Careful What You Wish For: Is Chasing Your Dreams a Bad Idea?

I’ve always insisted that one of my biggest regrets has been not studying English or Journalism so that I could have been a professional writer. I’ve kicked myself for going to a business school to pursue a bachelor of commerce so that I could make the big bucks instead of scraping by as a creative type. After reading an insightful article in Psychology Today, I realize that I actually made a pretty smart decision not to follow my dreams.

The issue is that most people’s “passions” are usually something creative like fashion or art, or in entertainment like sports or acting. Since there is obviously an influx of people into these industries, the available jobs and therefore available pay are very limited. Sometimes the only way to enter is through unpaid internships or volunteer opportunities (aka you’re poor). The PT article pointed out that in a survey of 1,200 people who describe themselves as professional artists, less than 49% made less than $4,900 from sales of their art in the previous year and only 13% fetched more than $25,000. As of 2012, 79% of actors in the union (who are better paid) made $25,000 or less. As a model, I can understand the frustration that goes into showing up to casting after casting and not seeing any results from it – yet so many girls only see the glamorous side of it all which is the small percent of girls who actually book something that ends up in a magazine.

On the flip side, you have those who have big dreams of gaining prestige jobs like becoming a doctor or lawyer, so that they can say that they are a doctor or lawyer. Many college kids don’t consider the fact that after all those years of studying some pretty heavy stuff, it may not be so easy to get full time work and you end up a paralegal – not even making enough to pay off the hefty law school loans. If you do land a great job in a corporate law firm, be prepared for a life consumed with work and not much else. According to a recent American Bar Association survey, half of all lawyers are dissatisfied with their chosen profession, and “associate attorney” is the country’s least happy job according to Forbes. But at least you can tell people you’re a lawyer, right?

Keep in mind that there are other options if you truly want to become a doctor or something of the like. If you have a passion for helping people and that is behind your desire to get involved in that industry, there are plenty of options. You can always become a licensed physical therapist and then earn an online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, if you want to avoid years and years of medical school. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t become a doctor because it is difficult. I’m just saying that you should consider all of your options before taking the plunge.

Ultimately, if you have the motivation, drive and confidence in your abilities you can certainly go out there and crush it. I’ve just seen first hand the damage that not knowing what your “dream job” really entails can do. It’s important to find someone in the industry to speak with and get the realities of becoming successful before you drop everything and sign up for acting/painting/modeling classes (those don’t exist by the way). Maybe you go for it but give yourself a time limit – maybe a year or two max to give it a real chance and then make a deal with yourself to cut your losses and seek something more mainstream.

The best advice seems to be to make what you love your side job to start. Maybe that means creating things in your spare time and selling them on Etsy or performing in local plays or being an instagram model (as many already do). You will have all of the feelings of fulfillment while still being able to pay your bills on time. If you’re good at it, as long as you’re putting it out there in the world  you never know what kind of opportunities can come your way as a result. I write The Frugal Model as a side job and I love my life. Sure, I dream of having my books sold internationally and being able to tell people that I’m a professional writer, but for now I still have my voice and the money to afford my internet connection and that’s a good deal to me.



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