As students in high school, we never seem to know what we are doing or where our actions will take us. The future is something that we put off like something as trivial as a math assignment. But the future is not avoidable, and, sooner or later, we will be forced to ask ourselves what we truly want to do for a living. Most students do not have it figured out. But when a teenager actually does have an inkling of what he or she wants to be, too often the student is immediately shut down and faced with condescending comments such as “Ridiculous,” “Are you sure about that?,” or the worst: “A passing phase, you’ll probably go hungry on a job like that.”
I have always been interested in English and literature. A while ago, I saw writing as a door to my future I was willing to open. However, when I voiced this passion to my parents, I was instantly met with criticism of my poor judgment skills and lack of common sense. Why major in English when I can major in medicine and earn so much more money–obviously? Contrary to popular belief, however, teenagers are not completely naïve and out of touch with reality. We understand the difficulty of reaching our dreams. I surely do know the difficulty of making it as a well-paid writer. But the prospect of working my way into a job that I have no interest in, one that will surely be the bulk of my routine and encompass my entire life, terrifies me to no extent.
I understand that I should consider the reliability of my chosen career and that there may be more risks than rewards to it. However, there is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that more often than not, students’ dreams are shunned and pushed back without one impression of consideration. Is it so wrong for someone to want to follow his or her dream? Should we really place financial success above passion?
Parents play a major role in a student’s choice of career. They have a right to be involved in their child’s decisions, but they can sometimes strip their child of all passion and ambition and reduce him or her to nothing but a being of stress and apprehension. A reality check is, of course, important, but all teenagers deserve the chance to have a dream or a goal that can lead them to a job that they truly want and will enjoy.
Money is the second major factor. People will often veer from their dream jobs such as a photographer, fashion designer or dancer to something more “practical” and “safe.” I want to believe that all people who choose such paths are happy. But the fact is that there are more sob stories than tales about how “changing my major last minute because I felt financially insecure in my last one” was a great decision. The average yearly salary for a doctor is $83,000. The average yearly salary for a professional dancer is $37,000. A professional engineer’s is $87,000. A professional photographer’s is $26,000 (Indeed.com). Of course, there are many different types of doctors and dancers, just as there are different types of photographers and engineers, but on average, the salary of an engineer is more than three times that of someone who practices in the visual arts. It is reasonable to consider financial aspects of future careers, but to what extent? We should not let it cripple our decisions and put a restraint on our passions.
I am at a standstill as to what I want to do in my future, and I wholeheartedly wish it weren’t so. But when I admit to relatives or friends that I am interested in English, I always feel the slightest bit of apprehension, even shame, for their inevitable next words – “Are you sure? Is that really the wisest choice?” Even if they don’t say it, I can almost see them thinking it. This is reality: our generation is taught to place dreams aside with a slap in the face and a bitter taste of real life. But even with so many voices trying to lead us to directions we do not want to go, we should never stifle the dreams that define us.
Written by STACEY YU