Passion vs. Money: What I’ve Learned Since Graduating College

They say if you follow your passion the money will come. I agree with that 100%, though you can’t expect always to make a lot of money by following your passion. Also, as you mature, your passion(s) may shift, causing your once “dream job” to become — like any other job — “just a job.”

So should you follow your passion or follow the money? That’s a tough one. Here’s what I did. I was too scared to follow my true passion (performing) due to a few reasons — I fear failure, I don’t believe I have enough talent, I may actually not have enough talent, I’m afraid of rejection, I wanted to make a decent living, I don’t have the physical beauty required for Hollywood, nor the true dedication to performing the same role night after night in a professional performance career.
When it came time to choose what I would do out of college (where I had obtained a “3.0” liberal arts education and obtained an affinity for the “quotation mark”) I was in awe of all the possibilities, yet convinced none of them would open their doors to me. What I didn’t do in college was think through my career clearly. I didn’t take may practical courses. My only internship was at a program that despite being run by outside journalists was within the school and titled using the college name (ie, didn’t sound that impressive, despite that I was doing work for major TV stations and newspapers). As college came to a close I freaked and applied for internships around the country for something I thought I might be good at related to my passion… public relations and marketing. While getting the internships came easy, my passion did not. I quickly learned that veering off to the right of your passion doesn’t qualify as actually following your passion. It just kicks you in the face day after day, which for some people, like myself, leads to depression.
That year was the first year in my life when I felt like I was actually depressed. The fear of what’s next and knowing this wasn’t what I wanted to do (non-profit marketing really requires you to believe in the cause and I lost that conviction – the arts suddenly seemed just as evil as any big corporation, and the strain of constantly needing to raise money and sell tickets, and being an indentured servant (ie slave with free housing) during that situation didn’t help. I know I would have done a better job had I understood how that internship would be a building block to a career I’d love, but I didn’t see that. I left the internship a few months in. Well, I was let go, because I lost all motivation to lick envelopes, check the mail, and organize files when just in the building over live art was being created. I was jealous of the person who landed the creative internship (my first choice, which I didn’t get) and my bitterness was the end of that.
Luckily, it took me a short time to recover from the “job” loss because even in the deepest of my depression I knew I had to keep pushing forward. Mostly this was due to the fact that I had one month of housing left to get my act together, and then I’d be kicked out of the intern housing, and I knew I did not want to go home. So I frantically applied for every job I could find on Craigslist and I applied for more internships. I applied for everything. I must have sent out over 3000 resumes that month.
Then came a call for an internship at a newspaper. It paid diddly squat (you got a small fee when your stories got published, but that would not be enough to pay rent) and it was part time. I took a train for two hours south to interview for the position. I needed to get this internship because I felt that at least I’d have some creative autonomy as a journalist, and I could tell the lack of any creative control is what killed me at my first attempt at a full time job. I was offered the position and despite knowing my savings would take a beating those few months I at least had a direction to keep me afloat. I found a cheap place about a half hour from the internship and started looking for a car, which I’d need to get around my new home. I didn’t know anyone in an hours drive of where I was moving, and this scared me a bit, but not much. I packed up my stuff and moved it all on the train for a day, taking the train back and forth and dragging my heavy luggage (luckily I didn’t have too much with me since I had flown out to my internship in the first place).
This move, which I thought would cure my depression, definitely sent me on the right path, but I don’t think I’ve quite recovered. Since then I’ve been through a few different careers, all involving writing, which has led me closer to whatever it is I’m meant to do, but I’m still on this journey. Every day I’m faced with the question of whether to follow my passion of the moment (always changing) or the money (a constant) and if it’s possible to find something that combines both.
One thing I do know is that my passion isn’t money alone. I couldn’t spend my life as a salesperson (unless I believed in the product 100%). On my last entry, a commenter suggested that I look into a career in sociology and I think that might really be my passion. I minored in sociology in college, more because the reading materials and conversations in those classes were the highlight of my college experience. I could see myself writing books about modern culture, as while my passion for performing a subsided through the years, I’ve always loved a good conversation about what we do what we do and what makes us do it. Not really in the psychological sense, though I’m very interested in social psychology, but in the cultural sense. I’d love to study money, family, gender, technology, childhood, the economy, education and every pieces relation to happiness.
But can that actually be a career? Would I have the ability and attention span to get a PhD and find a small topic to research and become an expert in (even my above interest in happiness and culture is too vague for graduate school.) I might enjoy this more than other options I have, but one thing I learned in undergrad is that majoring in sociology (or any liberal arts field) is a no-no when it comes to obtaining a career. A PhD is another story, but I don’t see myself as a PhD. I don’t see myself a professor. On the other hand, maybe I’d love it. Maybe that’s the type of “performing” I’ve been craving all along.
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6 thoughts on “Passion vs. Money: What I’ve Learned Since Graduating College”

  1. I just finished applying for the PhD in sociology for next year, so let me know if down the road you want to pursue this and you have questions about the process at all. I understand it's a scary field to pursue because you don't think of rich sociologists necessarily. I struggle with that too – I applied for a PhD in economics 2 years ago, and the universe aligned in my favor and I was rejected. (The coursework would have made me really unhappy, as it turns out). However, I wonder some days whether I should have sucked it up and gone after the money. I really relate to your posts lately, sorry if I'm being a creeper by commenting on everything. 😛

  2. You're not being creepy! I love comments. 🙂 and readers who relate to my blog. Would love to chat more about your applying to grad school via email or something.

  3. I just graduated as a journalism major, and although I'm not wanting to go into PR or anything, I'm really not sure that I want to be a hardnosed news reporter. I'm going to apply for a position as a publications coordinator at my university, but I'm a little afraid if I do get it and take it, I'll be doing myself a disservice in the long run by going off the path and working in what seems like a somewhat random position.

  4. Interesting post about the finding your passion and the possibly ever changing nature of our passions. I don't think law is my passion and I don't think there is one thing out there that will make me happy. I think it will be different things at different periods in my life.

  5. I have two good friends that are in PhD Sociology programs (one at Northwestern and one in Rochester). Yeah, they hate their lives. But they a forging ahead because this is something they truly believe they want to do. At the end of the day, that is what is getting them through this 6 year commitment. So I think you should take some time to be meditate upon the direction of your life. Find what makes you happy and then work from there.

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