Do what you love
Why your career and your passion can be separate but equal
There is nothing more satisfying than pouring my thoughts onto a page, my words giving people I've never met the means to shape a clearer view of themselves.
Through writing, I achieve a high better than that afforded by any recreational drug. It's safe to say for me, writing is a passion, a hobby which has become so intricately stitched into my personality that I can't imagine looking at the world through any other lens.
By trade, however, I am not a writer. I am a computer programmer. Though I tend to spend more time frustrated over broken programs than I spend embracing the challenge of debugging code, I stand by my choice of study.
Nobody ever forced me to become a programmer — just as nobody ever forced me to express myself through writing. Both of these facets of my identity had a distinct way of registering on their own. And though they technically operate on different ends of the cognitive spectrum, they need not be mutually exclusive.
I was one of the all-too-common first-years who entered college without the slightest idea of what I wanted to do. I spent an unhealthy amount of time envying the English major, whose words reflected his affinity for critical thinking, or the biomedical engineer, whose sense of structured reasoning always lies just below the surface.
I was surrounded by people whose academic interests complemented their personalities, who genuinely seemed confident in everything they were invested in. I was left under the impression that to be indecisive about my career was to be fickle about who I was as a person.
Over the summer, one of my incoming first-year advisees asked, "How do you settle on making a career out of a single topic for the rest of your life? I can't even commit to my plans for tonight." Though I wasn't completely sure of how to answer this question at the time, I've now realized the solution is less complicated than I’d originally thought: make room to do what you love.
I didn't come to the University to hone my creative nonfiction skills. I came to further my education and move on with my life afterward. But I never really stopped to think about utilizing my time here to define myself. I assumed college would be no different from high school, where I would spend every hour counting down the minutes until I could go home, and every day wishing I had invested those hours into something more productive.
For a large portion of my time at the University, some of the same sentiments carried over. In channeling all my energies into various areas I didn't care much about, I distanced myself from what actually mattered most to me. I silenced the voice in my head incessantly pleading for me to write. Only after I found my place as a writer did I realize choosing a major which doesn't exactly fit my idealized personality need not necessarily ruin my entire life.
Making time to do what I love takes a significant amount of pressure off of the idea that my career is the only thing that matters. No matter how eternal it feels to be treading the swamp of panic-inducing exams and tedious homework assignments, I can sleep soundly knowing I'm putting my time here to good use.
One day, I'm bound to retire from my day job — but two things which will always stick with me are the ways the University helped me shape myself, and the raw pleasure of putting words on paper.
Vega’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.