As a kid, there's so much pressure to go to college. For most kids, it's more of an expectation than a choice. It becomes less of a will you go to college and more of a where will you go to college. So, you spend your high school years worried about GPA and ACT and a bunch of other acronyms until you finally receive the acceptance letter you've been working so hard for. Then comes the next step, packing up and moving out and all of a sudden everyone's interested in what you're studying. Are you going to be a doctor, a lawyer, a civil engineer? These are the questions that follow college kids everywhere they go, Thanksgiving dinner, the barber, the pet store, it doesn't matter. Everyone wants to know.
But what about the kids that don't want to go to college or those of us who want to be actors, writers or chefs? Even after all of the hype and hullabaloo of actually pursuing a form of higher education, it feels like there's even more pressure to do something "worthwhile." There's value in a neuroscience degree, people see that and they ooh and aah in a way that they don't at a degree in creative writing or graphic design but why not?
As someone who was convinced that social work was always the path for me, I never really had to think about the value of my degree. I was going into social services, I was going to be a counselor or the founder of a grass-roots non-profit to fight for the rights of disenfranchised people. That was worthwhile and the people around me reassured me that I was putting my time and efforts into something meaningful and important. So I never questioned the value of my someday degree and neither did society. Until a few weeks ago that is. I decided to scrap social work and pursue acting and directing. I was and still am over the moon about my new path but it brought that question to mind. I'm now earning a bachelors degree in fine arts, and what the heck do I do with that. Suddenly the feedback on my course of study went from "Wow, you can do so much good with that" to "Oh! a theatre degree? It's going to be hard to find a job with that" or "What are you going to do with that degree?"
I was left excited but admittedly a little frightened. What was I going to do with a fine arts degree? Of course, I want to act, but so does just about everyone else with a theatre focused education. And it is hard to break into the industry and oh my god, the paycheck! How was I going to pay for a house or a dog or like, afford a wedding for my future wife and me? Needless to say, I was a little freaked out and overthinking... to put it modestly.
Then I stopped and I reminded myself that it isn't about the paycheck or the worth that the professional world puts on my knowledge. If I'm going to spend anywhere from four to 10 years studying something then I better love it. It doesn't matter if I'm not performing life-saving surgeries and studying microbiology, that's not everyone's cup of tea. I'm taking classes on scripts and the principles of acting and that doesn't make the education I'm getting any less valuable than that of, say, a lawyer. We're just doing on different tracks. The social services and medicine and law can be just as creative as the arts and in the same way, the arts can be just as revolutionary, healing and helpful as medicine and law.
There's also a big question surrounding how to make a living from a financial standpoint. It's as if the more money you can make in your job, the more successful someone is and again, money can be a concern but it is for everyone at some point or another. And I could make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year but if I'm not in love with my work and what I'm putting all of my time and energy and effort into, then the money means nothing.
Long story long the thing to remember is that as long as you're doing something that brings you joy and makes you feel fulfilled and whatever it is that you choose to do doesn't hurt anyone else, it doesn't matter what you want to be. Be a doctor, an attorney, a writer, computer programmer, an actor or whatever else you want to be! No one can determine the value of your education and your degree except for you. It's not about the money either! If you're doing what you love, then you're winning whether you're making $70, 000 or $1,000,000. Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life. That's what they say and I'd like to believe it!