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Need Advice- How To You Balance Your Passions With A Stable Future

When I was a kid I wanted to get good grades and would put a good amount of effort into assignments even in elementary school. Now in college everything is the same, except I'm not doing as good. I've always loved art, and wanted to do something with animation (and my imagination). My dream job as a child was to work for pixar, and it still is.. But I don't even go to art school. Knowing how competitive it is, I picked the safer route and am working towards a degree with both engineering and business applications.

Lately I've been worrying about my classes, and probably more generally the future. So much so that I went to the doctor and they say I have pretty bad anxiety, and I think it’s mostly because of this- I think that so much of my environment has pushed me to only think about my future. From a child I was told to get good grades and to get into a good school, to graduate and get a good job, etc. Yes I think that an education is incredibly valuable but right now I can't focus on school. All I can think about is what I want to be doing and how I'm not doing it. Among other things, I really love art, being outside, and creating. I can feel those things. Here i'm being tested on my memorization skills- not what I've truly learned. I can't feel that.

As a kid, I had all the time in the world. I did my work, didn't have a car, rode my bike and immersed myself in my hobbies. Now, I'm older and I can't do all of that because of my other responsibilities. I think that too many of my friends lack real passion in anything. They are driven.. but they all want to grow up and get rich- picking majors for what will make them money. Most people around me do school, sit around, and get drunk in between. They’re doing well too, most of my friends are doing better than me. When I get older, I don't want to have to think about what I did in college and how my childhood was spent getting ready for it, which was then spent getting ready for my adult years.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a very loving and understanding family. I have been able to ride donkeys in Santorini and meet Maasai villagers in East Africa- experiences I value more than anything not only because I realize so few are given these opportunities, but because they changed the way I think about things. As I said, my family is very supportive. They know that I do my best and don't put pressure on me, but I'm driven to exceed their expectations and because of this I put a lot of negative pressure on myself. I want them to see that i'm going to make it in the end, so I'm sitting here with my textbook open but really thinking about how i'm not following my dream. I want to explore and find some odd career that I genuinely love, as long as I can support a family and a dog.

Its hard to talk to my friends about this, because they can't seem to relate. No one wants to do anything out of the ordinary with me- I literally have to convince most of my friends to hike with me. Like I said before, they are all pretty much getting their degree for their job and are doing just fine. But for me, It’s so much easier to excel doing the things I’m truly interested in. When I try to ask them for advice on how to do better on tests asking me to draw dipoles or find magnitudes of forces they just tell me its easy and to memorize it. I understand that these things are easy, but I can’t fake my interest or force myself to get immersed. Bringing any of this up would get me a "What’s wrong with you? Stop being weird." I don’t want them to sound like bad friends, because I think I have a pretty broad variety of genuine friends. But they just want to continue through school and keep looking toward the future- they don’t understand where I’m coming from. I want to be exploring New Guinea or helping out at an elephant conservation or establishing my own clothing brand.

As I said before, I truly understand how valuable an education is, but I also know how valuable these experiences are to me. How can I find a balance, because I feel that getting out there and doing something that matters and that I love is much more rewarding. I don't want to finish school, get a job, and think about this when I'm able to retire. I know that’s the sure and safe method to life but I’d rather live modestly with a life’s worth of meaningful experiences than in a big house with none. This is frustrating to me and I will appreciate any responses from anyone who has thought about this.

I value my education and my other passions equally. How can I afford to move forward with them without losing one or the other
gonego gonego 18-21, M 1 Response Nov 13, 2012

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I feel ya. I am in the same boat. It really is tough I must say. Most people choose security over adventure, and I can't blame them, for each of both has its own merits. I get decent grades and I am considering going to law but to be honest I am not even interested in law. The sole reason I am considering going there is to secure financial stability to afford a family, but yet I know that I won't excel in it because I have no interest in it.

You have two options:
1. You can choose both (security and adventure) by partitioning them to different categories. You can get a job in engineering/business despite the lack of interest and do what you enjoy (hike) as a hobby on the side. There are two problems here, though: 1) Despite this offset/balance between the two, I am not sure if you can do well in your job/career without enough interest, 2) You might not have time to do both

2. Choose one. Go with the adventure. But there is something you must know beforehand: you are in for a pretty rough ride, and you won't know where you will end up. You are sacrificing security here. Of course, it is a given that you will give your 120% (if you can't put your best effort just stick with option 1). Your future will be much less predictable and therefore could be either more exciting or nerve-wrecking.

You need to find out why you are nervous. Are you nervous because you are pursuing something you don't like or is it because you are not doing well in general (which coincidentally happens to tie in with the fact that you are pursuing something with no genuine interest). If it is the latter, then you should go for option 1, because you won't be able to handle the unpredictable future. If it is the former, then you should go for option 2, because you are currently experiencing motivational conflicts within yourself and it can only be resolved by pursuing something you enjoy.

Good luck!