(A/N: This post is an excerpt from my blog)
Why I Chose to Pursue My Passion
Around this time last year, I was completing an internship with the Underground Railroad’s SafePlace program. This program was designed to monitor visits between non-custodial parents and their children. I had taken a part of this program for two reasons, I needed the experience with dealing with people who had been victimized and had gone through the court system and I needed something to put on my resume as work experience in the field I was pursuing. I remember the experience like it was yesterday, the hot sun shining down on me whenever I took my cigarette breaks, the office with the radio playing the same station every day, the filing cabinet with all of the clients names and transgressions (the reasons they didn’t have custody of their children) some were accused of molestation, some were drug addicts, most were just unable to get along with their spouse in a healthy way. It was during this time that I was on the verge of collapsing, mentally at least. It was only months before I would realize I didn’t have enough money to pay off tuition in time to register for the next school year. Months before I would lose my job and fall into a deep alcohol induced depression. I had a plan. I was executing that plan to the fullest of my ability. Going to school fulltime, working full time. I was doing everything I could to chase the success I knew I wanted, but all the while something was building inside of me. This unhappiness, this numb empty feeling that I couldn’t quite explain. It was only months from when I would realize that I had been running away from all of my issues, busying myself with work, chasing an ideal life. I wondered if I even had any real interest in the work I was pursuing. Was I really finding all of this fulfilling? Meanwhile I was watching my youth pass me by, I watched my friends who seemed to party endlessly, fall in love with strangers, some of them even got married. There was never really any time for that in my life, I had to work. That’s what I always said, over and over again, work consumed my life. I was working towards a goal. I was working towards a career. I had to see it through to the end. Never once did I wonder if I was working for myself or whether I was working because that’s the path that I was told to follow. From the second we prepared to graduate high school college was seemingly the only option that followed. It makes sense, these days most decent jobs require a degree of some sort. High school diplomas are practically useless in this day and age. So, it was pushed on our young minds that we needed to go to college, whether that be community college or a university, some college experience was necessary to succeed in life. Whatever that means. Knowing what I know now, I can see that so much more is necessary to have a successful and happy life.
Maybe my first mistake was not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life in the first place. High school was mostly a daze for me, I went to school, wrote the notes, did the homework, and didn’t really do much else. I mean there were many reasons I didn’t join any after school programs (I had made attempts twice to join the drama club in middle school and in one attempt I actually got in and moved out-of-state the very next day with absolutely no warning, and the second time other complications at home arose), I moved around too much to really set my foot in any door to get too comfortable. Part of me wonders if I would’ve approached my life any differently had I had that sort of experience, but I guess I’ll never really know now. All that did know and take from my early schooling experience was that in order to be successful in school you had to show up to class and do the homework. I carried this knowledge with me to college and did the same thing, I chose my major, I followed the syllabi, did the work and then I went home. But obviously when you think about this sort of thing in broader terms this is not the steps for real world success. This is where the education system fails in my opinion. I never really knew what I was good at or what I enjoyed enough to actually want to pursue as a career and when the time came to decide I was fumbling around trying to figure it out while also juggling a part time job, which then led to two part time jobs, and then a full time job. Meanwhile everything I was doing in college felt like I was performing the steps of hypothetical success. If I get this GPA, I’ll get into a good law school. If I join this organization, I’ll have something to put on my resume. If I intern here it’ll show that I have some work experience. I did all of this without having any real passion in the work I was performing; I was just completing steps. I was motivated, but for all the wrong reasons. On top of the building stress of the outside responsibilities that I had chosen to place on myself.
The United States has the highest college dropout rate in the world. One of the most cited reasons that undergrad students drop out of college is the inability to balance work and school. Adding to this, children from low-income households are seven times less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than those from “well-off” households. I don’t need to pull up a bunch of testimonials to tell you that college kids are struggling to juggle all of their responsibilities. You can walk into any college class and I’m sure any number of them will tell you their stressed out. Trying to balance their social lives with their work schedule and their studies. That is the ones who actually prioritized going to class and didn’t wake up from a hangover from the last party they attended. Adulting is hard. At least it’s hard to make a substantial difference. Trying to move up the socio-economic ladder is never an easy feat. What I find though from talking to many of my college friends is either that they are wholly confused about their future and have some natural levels of anxiety about their career path, or they feel that college is a scam( I wish I was joking, but no literally there are people attending a public university who legitimately think they’re being scammed.) This is a small minority of people but significant enough to warrant a conversation about students who are unprepared for college life. There is a population of people who are following pipeline dreams (what I mean by this is that these people are just doing what others have told them to do, following the path that was set out before them. It warrants an entirely new phrase. They’re just going down a pipeline. A ‘fast track.’), and they find themselves depressed and unsatisfied with their direction in life. They’re told that college is the road to go down, but so many don’t know how college actually fits into their path. Still they go. It’s the smart move to go with the devaluing of high school diplomas and how hard it is to find a good paying job without a degree. The job market is more competitive than ever, and it takes actual skills and knowledge to make it anywhere. Even with a degree its still difficult to find a good paying job, but it’s still worth it to have one. Most people however want to pursue their passions in life, they want to live a fulfilling life. Because let’s be honest, even though we do live in a society in which we have to work to survive, most people hate their jobs. They rather be doing something they love, and if possible be getting paid for it. I personally think that’s the way life should be. We shouldn’t be spending all of this money, (or going into all of this debt) to pursue careers we won’t be happy in. After all, these jobs are ones we will be working potentially for the rest of our lives.
Maybe It’s Time for a Change of Plans
While I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do with my life at a young age, I did know I wanted to be successful. I wanted to drive a nice car and live in a nice home with a husband and maybe a dog. I wanted nice clothes, nice shoes, nice things to fill that home with. I wanted trips to beaches and luxury hotels. I was young so I didn’t have any real grasp on how much work and determination this type of success would take. Though I did have some thought in mind that it must be difficult since it seemed so rare, at least when I took in my surroundings. But this is the American Dream, right? People work hard to attain the things that they want in life, and anyone can do it. That’s what they told us. After all of my plans in life seemingly collapsed, I found myself sitting on outside my porch tears falling down my cheeks with a bottle of Jack Daniels (Yes, no chaser). I was jobless, out of school, and out of ideas. I hadn’t really known why I was doing anything I was doing. No idea what dream I was even pursuing. Did I really want to be a lawyer? Was I happy working a full-time job that I absolutely hated? What if I actually did earn my degree and ended up hating the job I got with that too? I would’ve done all of this work just to live an unhappy life. I had to re-assess my values. I had to wonder why I wanted to be successful. Did success matter if you weren’t doing the right thing. The thing that actually filled you with purpose and made life worth living. I decided the answer was no. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to decide what makes them happy in life, and to pursue that. I believe that an unhappy life, a life filled with depression and boredom and just overall misery is not a life anyone should have to suffer. We’re all deserving of happiness and the pursuit of it is our right.
After I found a new job (another full-time job at a plant that isn’t the worst job, but isn’t exactly a job I’m passionate about. Pays the bills.), I decided that I was going to put my mind to finding a way to make my passion a viable career path. Since I was a child, I always enjoyed writing, and anyone that I grew up around could tell you this. I was obsessed with books, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings. I wanted to be like J. K. Rowling since I was in second grade. I found myself writing short stories and writing in journals and still to this day I enjoy the art of writing. After doing some deep soul searching, I found that I have a voice, and I wanted that voice to be heard. Everyone has something that they care about. Something that they enjoy doing, something that makes their lives feel meaningful. For some people it is the jobs they currently hold, they’re happy doing labor work or writing up reports in offices and arguing cases in courtrooms (which if I’m being honest does seem fun for people who like to debate and fulfilling to defend people who can’t defend themselves.) For others, well come are still dreaming about being musicians and artists, and some are already successful in those fields. I want to believe that it’s possible for anyone to do what they love and live a meaningful life while still being successful. I want to believe in the American Dream. Which is why I started this blog, and I hope that it really becomes something that I can find success in and I hope it adds value to the lives of others. This blog is my hope. It’s my dream that success is possible for everyone, and I hope to share that dream with my readers. Thanks for reading!