31 January 2013

Passions or stability?

A couple days ago my good friend posted a blog post about following your dreams. It is a thought-provoking post. I think many of us are torn in the desire to "pursue our passion" (perhaps not-lucrative ones) and the desire to lead a stable life, with a steady income. I feel like society sends us a lot of mixed messages. Like "Pursue your passion!!!", but at the same time, societal norms dictate that the American Dream includes a mortgage (and recently it seems that it demands a mortgage on a house that is really too big). With so many mixed messages being sent it's hard to know what to think.

I have found it a challenge to reconcile my passions and the desire to live a lifestyle where I can afford the things I need, and live within my means, all while not living in a box under a bridge. At the same time I also struggle with the idea of finding a "passion" that I can pursue as a career, that I'm both passionate enough about to do 40 hours a week, and yet not so passionate about that I'd hate spending 40 hours a week doing it. I'll admit that I also never really imagined myself as having a career. I'm not sure what I imagined, because I've known for sometime that I will most likely need to work the majority of my adult life, but I've just never envisioned a career. That's kind of a big scary word. Career. It sounds so final, and so irreversible. Even though I know that's not true. I remember hearing a statistic once when I was a freshman in college that for people my age they were likely to have approximately 8-10 major career changes in their life. That news stunned me. I had never imagined changing careers every 4 of 5 years. I still have a hard time imagining that. I mean, after you look at the nearly 20 years I've put in to educating myself for this one career, I really hope it sticks. But at the same time it seems a little ludicrous to ask a bunch of twenty year olds to know themselves enough for them to pick a career they're going to be happy in for 35 or 40 years. Things change. When I was 18, I wanted to be a high school band director. Then I wanted to be a museum curator (actually I still think that'd be cool). And then I moved on to other things... Even in the one year that I've been in library school (which has a fairly obvious career destination--librarian) I've changed what I want to be several times (did you know that there are about a million different kinds of librarians?). I'm still not sure what I'll end up as when I rejoin the world of gainfully-employed people.

I think pursuing your passion perhaps has more to do with creating a lifestyle that allows you to have all your priorities in balance and that gives you opportunities to be your best self, than about choosing between a single passion and some kind of stability.

I've been thinking a lot about lifestyles lately as I'm getting to a point where I think that the light I see ahead is actually the end of the tunnel, not just an oncoming train. Before I started grad school I worked professionally for a year, and the lifestyle I led then would never have been sustainable in the long term.  And so I'm trying now to develop a lifestyle that is sustainable--and it's hard. But I think that when you hit the right balance of work/life/hobbies/etc, then you can find fulfillment and both be following your passion and leading a life with the stability you want.

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