reads to to me…
Dear Wendy April 30, 2019, 4:25 pm
I thought if that too. It’s possible!
ron April 30, 2019, 4:28 pm
Some people are ready to start a 4-year degree at 18. Other’s aren’t at 22. You don’t have to start. You can get a job with your, presumably Associate’s, degree and learn more about the world of work and get experience in at least one field. You’ll learn if you enjoy that field — learn the range of things you can do within that field what appeals to you? Talk to people in the field to learn the range of possibilities.
It’s hard to just get a degree if nothing interests you. Sometimes more life experience addresses that. Perhaps you just hate being a student, working in a professional setting, etc.
Depending what degree you are after, there are cooperative education programs that allow you to do internships combined with classwork. If possible this would be good for you: explore the work opportunities in the field you are studying, get a leg up on employment post graduation, not have to borrow a lot of money or work jobs not related to your life choices. If you fear the pressure of working and studying during the school year, then don’t work, or work very little, during the year and work a lot over the summer and long semester breaks.
What is totally missing .your letter is any indication of 1) your motivation for getting a 4-year degree, 2) any indication of what you want to do with your life, 3) any indication of what sort of work you think you would enjoy or at least be neutral about. If you are about to get a degree, then you are in school, which may make career counseling and aptitude testing available to you,
If you are simply a lazy person who dislikes any work or study, then I’m afraid you are shit out of luck with the direction the world is going.
anonymousse April 30, 2019, 5:14 pm
Great advice, Wendy.
One of the sentences in this post struck me, you believe that you’ll be doing nothing but work for the majority of your life. Why?
You don’t actually have to go to back to school for another degree right now. You can go next semester. Next year. Five years from now. Or never. Or maybe in ten years you’ll want to go back for a different degree altogether.
Maybe you should just hit pause or higher education for right now. Find a job you like, can tolerate, or even better-one you’re really good at. Spend below your means. Ou can work a full time job and still have plenty of time for fun, or excitement or friends. Everyone has to work, unless they were born into insane wealth. It’s a fact of life, unfortunately. I feel your pain. If I won the lottery tomorrow or somehow came into real wealth, I’d quit working immediately. There’s a lot to life beyond work. Work pays for the fun, basically. Not that you can’t have fun without an income, but it’s nice to feel economically comfortable.
Ele4phant April 30, 2019, 11:25 pm
I got a job right out of college. A friend of mine decided to go live in England for six months, working in a hostel and traveling around Europe. I’d look at her and think, did I make the wrong choice, am I on the wrong path?
Then she got into law school and I got laid off, and I backpacked through Australia. Sometimes I’d look at her and think – am I making the right choice, am I on the right track.
Then she graduated and worked a few years for a corporate firm and made a buttload, while I went to grad school and ate top ramen. Sometimes I would think – did I make the right choice, am I on the right path?
Then I graduated and got a job in the private sector, and she become a public defender. I don’t worry so much about what she’s up to because a) I have my own marriage and career to focus on and b) who knows what the next five or ten years will look like?
There are very few dead ends in life. We think of being on a “path” but that’s not really how it works, you don’t get started in one place and get locked into a specific trajectory. Life can and will change, what seems possible, likely, and appealing can change. Sometimes change is thrust on you, sometimes you pursue it. Especially when you are young. Especially when you have an education.
Also even people who love love love what they do for a living – it’s still work. Some aspects will still be a royal pain in the a, some days you just won’t feel like working but you have to go in. I like my career quite a bit, but I wouldn’t show up for free.
ron April 30, 2019, 5:25 pm
And how do you get excited about constant work? One way is to focus on a goal at the end of that work. It sounds like you have 2-3 years to get your Bachelor’s degree, which isn’t a horrendously long time. Do you have an end goal. If not, I agree with Kay that you are likely just wasting time and money going for this degree.
The other way that you get excited about constant work is if you actually enjoy learning the material you will be studying. If you can’t find a field of study for which this is the case, then perhaps college isn’t for you or you aren’t yet ready for college.
Depression is a possibility. Your comments on your gf’s reaction to your lack of ambition seems important. Talk to her about this. Does she think you have been like this the whole time she was your gf, or does she see this as something new or something that has significantly worsened. Perhaps she just assumed that if she waited you would acquire more ambition and you didn’t.
How do you spend your time now. You say no job and you have a gf. How do you individually and you and gf spend your time when not in school.
CET April 30, 2019, 6:04 pm
In my opinion the goal is to find work you think is cool and that you are really into and excited about…whether that is metalsmithing, researching trees, raising farm animals, starting a business, trying to make your community better, driving a boat, helping children reach their potential, etc. Find what you LOVE. Then working on a degree towards that is a goal that makes you happy even when it is drudgery at times. Then when you are done with your degree(s) take steps to get jobs that you think are cool. Right now you are at the start…take it in baby steps. One thing at a time. Back when in my 20s my jobs at first were pure boring drudgery (coffee shop…grocery store…kinkos copies…phone sales). Then I got my bachelors degree in Biology and had some awesome jobs I was excited about (fish and wildlife technician working on boats and in field camps), but also some boring jobs (ice cream shop, food delivery), then after my masters degree I had some more jobs I loved (contract Biologist with NOAA, science researcher, lab technician, science writer). With each job I try to meet more people and make connections, get more training, and volunteer when I can for different research projects just for the experience. Then this helps me get the next job. Life is always changing. Find things you love to do and slowly with time you get your degrees and experience and life can lead you down some really exciting paths. Now the hard question to ask yourself…What are you passionate about?!
Dear Wendy May 1, 2019, 11:12 am
You know, I actually disagree with the advice to find job you LOVE and find something you’re passionate about to do for a living. I mean, it’s great if it works out that way for you, but I don’t think it’s realistic for most people to find a job that truly brings them happiness, and I think when we approach it that way – “I need a job that makes me happy” — rather than “I need a job that I like ok and pays enough so I can afford a lifestyle I’m happy with,” a lot of people are going to be disappointed. I don’t mean to say that jobs can’t be fulfilling and that people can’t find some happiness in them, but sometimes jobs are just that – jobs – a way to make a living, support one’s lifestyle and that’s ok. Not everyone needs to find their excitement at work. It really is ok for work to just be a thing you to do make money, and to find the bulk of your fulfillment and joy and excitement in your personal life, in your relationships, in personal projects, hobbies, and volunteer work.
I know there’s been a trend in the last decade or two to really push this idea of working in one’s passion, but you know, sometimes it’s nice for your passion to be something you do simply for the fun and joy of it and not because you need or want to monetize it.
Bittergaymark May 1, 2019, 11:29 am
Agreed. More.., The classic cliche’ “do what you love and the money will follow” is utter bullshit. And ultimately leads fools to a very, very dark place.
ele4phant May 1, 2019, 1:47 pm
It really is a de-service to tell people they should figure out what they love to do and then pursue that as a living. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
It really sets up high expectations that basically nobody will meet. There are plenty of people out there in professions that are just fine for them, but because they’ve been told they should be ecstatic about their career, if they aren’t over the moon they feel like something is wrong, something is missing, and they’re basically miserable.
I have a job I feel passionate about and am pretty much living the ideal, BUT it’s still work. I really like what I do, I feel fulfilled and all that jazz, but I’m still not showing up for free, you know?
There are still aspects of it that are a bunch of bs I wish I didn’t have to deal with. There are still some days we’re I’m not springing out of bed going “Yay! I get to do what I love”. Some days what I feel passionate about is staying home and hanging out with my cat, but I can’t exactly do that and keep getting paid.
I agree that people should use their youth to figure out what they love and then figure out how to live a life that allows them make space for that. It may or may not be the thing you get paid to do, though. It may be you follow your passion by finding a job you can tolerate, that pays the bills, and is flexible enough that you have the time and space elsewhere in your life to pursue whatever it is you love.
CET May 2, 2019, 7:26 am
Well that’s ok to disagree. My husband and I are almost 50 and it worked for us and all our good friends. He is a Physicist and I’m a Biologist and artist and we both are passionate about science and what we do. It makes work something we are INTO…something we really care about. I realize not everyone can figure what they love, but if they can it really helps make life have meaning. My mom was the opposite – she worked to make money and she hated it every day and quit working as soon as she could. We have friends who work on the Mars Rover, who study primates, who study trees and drought, who work at the local community art center, who do research on ZIKA virus, who study sea ice, who are into healing and acupuncture, etc. I used to do research on killer whales and then fish populations and now I am a science writer. If this young guy can figure out what he is excited about in life then the thought of working for the rest of his life will not feel like drudgery. It’s just one opinion…not the total answer. I wish him well…it’s hard when you are first trying to figure things out.
ele4phant May 3, 2019, 11:39 am
CET – I would not say you’re wrong, I would just say there is more than one way to find happiness, meaning, and fulfillment than through your profession.
And we should be telling kids that. Some will be lucky enough to know what it is they are passionate about and will be successful at parlaying that into a decent paying job, some will not know what they are passionate about but stumble into a job that they love and are passionate about, some will find meaning and passion outside of what they do during the 9-5.
Right now kids are only hearing part 1. Which means if it doesn’t swing that way for them, they grow up feeling disappointed, and they don’t need to.
Yes, encourage kids to figure out what it is they love and what gives them fulfillment, but DON’T make your daily profession contingent on that passion. Be open to the idea that your job may just be your job, and you will derive meaning and fulfillment elsewhere.
Also, if you don’t KNOW at age 23 what you are passionate about, that’s okay. It’s not too late to find meaning. It’s possible to just come across it randomly.
Again, it’s great that you and your friends all knew what you were passionate about so early and it’s great you all were able to monetize that (at least enough to make a comfortable living), but it doesn’t work out that way for a lot of people, and that’ okay too.
Dear Wendy May 2, 2019, 8:17 am
The problem isn’t so much that people can’t “figure what they love”; The problem is that not everyone’s passion is something that translates into a well-paying career that they can land (and keep). You are lucky that you and your husband both have careers you’re passionate about and that’s wonderful. Not everyone is going to be so lucky. Not everyone is going to have the opportunities it sounds like you’ve had (and you can argue that you created your own opportunities through hard work, etc., and I don’t doubt that as a biologist and artist you have worked hard, but I bet you have some innate gifts and perhaps have been lucky not to face the kind of adversity that might jeopardize landing and keeping a demanding career). The truth is, while everyone has gifts to some extent, those gifts just aren’t always valuable from a career and financial standpoint, and it can be super frustrating and depressing to figure out what you love… and then figure out that it’s hard or nearly impossible to monetize that love in a way that will support you fulltime. And when people keep giving the advice to “do what you love” as if that’s a formula that works all the time for all people in all industries, it sets up so many people — people who just aren’t as lucky – for disappointment.
Again, if you’re lucky enough to not only “figure out what you love,” but also find a way to support yourself through that passion, GREAT! that’s awesome. But for people who don’t have the same innate gifts, the same opportunities, the same luck, the same exceptionality (because most people are pretty average), I think better advice might be: find jobs that you like well enough (instead of embracing the pressure to find a job you LOVVVVEEEEE), working along people you like enough, paying well enough to support your lifestyle, and then make a great life for yourself outside of work (maybe even monetizing a hobby if you can).
Really, it’s ok to not be in love with your career – to work because you need money to pay your bills. Not everyone is going to follow a passion into a sustainable career, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have rich, joyful, exciting lives.Work isn’t everything.
Dear Wendy May 2, 2019, 8:31 am
Also, not for nothing, but I also have a lot of anecdotes of people -close friends, acquaintances, family – who also followed their passions into careers, and in nearly every case, it did not work out for them and they either figured that out early enough to switch careers (some actor friends became teachers; one scientist friend left her very low-paying job researching a cure for AIDS to work in a high-paying Pharma job; a nurse who struggled with mental illness and couldn’t handle the high-stakes stress of the job is now happily working as an admin assistant – just as a few examples and I have tons more).
I happen to be doing what I love, but I couldn’t support a family doing this. Maybe if I lived in a much cheaper city and didn’t have kids, I would be fine, but here in NYC and with a family, I have to have a partner who can financially support us in order for me to continue doing this work. And is my partner doing something he LOVES? No. For years and years he has worked a job he likes fine, that has a flexible schedule and allows for him to have a good life outside of work. Only now, as we have a little more financial flexibility, is he experimenting with how to monetize more of his passions. And you know what? we are happy.
People can find happiness even without landing dream jobs.
Kate May 2, 2019, 9:06 am
I think some people are really lucky to be doing what they love, doing work that’s in the area of their passion, or is their passion. But even those people may have to do some basic, boring jobs that are going to lead them along a path. My husband worked in insurance for years and in sales for a moving company. He had also done things like sell gym memberships. These were jobs with regular 9-5 hours that allowed him to train for his sport in the mornings and evenings. He was able to pursue his athletic career and rack up achievements there, build a web presence and a network, while earning money and learning sales skills and how to deal with upset customers. All of that came together when he was *40*. Now he’s like the poster boy for doing what he loves, which is selling the pricey equipment for his sport. They pay for his travel and competition too, so it’s the best of all worlds for him. But again, not until almost 20 YEARS out of college.
I’m in that much larger camp of people who was able to get a degree in something interesting that I’m good at and make decent money. I definitely use my talents, but my job is not my freakin passion.
Vathena May 2, 2019, 10:07 am
All of this, plus, you can have your absolute dream job in a field you love, but if you have a shitty work environment, you are going to feel terrible about having to be there every day. I enjoy my job as it’s in my field of interest (I work in a lab that does cardivascular research) and pays decently, but the thing that gets me to stay is that my boss is fantastic and really dedicated to building a supportive and collegial environment. I have worked in other labs, doing exactly the same thing, and I was fucking miserable because the PIs/other staff were jerks. “Doing what you love” is no guarantee of being happy in your job. Sometimes you just gotta pay the bills and have fun on the weekends.
SpaceySteph May 3, 2019, 9:37 am
Agree with this. CET, you love science. I love space. We both pursued STEM careers because of this and are lucky because we had the aptitude not just the passion, and because those are good paying fields in high demand .
But not everyone’s passion is for something marketable. And not everyone has the aptitude to be profitable at the thing they are passionate about. If I would have been passionate about ballet, it would have been too bad because I’m short and overweight and not very coordinated. Passion and hard work would not have been enough to make me a ballerina. And failed ballerinas have to go get regular jobs to pay the bills.
Its great if you have a passion and can make money at it. It’s also totally fine if you have a passion you pursue as a hobby while working a job you aren’t passionate about. Its ok to go to your 9-5, be bored, make the $, and then go home and do what you love in your off time.
saneinca April 30, 2019, 6:45 pm
That was some awesome response Wendy! I have to save it on my system.
Bittergaymark April 30, 2019, 7:03 pm
Whatever you do — don’t go into the arts.
ron May 2, 2019, 9:40 am
I think the response from CET and Wendy’s and Kate’s response to it bears directly on this. It’s great to follow your passion into a major and first job –IF it is a passion which is amenable to that. It’s been very safe for a long time if your passion was science, math, engineering, accounting, or finance, as was the case with me and with CET and her husband.
A lot of the liberal arts passions carry high risk and massive inequality. Want to work for an art auction house or be a museum curator? Yes, there are jobs. Yes some of us common folk snag some of them, but… in the bigger institutions, it is a world of privilege– rich kids who can take unpaid internships for a year or more to jumpstart their career, kids with parental contacts whom nonprofit arts institutions can use to aid their fundraising from the wealthy, kids whose parents can support them for half a decade as they break into a career in theater, orchestra, painting, whatever. Then there are the black studies, women studies, other ethnic studies majors where the real job aims are professorial or equal rights officer, etc. and where the first wave of grads have filled these spots.
When my wife and I finished college, we were into the age of the pill and the birth bust. Professorships had been filled in large numbers by the post-WWII and 1950 PhD grads. College jobs were scarce. By the 1970s, public school jobs had become much scarcer.
You have to choose which academic loves you pursue with an eye to the future job market. In the age of Indiana Jones, archeology sounded cool, but didn’t provide a ton of job opportunities. Biology was the field of choice for huge group of women going into the hard sciences. It was the toughest scientific field in which to find appropriate employment. One of the DOE scientists who reviewed the project I worked on for several years was a female biologist from Oak Ridge. She actively steered her daughter away from biology. The government accepted employment applications for all of the sciences and engineering every day of the year, with the exception of biology, for which there was a narrow application window, with early submissions returned. that was in 1979, perhaps it’s changed since then. Certainly molecular biology, gene sequencing and manipulation, and the hunt for organisms which produce chemicals that are useful drugs is hot. The valedictorian of my high school class of 1000 was an invertebrate biologist, who was a professor and researcher. When he lost his research grant he failed to achieve tenure. That was in the 1980s. It was brutal.
Dear Wendy May 2, 2019, 9:59 am
I was going to say, and you kind of beat me to it, that it’s almost an elitist view – or, certainly, a privileged one – to make such a strong case to DO WHAT YOU LOVE and you will be happy. It assumes that the playing field is even, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The difference between those with advantages and those with disadvantages – whether it be innate gifts, socioeconomic background, race, physical and emotional health – is great, and that plays a huge role in the opportunities we have.
Kate May 2, 2019, 10:03 am
Right, it’s BS. I had to get 2 degrees that my parents were able to pay for, to do something decently lucrative and interesting. My husband had to take on big loans and work boring jobs for years to get to where he is.
Bittergaymark May 2, 2019, 10:19 am
Yeah, I am truly past the point of no return. It’s way too late too switch it up and financially recover. And so I am woefully underpaid to the point where Ioathe what I do… So I keep hoping I simply stroke out soon or get taken out by a drunk driver. (Happens far too often, might as well be me.) Of course, I’m so damn unlucky, I’m gonna instead live forever and so I find myself just… stuck. Suicide will be my retirement plan in a decade or so, I suspect. But it’ll look like a tragic accident to avoid needless unnecessary drama.
anonymousse May 3, 2019, 10:44 am
My major regret in life is going to art school. I wish I had been more realistic and had done more research about what I was getting into.
I went into the arts, and as a poor kid, I had to go right into working after school (all through school, actually) and left the art world behind to pay the bills. I so wish that I had gotten my bachelors degree in something else. I’ve considered going back to school, but it’s hard to justify the cost with kids.
Bittergaymark April 30, 2019, 7:09 pm
PS — people should STOP telling people to follow their passions. That typically only leads to a lifetime of poverty.
Ele4phant April 30, 2019, 11:09 pm
The only consistent thing about life is that life is inconsistent. In all likelihood, you will not work the same job Monday thru Friday , 9am to 5pm from now until the day you die.
Who knows what will happen? You may get laid off, you may switch careers, you may marry your girlfriend, you may break up and marry someone else, you might have kids, you might divorce, you may have to stop working to care for an elderly parent, you may lose touch with friends, you make new friends, you may find a huge passion outside of work and work just is something you do to find your passion.
Who knows what’s coming? And just when you feel like life is settled and you’ve got it figured out, life will send you a whole new curve ball.
Life is many things, and full of “excitement”, sometimes not in the best way, but it will be eventful all the same. And then it’ll change.
CET May 3, 2019, 7:31 am
Well, geez, I didn’t know people had so much resentment about this issue! One of my kids is passionate about computer science, programming, and creating digital animations. He has taught himself 7 programming languages already. My other child is passionate about the environment, climate change, and microbiology of all things. She is only9 but she goes to the city council meetings and gets up to talk about how important recycling at her school is and is trying to help get the schools here to be more green. Will their interests change? Most likely. But you can bet I am going to encourage them to follow their passions! I still think it’s important to care about what you do. Yes, your original dreams may not work out, but life can still lead you to other interests. If I got to do my original passion I would still be a whale researcher, but life has taken me down other pathways. Yes, I was disappointed for a while, but it’s not like that’s my only interest in life!
Dear Wendy May 3, 2019, 7:59 am
I don’t think anyone sounds resentful – just realistic.
Kate May 3, 2019, 9:51 am
I mean, honestly, good for you and your kids, CET, but don’t judge other people as resentful who aren’t as fortunate. Computer science is far from being my passion, but I’m sucking it up and taking graduate courses in it to round out my skills. Which will cost money.
Know what I’m passionate about? Day drinking, books, seaside hotels, and dogs. I get to do market research, which is somewhat interesting and uses my skills, in order to pay for those passions. Great that your passions translated directly to something lucrative.
Ele4phant May 3, 2019, 10:26 am
I mean I think you should for sure encourage your children to study what they are passionate about – at least for undergraduate. For many, college is largely to learn how to think and to prove you can be self directed, and what you study is actually secondary for most employers.
I studied geography because it was what I was interested in. Did that prime me for a professional career – yes and no. It taught me how to be analytical, how to read and write, how to think holistically about problems. That applies well to many jobs. But there’s no specific “career track” for that degree, unless you are thinking of going all in academia and getting your PhD.
Furthermore, if your kids have a clear eyed view of what they want to do, good for them, but many kids don’t and there’s this pressure on them to figure it out or they’re be miserable the rest of their lives.
I did not know that I would love public opinion research, I didn’t even really know it was a thing. I took a job after grad school because I needed money, and said I’ll give it a year. Thankfully it worked out great. But I might be very miserable if I had decided at 20 – I must be a cartographer or bust. In a way, deciding what your passion is at 20, if you even know what it is, might shut you off from other paths you aren’t even aware of.
Finally – I still think you should follow your passions, but following your passions doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid to do what you love. Sometimes it means finding a job you can tolerate so you’re free to pursue your passion during off hours.
ele4phant May 3, 2019, 11:50 am
I will also say I had the luxury of studying what I was interested in, to take the risk of not getting my self any hard professional skills, because I came from a solid middle class family that had the foresight and ability to start saving to pay for my education. I also knew, that if I needed it, my parents would be willing and able to help keep me afloat finacnially while I figured out what to do with my life.
Not everybody has this luxury. Some kids have to start working, NOW, just to pay the bills. They don’t get to just “study what interests them” with the confidence that they’ll be able to get by while they wait for a path to unfold.
I work hard and all, but I would’ve made different choices at 18 if I didn’t have that financial cushion behind me.
Ele4phant May 3, 2019, 10:47 am
I’d also encourage kids/young adults to think expansively about what it is they like doing (and are good at), and focus more on skills, less on subject matter.
If you are a person that likes solving puzzles, there are a lot of professions that will require problem shooting.
If you are personable and like interacting with others – there are lots of professions that require people who can manage relationships.
If you are a person that likes working with numbers, there are lots of jobs that will be more analytical and will be less about working with people.
If you like writing, there are lots of jobs beyond journalist or writers, that are focused on communicating.
But at the end of the day, what you are good at may not get you excited, and it’s still a happy life to find a job that you can stand, that compensates you adequately, and enables you to do what you love during non work hours.
Even in the best case scenario – if you land your dream job – it’s still a job. It’s still going to make you do shit you don’t want. I don’t like having to respond to proposals for work and bid out pricing, but it’s a necessary first step to actually getting work, so….
ktfran May 3, 2019, 11:00 am
Lol. Speaking of proposals… I’m a proposal writer/strategist for a large engineering firm (a lot of journalism majors end up in this field) and we’re chasing a big program management job right now. It’s actually a re-compete and I’m working with people who are in the client’s office. I edit technical pieces, but can’t write it. I was asking for information for the proposal, information I don’t have, and the person responded “I can’t get to this, I’m still working my day job.”
I so badly wanted to reply “you won’t have a day job if you don’t help win this.”
People can be dicks.
ele4phant May 3, 2019, 11:16 am
Oh man, the balance of doing the work we’ve already been hired to do, vs going after new work when there’s actual work on the table, vs networking to build new relationships for the promise of maybe future work, it’s a freaking nightmare.
When I started, my firm was pretty small and everybody was a generalist and kind of had to be a jack of all trades.
We’ve since merged with another firm and doubled and size, and our workload seems to have grown even larger.
We are so busy, and plus, some people are not as good as some things. I am a bad proofreader and I am not visually inclined, so being in charge of making sure an end document looks pretty and is fully proofed is stressful for me, nor given what I am strong at and what they pay me for is it the best use of my time and their money. I feel like we’re big enough now to have some people start specializing; have a few people dedicated to stuff like proposal writing, proofing, production. But, I’m not in charge so that’s not happened.
Anywhoo – just to reiterate, even when you have a job you love, there will always be stuff that is just a pain in the A. If we prime kids to believe they should be bounding into work every day super excited and every day will just be bliss because they are getting to do what they are passionate about, literally everyone will be disappointed.
dinoceros May 3, 2019, 5:23 pm
There’s a middle ground between follow whatever your passion is no matter what and just doing something for the money. My friend majored in art, but she made sure to get experience in other things, so she ended up being a photojournalist for a while and now works in marketing. She still loves her job and does photography on the side, but she also can afford to eat food.
That said, I work with a lot of students who aim for STEM majors because of the money and they aren’t capable of completing it. I’m not really sure why, if it’s that they aren’t into it or they just don’t have the skills from high school or can’t/don’t study appropriately, but I often have to talk students out of their major because they are not going to pass their classes and I have to remind them that you can do non-STEM majors and still get a job.