As an older millennial living in Asia, I grew up with two conflicting pieces of advice regarding my career path. My parents and family wanted me to pick careers that would ‘guarantee’ a good income, such as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, dentist, well you get the drift. On the other hand, there was advice to follow your passion from the media and people who had ‘made it’. They were saying things like, “if you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life” and “follow your dreams, work hard for it. Don’t let other people tell you what to do”.

Naturally, the latter was received better than the advice I got about picking a job that had a good income.

via GIPHY

“Life is more than just about money!” I would think to myself. I shunned subjects like Chemistry, Physics, and Accounting, and immerse myself in the subjects I really liked. While I was pretty good at Mathematics, my true love was English. 

I sometimes wonder if I would have been more interested in Science classes if they were taught using more interesting methods. My school teachers were more interested in rote memorisation rather than ensuring we actually understood the subject. However, back then and now, I was more interested in disappearing further into the world of English words – so that was where I chose to go.

I even got an English degree. University was my favourite time in life, where I would go to university to do things like discuss Jane Austen’s works and how relevant they were in a modern context.

Should you follow your passion or do it for the money? Image: Pexels/ Liza Summer

How “Follow Your Passion” Didn’t Work Out for Me

Now, an English degree may be considered ‘useless’ in the Western world, but it would still be considered somewhat useful in Asia. My English degree opened the road to me to become a magazine writer immediately a couple of months after graduating.

I was ecstatic… until I was not.

I have always wanted to be a magazine writer, but I soon realised that it was not a viable career path in my country. The pay was low (of course), the hours were long, and I was told to be grateful as it was a ‘glamourous’ job.

via GIPHY

Glamorous did not pay the bills, which were piling up the older I got.

As if to confirm my suspicions about being a magazine writer, the magazine soon called it quits after two years of existence. I had already left by then, but hearing the news made me certain that even though I had always wanted to make writing a career, it wasn’t happening.

Did this make me wish I had chosen another career path, though? No. 

Sorry, mother.

How “Following Your Passion” Worked Out After All

After I started working and bounced back, I realised that there was a flawed misconception which I had about passion. 

I had thought that passion was static, that there were only a few routes I could pick based on my passion. I narrowed down my own options by thinking that I wanted to love my job by following my passion. 

However, work is work. If you follow your passion, it is still work. Work comes with its own ups and downs no matter how much you love what you do. The phrase “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life” is overly generalising. In my case, I came to find out it was not true.

The people you work with matters. The company’s culture matters. Having a well-defined job scope and proper working hours matter. Your real-life commitments matter. I could love writing, but if I were exploited by the company and underpaid, I wouldn’t love my writing job very long.

Image: Pexels/ Charlotte May

 

What about loving what you do?

Another thing about passion is that it evolves, just as the world does. I love writing, but writing does not just exist in the media. Every company requires employees who are good at communication. Luckily for me, that is the root basis of why I loved reading and writing in English, along with other languages.

Right now, I’m lucky to have a source of income where a form of my passion still exists in my job scope. Additionally, I still create and write content in my spare time on my own terms, which is the writing I wanted to do all along.

I honestly wish people had told me earlier that it is okay if I don’t completely love my job. I wish I knew that it is okay if my job isn’t my passion or my dream. What matters is that I can wake up on weekdays without dreading my job, have a steady source of income, and still be able to do what I love to do in my spare time.

“Get by without hating your job or life”, is my new career advice for myself. That may not be as exciting as “follow your passion” and “hustling until you make it”, but you know what? I am fine the way I am now, and that is what matters.