Editor In Chief
Passion is a glorified emotion in our society. Depicted across works of art, described in poetry and pursued as an integral part of human existence. I do not disagree with that assessment; passion gives vitality to many aspects of life, and can improve the world around us. But the necessity of passion has been oversold, mass-marketed as the sole key to success and happiness.
Part of that marketing scheme stems from fear.The dangers of living an ‘empty life’ have been well documented in our culture, from office poster campaigns attempting to inspire workers to films like “Fight Club” and “American Psycho”. There are warnings of an impending societal madness brought about by the suppression of our inner desires. There is widespread horror in confronting the idea that we are members of a featureless grey crowd of productivity. The idea of following your dreams will secure your happiness through individuality is an appealing solution in the face of that fear.
The phrase “do what you love, the money will follow” is emblematic of this ideal. Commonly touted as a path to a happier life and a method to produce better (and more impassioned) work, the basic theory proposes that if you truly love something and are willing to dedicate yourself to that pursuit, success and financial security will one day be your reward.
It’s a message that many people want to hear, particularly because it is commonly accompanied by examples of people who have done just that. Artists to entrepreneurs, the world seems to be full of people that have made a living off of what they love. These people are trailblazers, and some of the most inspirational figures of modern life.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the sentiment of doing what you love, and this advice is usually delivered with the best of intentions. The real danger comes from the connotations that follow: that if you are not doing something you love, then you are in some way wasting your time. The need to reach fulfillment has saturated our culture, particularly the advice aimed toward young people. At a time when many of us are looking for direction in our lives, the power of love is an attractive answer to our questions.
College is a good example of this. I have seen friends change majors, switch jobs, and push their lives into upheaval. Not because they had found something that they truly wanted to pursue, but because they were upset because they didn’t love what they were doing enough. One friend switched their major six times before finding the specific niche they wanted to pursue. This journey of self-discovery took eight years at school, and the arc continued into another three years earning a postgraduate degree. At the end, my friend certainly feels fulfilled with the path their life has taken, and glad that they were able to find their passion. But unlike many other students here at UNCG, my friend came from family wealth and was able to remain in academia without any real risk toward the stability of their life. This is no mark against them; I’m happy for my friend and wish them all the best. But luck of circumstance conspired to help them on this path and many people are less fortunate.
‘Do what you love’ has twisted from the originally intended message and become a source of stress for many people, especially while planning for the future. There has to be a middle ground between despising your career or course of study and feeling joy every time you go to work.
Besides being a recipe for decreasing satisfaction over your path in life, there is a hidden current of classism in the belief that to succeed you only need to follow your dreams. In the time that it takes to become an expert in a chosen field (often niche focuses which are unlikely to be widely profitable), most people must support themselves in the meantime, paying the bills which allow them to pursue their passions.
Those people who are able to devote their lives entirely to a subject they love frequently either have the support of someone else while they wait for the money to follow them, or they must be willing to sacrifice heavily. For many, the ‘starving artist’ stereotype is neither tongue-in-cheek nor a romantic method of survival.
It would be overly pessimistic of me to declare that it’s futile to pursue what you love. Passion does give dimension and value to our lives, and that isn’t negative. If you know what you want to do, be willing to endure other jobs and work toward it slowly.
If there is any lasting advice on how to balance optimism with realism, it would be to find moderation. This applies to the plans we make for our lives as well as anything else. I’m no advocate of living a loveless life; passion is part of what makes life worth living. But love cannot be all you have to sustain yourself. Passion without determination, patience and a willingness to compromise with yourself can curdle just as easily as dissatisfaction.
Use caution and be comfortable with the likely need to balance between what you love and the demands of life. So do what you must, so that both happiness and money follow.