When, as kids, we tell the adults in our lives what we want to be, their responses tend to be predictable. If we want to do something artistic, creative or entrepreneurial, then our aspirations may be called unrealistic. More tactful adults might say, “That’s nice, but you need a plan B in case it doesn’t work out.”
These reactions are understandable. Those who care about us want us to be financially secure. They don’t want us to have to worry about keeping ourselves fed and having a roof over our heads. But I think their attitude is misguided.
For one thing, the ‘realistic’ options aren’t as secure as they used to be. So many people have degrees these days that competition for well-paid jobs is huge. In most industries, there just aren’t enough jobs to go around, especially with the rise of automation and the decline of manufacturing in many industrial nations. You might work hard for that secure job, only for it to disappear within a year. There are no guarantees anymore, so why not pursue what you really want to do?
I personally fell into the ‘realistic’ trap whilst taking my A-Levels. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and work from home. Often, I spent lunch breaks working on a novel in the library. I hated the thought of having a 9 to 5 job. Initially, I chose English literature, Art, French and Computer Science as my A-levels, picking purely what I was interested in. But when I started thinking about university, fear took hold. I felt like I had to go, but I didn’t particularly want to. And everyone said it was impossible to get a job with an English degree.
I decided that there was only one thing for it – to pursue Computer Science. There was plenty of work in that field, and salaries were high. There was just one problem – all the Computer Science courses at the prestigious universities I looked at required A-level Maths. Hastily, I dropped French and took up Maths, having to catch up on more than a month of missed work.
I made it onto the Computer Science course at a top university, and immediately began to struggle. Though I was good at programming, many of the modules were very maths-oriented. I soon discovered I wasn’t as interested in the subject as I thought I was and found it difficult to stay motivated. In school, I had always been a high achiever – now, my marks were mediocre. Worse, I had no time or energy to devote to my writing.
We were strongly encouraged to do a placement year between the second and third years of our course. Beginning to worry about the future, I applied for it. But the positions, though well-paid, all seemed hopelessly dull. Investment banks and software development companies dominated. I couldn’t stand the thought of working in such a structured environment, helping a large (and probably unethical) company to make more money.
Eventually, I dropped out of the program. I was feeling increasingly depressed about going back for my final year, especially since all my friends were on placement. Then a friend pointed out something obvious – I didn’t have to go back. There were tons of things I could do instead. By this point, I knew I didn’t want to go into computing, so why waste another year of my life?
He was right. I dropped out with no plan (much to my parents’ dismay!), and began trying to work out what to do with my life.
One of the first things I did was rediscover my love of writing. I started Little Green Seedling and began to dabble in online writing. And recently, I decided to delve into full-time freelance writing. It will probably be a while before I’m earning a full-time income, but I have some savings behind me and I’ve decided I’m okay with the temporary insecurity.
So here’s my question to you – is it realistic to expect yourself to slave away at a job you hate for 30+ hours a week? Is that sustainable in the long run, given the stress it will bring? Is financial security worth sacrificing your happiness (and possibly health) for?
If you have unfulfilled ambitions, that’s amazing because it means you have something to work towards. The process of getting there is always going to be scary, but it’s so worth it. It’s not like you have to immediately quit your job – you could go part-time and work on your passion on the side. Or you could do some relevant volunteering to gain experience, and that may lead to something more.
I was recently looking for a room to rent. When I went to viewings and talked to the older people living in those houses about what I do, they often responded with “Good for you”. Usually, they then went on to tell me how awful their jobs were. I don’t want to end up like that.
Many entrepreneurs say they only found success by carving out their own path, in some cases creating a job that didn’t even exist before. Drive and determination can get you a really long way. If the world can see that you’re passionate about something, then that thing may just become profitable too. Almost anything is better than having a job you hate and dread doing.
If you’re a creative type, the internet now provides an amazing opportunity to showcase and sell your work. You have potential customers all over the world. Plenty of people are bound to love what you do.
On the other hand, you may be perfectly happy working 9 to 5. Or you may dislike it, but think that the money is worth it. Maybe you’re content to work a job you don’t particularly like and pursue what you enjoy in your spare time. And any of these things are fine. But if you’re unhappy and craving a change, then what’s holding you back?
I would love to hear what your dreams and aspirations are and whether you think you can achieve them. Feel free to let me know in the comments. Oh, and if you happen to need a freelance writer for your amazing new venture, then I’m right here! 😉