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.



  1. I think for me I had a practical approach to how I picked a career path. In high school I always wanted a robot army, so when I got to college I went into computer science. When I finally took robotics and artificial intelligence I realized I didn’t like it and that none of my classes transfered to anything else.

    But the one thing I would have loved to do was work with animals. My only issue with that is that I know it doesn’t pay very well because a LOT of people love animals and want to work with them. So I stuck with computers which I don’t particularly like, but I knew from the start it would pay well enough for me to afford to do the things in life that I really wanted to do. Like take nice vacations to places where I could see lots of exotic animals or live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and not be scraping by.

    Now that I write it out it probably wasn’t the best approach, but at least I was thinking practically about what was important to me.

    • I wanted to be a veterinarian too when I was a kid but now I couldn’t imagine cutting open animals. ew. It sounds like you’ve found something for now that pays well, and maybe you can find a way to infuse your passion into your current job. Life is great when you’re able to work with your “passion” but not so great when you can’t afford to do anything as a result.

  2. Hi Ashley,

    Thank you so much for writing this, it really spoke to me. I have gone from modeling to acting, and now being a 2nd year in college. As I get older, I have found to agree with the point you have made :) I would add that I feel as if modeling & acting has helped me with my self confidence as well as speaking in front of others. Even though the more creative side will most likely not be my profession, I believe it has helped me grow into a better person so we shouldn’t cut out passions :)

    • Thank you for your comment – you’re absolutely right, keeping passions alive in your life can be a great way to enhance your creativity or other things that maybe you’re afraid to do. Never give up on your dreams just make sure you don’t let them take over your life until you’re prepared for the risks too! Goodluck with acting and college!

  3. Its a complicated decision. Its good to figure out if what you love is viable financially. Starting it off as a side job is reasonable and seeing how it goes. I think people will really need to carefully consider their decisions based on the particular circumstances.

    • Agreed. Now a days so many people think that if they are not doing their passion as a career that they are wasting their life away, but then end up in a bad spot when they quit their job and realize it wasn’t all they had imagined. It’s good to have a fair warning!

  4. It’s really interesting that for you modeling is actually NOT the dream but the practical choice, when for so many people it’s flipped. I’m in a similar situation — I went to grad school for fiction writing and am pursuing that now alongside a full-time office job, but lately I’ve been thinking about pursuing fit modeling as my non-dream job instead of the office job (I actually have identical measurements to yours, funny enough). I live in Los Angeles, which I know doesn’t have as much in the way of fashion as NYC, but I’m debating whether it might be worth a shot anyway. How do you find the hours to be with fit modeling? Is there enough time to pursue other things you’re interested in (your dream, if you will), or are you basically working full-time between the castings, fittings, and so on? I’d love to know more about your experiences!

    • Hi! If you have the measurements for fit modeling it is absolutely something worth pursuing. It may take some time to build up clients, but the money is amazing and it does afford you the time to pursue other ambitions. I work usually 6 – 10 hours a week and still go to several castings for print, but in between I get into the office for real estate and work on the blog. Email some of the agencies in the city and get some input! Definitely worth exploring.

      • Thanks so much for your reply! I’m definitely planning to look into it :) Do you know if it’s better to work for the fit division of a regular agency, or for an agency that specializes in fit modeling only? There are several fit-specific agencies out here in LA, but I’m wondering if maybe the regular agencies are the ones getting most of the bookings? It’s so hard to tell from the outside.

        Thanks again :)

        • I would check out both. There isn’t one that is preferred over the other, but if you can do print modeling as well, then why not be with an agency that can get you work with both? Its just a matter of who you vibe with and who you think will work best for you.

          • That’s great advice, thank you. I think I may be too old for print work (I’m 27 — is that pushing it?), so I guess either is an option. Thanks for being so helpful!

  5. Great article on a really important topic! Kids in the senior year of high school or while at undergrad should definitely be given this perspective and knowledge. And for what it’s worth, I really enjoy your writing and will buy your book :)

  6. Great read. Thanks for it.

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