Overcoming others’ expectations about pursuing a career in the arts

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I am sure everyone can relate to the feeling of having others’ expectations for your career path completely cloud your judgment.

People have this idea that if someone decides to pursue higher education, they are working toward a “traditional career path.” The traditional career path usually corresponds with being in medicine, law or tech. It is often expected of us to pursue “noble” careers that both serve others and lead us to financial security — a path that I am sure most want to follow.

However, these expectations are often fueled by narrow perceptions of race or gender, resulting in barriers on certain careers. Others’ opinions on how women should not work in tech or how men should not be nurses are caused by problematic expectations that are still an issue for youth today.

Growing up in a low-income, diverse and misogynistic household, I was always told that I had to study and pursue a career in medicine or law if I was ever going to “succeed” in life. Everyone used to tell me that I should be a doctor or a lawyer, and to be smart about what career I chose.

I realize now that they only cared about the advantages and honor those careers may bring to them. Parents love to brag to other people about their children making a vast amount of money because they listened to their parents’ “advice.” People also feel entitled to the advantages of someone’s career because they are related to them.

But the youth should be encouraged to look for a career path that better suits their personal interests, rather than the expectations of others.

I have always wanted a career in the arts: I have dreamt of being a graphic designer or an illustrator. My mother would always tell me that it is OK to have dreams such as these, as when I become older, I would set those “childish” dreams aside and be thrown into the “real world” to deal with a “real career.”

I would tell her that I was not going to change my mind.

Art was something that called to me. I have always been passionate about it. Why should I listen to her and not chase my dreams?

I discovered my passion for poetry in high school, which drove me to find a career in writing by starting a book of poetry that I hope to self-publish. People continuously told me that while poetry is a good hobby, I should be “realistic” and find something better to fall back on.

My response was the same as it has always been: I am going to be a writer, and I would rather follow this passion that will make me happy, even if it may not lead to riches.

Now that I am in college, I have realized that I want to pursue a career in journalism while keeping my dream of publishing my poetry alive. Writing is a career that goes unnoticed because of its unconventional attributes: It is financially insecure and has dwindling job prospects.

People may say that I should not “waste my time” searching for career opportunities in journalism when news is widely accessible through our devices. Since 2004, more than 2,000 local newspapers have gone out of print because technology has taken over our lives.

People also say that the media is dangerous, biased, competitive and any other dismissive adjective they can think of. And I say to them that I want to change the world through journalism.

I both love and hate the news. I hate how it portrays good people with misleading images, I hate its quickness to identify problems but not solutions, I hate that it often lacks much-needed funding. If local journalism was a break-even industry and didn’t need to make double-digit profit margins, it would not be as underfunded. But journalism matters and will live on, despite financial shortcomings.

I decided to choose a career in journalism because it will make me happy. It combines skills I have learned from personal experiences and in school, allowing me to create art in my own way.
Others’ expectations can make an intense impact on our choices. Parents can be our toughest critics, but the burden really falls on ourselves. This pressure from other people and the expectations that it has created is pointless because, at the end of the day, we are going to deal with the repercussions of an unfit and unfulfilling career.

You have to ask yourself: Is this really the career that is going to make me happiest? Is it really better to make more money and deal with existential dread, or is it better to choose a career in which I am truly satisfied?

The choice is yours, and you should not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Contact Gisselle Reyes at [email protected] .