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Jun 17 2016
by Emily Luong

Following my Dreams vs. Following the Money

By Emily Luong - Jun 17 2016
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Let’s be completely upfront here. I will be an incoming freshman in college with the intention to major in English and someday become a journalist, editor and/or author. And I can probably guess that you did not once widen your eyes in amazement or whistle impressively while reading this. For that, I don’t know whether to lower my head in shame or simply take it in stride.

During these past few months, amidst committing to a college, high school graduation and graduation parties, asking what I plan to study in college has become default conversation starters with friends and family and I absolutely dread them. Their reactions to my prospective major say it all: they simply expect more from me. Although they do not explicitly voice their opinions out loud, their surprised "ohs" and sudden lack of interest in continuing the conversation further convey their disappointment as obviously as a slap in the face. And it hurts. It hurts so incredibly much. A dismissal of my passion for reading and writing honestly feels like a dismissal of who I am as a person, my identity, and what I stand for.

Yes, a career in journalism, publishing or creative writing does not pay the bills all that well. It does not turn heads, does not spice up resumés and does not produce tangible results for others to measure. But at the same time, I have no interest in becoming a hotshot lawyer or a heroic brain surgeon. My friends and family do have good intentions in being concerned for my future, but unfortunately, the driving force for this concern is the archaic and false concept that the more income one earns and the more impressive his or her career looks on paper, the more successful he or she will be.

Those who do find their passion, no matter how unconventional or financially unsustainable it may be, should have every right to feel the same respect and sense of importance to society as individuals pursuing other fields. Why must the "pursue a career because you are passionate about it, not because it earns a lot of money or is prestigious" advice given to most incoming college students be considered more of a cliché than a wise word of wisdom that should be taken seriously? Since when did money and rankings become much more desirable than intrinsic happiness?

I understand that my belief regarding my future career is one that oozes privilege. I understand that for some people, it is not financially possible to simply exchange a job that pays the bills for a career that might seem unpredictable and not materially rewarding. But those who can afford to do so, why not take advantage of the opportunities available?

Maybe I am being naive--after all, I have yet to experience the complexities and challenges that individuals face in the work force.  Maybe this philosophy of mine is only feasible in an Utopian society. But there is one thing I know for sure: whether I do pursue that English major or a completely different field of study, I will try my best to put my happiness first. If there is one thing that the Internet has taught me, it is that you only live once. 

Lead Image: Green Chameleon via Unsplash 

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Emily Luong - Smith College

Emily Luong is a first year student at Smith College (class of 2020) and plans to major in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. In high school, Emily was the Arts and Entertainment Editor of the school newspaper, an intern staff writer for the local newspaper, and the captain of the swim team. In her free time, Emily enjoys writing short stories, reading fantasy novels, and binge watching TV shows on Netflix. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @emilyjaieluong

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