As a kid I felt embarrassed to respond to the simple question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I didn’t want to become a doctor or a lawyer. Nor did I want to be any type of engineer. I didn’t want to run for the President of the United States or find the cure to cancer.
I just wanted to write.
I wanted to spend my days tucked away in some lofted, studio apartment in New York City, writing. I wanted to educate myself on hot topics, research social issues, travel around the globe to immerse myself into cultures that differed from mine—anything I could do to grow my writing.
I didn’t care much about the pay. And I certainly didn’t want to work for, or with, anyone. Seriously, I just wanted to write all day, every day.
So when adults would repeat the dreaded question, waiting for my delayed response, I would always blurt out the first idea that popped into my mind: journalism. Even if I wasn’t very informed about what journalism exactly entailed, I continued to use this as my answer because I knew it dealt with writing. And it sounded kind of cool.
Yet every time I used journalism as my scapegoat for a real answer, my inquisitor bombarded with more questions: Why would you ever want to go into journalism in this day and age? Don’t you know journalism is dying?
Usually, I brushed off the snide comments or acknowledged them with that awkward, uncomfortable laugh you give when you don’t know how to reply to something. I didn’t take these remarks to heart at the time. I knew if I told them what I actually wanted to become, a writer, the clap backs would be much worse.
I advanced through middle and high school and took the required, general education classes everyone takes. Then I began to realize that I really wasn’t interested in anything else but writing. Better yet, I enjoyed every journalism course I took, wishing I could retake them.
Now I knew I belonged in journalism. Though it was tough to make a decision regarding my future, I finally came to the consensus senior year that I would study journalism in college.
And I didn’t really care what anyone thought.
I brought up the possibility of becoming a writer, or more specifically, a journalist, in the past to my parents. But they weren’t so keen on the idea. They were a part of the majority that lived by the “journalism is dead and writing will leave you poor” stance.
Honestly, I might as well have told everyone I wanted to become a professional ballerina because it would make no difference (no shade to dancers—I seriously commend you for your dedication and passion).
A lot of people were very adamant in the persuasive journey of getting me to switch to a career deemed more “sustainable” or “realistic” like engineering or business.
Unfortunately, the constant, overwhelming presence of raising eyebrows and offensive questions is a reality for most people desiring to pursue an “outlandish” career. Whether you tell someone you dream of being a writer, a singer, an artist or an athlete, you’ll most likely leave your interrogator feeling unsatisfied, waiting for an actual answer.
Look past this, no matter how difficult. I learned that the only way you can truly find happiness is to follow your passion and ignore anyone that tells you otherwise. The Taylor Swifts, Anna Wintours and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world didn’t get to where they are today because they did what anyone else told them to do. They didn’t go with the flow or march to the beat of anyone else’s drum but their own.
If it journalism came easy, it look like any other cubicle, 9–5 job. I mean seriously, have you ever heard a kid say they wanted to grow up to become a client data and management information coordinator when they grow up? Doubtful.
So here’s to all the actors, the painters, freelancers, entrepreneurs, travelers, bloggers, stand-up comedians, wedding planners and designers. Do what makes your heart burns. Do what brings sense and purpose into your life.
And if you practice your passion, who cares what kind of car you drive or if you own Gucci slides? The people who do care or bother to call you probably secretly wish they shared the courage to pursue a career involving their passions.
Once you discover your passion or what you want to do for the rest of your life, go for it. Actually, chase it. Chase it until you no longer can run, walk or crawl. Chase it until you can’t stand to chase it anymore. But continue to chase it until you finally achieve it. Only those who put in the extra effort will really succeed in a field they love.
If doesn’t work out and you decide you simply want to wonder in a different direction, then go. That’s the beauty of free will. And time, lots of time. There’s always tomorrow to explore something new. And there’s certainly no shortage of adventure out there in the world.
What are you waiting for? Time is ticking.