Following My Own Path: The Challenges of Chasing an Unconventional Career

Next year, I’ll be graduating from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Arts in English, an emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. It sounds impressive, if not altogether practical. People always ask: So what do you plan to do with your degree? I can detect the stiff judgment in their face when I reject the assumption that I’ll be a teacher. Isn’t being a teacher the only thing you can do with an English degree? (For the record: no, it isn’t.)

I have a great respect for teachers, and I’ve even had experience being a tutor, but I’ve always known that I would enjoy a less conventional path. College has been all about discovering myself, both socially and professionally. I’ve always pursued the topics that I found most interesting rather than trying to create some kind of straight-lined path to financial stability. Granted, it is important to consider what the future may hold in terms of employment, but I want to give myself the freedom of exploration. If that means that I hold multiple jobs, move between careers, or work freelance, then I’m okay with that. Some people, however, seem to take issue with this uncertainty, which I sense and often feel transferred to my own insecurities.

Despite feeling the weight of expectations, I recognize that I shouldn’t make certain choices just to make other people comfortable. I shouldn’t suffocate my desires or untapped potential in order to prove my worth as a productive member of society. There is an undue amount of pressure placed on high school and college-aged kids to have it all figured out. Even at a very young age, kids are approached with: What do you want to be when you grow up? This question is posed with the assumption that the answer will be straightforward—fireman, doctor, veterinarian, etc. As a kid, I remember this question always terrified me. I wanted to answer it correctly, but I also didn’t want to lie. For so long, I disregarded my own talents and pleasures because I thought I couldn’t make a career out of them.

Music, reading, and writing have always been my escape. Going to an arts high school, I was fortunate enough to have these tendencies enhanced and refined. Even so, I still felt that it was a dream to actually do anything artistic “in the real world.” When I finally got to college, I felt a pressing urge to switch to something more practical. All around me, people were settling into their sensible majors, starting internships, and articulating their career goals. I felt like I was behind the curve because I was ignoring the basic truth of what I liked and excelled in. It took me some time to be honest with myself, but eventually, I realized that my talents lay right in front of me. Why pretend to be anything else?

Many people underestimate the range of diversity that exists in the professional sphere. There continues to be a growth of unique available positions that never existed before today and are still unheard of by most people. Sure, it may take a little more effort and flexibility to enter into these specialized industries, but once you do there is so much opportunity. It’s not just about being a Grammy award-winning artist, Oscar-winning screenwriter, or best selling author; there are so many other creative positions, often behind-the-scenes, in which people thrive.

I think there is also a stigma around what is deemed “successful” in our society. Of course, there are levels of professional achievement, but that has no bearing whatsoever on a person’s sense of fulfillment and happiness. Success should be measured individually—with respect to one’s personal goals and values. One person’s success story may be the conventional steady job and nuclear household. Conversely, another person’s success may look nothing like that. Those of us who are considering less traditional paths must learn not to judge ourselves by comparison. It’s easy to get discouraged when the media is constantly bombarding us with images of who we should be.

So how do creative minds persevere? How do we fight against the pressures to squash our enthusiasm and unconventional lifestyles? For one, we have to be our own cheerleaders. We have to surround ourselves with people in the same boat or at least people who can understand where we’re coming from. There is nothing more encouraging than realizing you’re not alone, you’re not wrong. We also need to help each other out, whether that’s by supporting each other’s creative projects, trading advice, or referring each other to jobs. It’s all about establishing those networking connections.  

For those of us chasing more creative professions, we have to accept that there are a lot of uncontrollable factors. In order to succeed, we must embrace this uncertainty and potential for change. This can be a difficult task for some people; however, it can also be a very valuable learning experience. It’s a good practice to remain open and accepting of the unfamiliar, to step outside our comfort zones and ask questions, make mistakes, face fears. That is what life’s all about, isn’t it?



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I am a student at UC Davis, currently working toward a B.A. in English (with an emphasis in creative writing) and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. I especially enjoy the works of Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare. My affinity for the arts is evident in my support of local bookstores, museums, and theaters. Besides reading and writing, I live for discovering new music and revisiting classic jams from the 70's, 80's, and 90's.

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Following My Own Path: The Challenges of Chasing an Unconventional Career

Next year, I’ll be graduating from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Arts in English, an emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. It sounds impressive, if not altogether practical. People always ask: So what do you plan to do with your degree? I can detect the stiff judgment in their face when I reject the assumption that I’ll be a teacher. Isn’t being a teacher the only thing you can do with an English degree? (For the record: no, it isn’t.)

I have a great respect for teachers, and I’ve even had experience being a tutor, but I’ve always known that I would enjoy a less conventional path. College has been all about discovering myself, both socially and professionally. I’ve always pursued the topics that I found most interesting rather than trying to create some kind of straight-lined path to financial stability. Granted, it is important to consider what the future may hold in terms of employment, but I want to give myself the freedom of exploration. If that means that I hold multiple jobs, move between careers, or work freelance, then I’m okay with that. Some people, however, seem to take issue with this uncertainty, which I sense and often feel transferred to my own insecurities.

Despite feeling the weight of expectations, I recognize that I shouldn’t make certain choices just to make other people comfortable. I shouldn’t suffocate my desires or untapped potential in order to prove my worth as a productive member of society. There is an undue amount of pressure placed on high school and college-aged kids to have it all figured out. Even at a very young age, kids are approached with: What do you want to be when you grow up? This question is posed with the assumption that the answer will be straightforward—fireman, doctor, veterinarian, etc. As a kid, I remember this question always terrified me. I wanted to answer it correctly, but I also didn’t want to lie. For so long, I disregarded my own talents and pleasures because I thought I couldn’t make a career out of them.

Music, reading, and writing have always been my escape. Going to an arts high school, I was fortunate enough to have these tendencies enhanced and refined. Even so, I still felt that it was a dream to actually do anything artistic “in the real world.” When I finally got to college, I felt a pressing urge to switch to something more practical. All around me, people were settling into their sensible majors, starting internships, and articulating their career goals. I felt like I was behind the curve because I was ignoring the basic truth of what I liked and excelled in. It took me some time to be honest with myself, but eventually, I realized that my talents lay right in front of me. Why pretend to be anything else?

Many people underestimate the range of diversity that exists in the professional sphere. There continues to be a growth of unique available positions that never existed before today and are still unheard of by most people. Sure, it may take a little more effort and flexibility to enter into these specialized industries, but once you do there is so much opportunity. It’s not just about being a Grammy award-winning artist, Oscar-winning screenwriter, or best selling author; there are so many other creative positions, often behind-the-scenes, in which people thrive.

I think there is also a stigma around what is deemed “successful” in our society. Of course, there are levels of professional achievement, but that has no bearing whatsoever on a person’s sense of fulfillment and happiness. Success should be measured individually—with respect to one’s personal goals and values. One person’s success story may be the conventional steady job and nuclear household. Conversely, another person’s success may look nothing like that. Those of us who are considering less traditional paths must learn not to judge ourselves by comparison. It’s easy to get discouraged when the media is constantly bombarding us with images of who we should be.

So how do creative minds persevere? How do we fight against the pressures to squash our enthusiasm and unconventional lifestyles? For one, we have to be our own cheerleaders. We have to surround ourselves with people in the same boat or at least people who can understand where we’re coming from. There is nothing more encouraging than realizing you’re not alone, you’re not wrong. We also need to help each other out, whether that’s by supporting each other’s creative projects, trading advice, or referring each other to jobs. It’s all about establishing those networking connections.  

For those of us chasing more creative professions, we have to accept that there are a lot of uncontrollable factors. In order to succeed, we must embrace this uncertainty and potential for change. This can be a difficult task for some people; however, it can also be a very valuable learning experience. It’s a good practice to remain open and accepting of the unfamiliar, to step outside our comfort zones and ask questions, make mistakes, face fears. That is what life’s all about, isn’t it?



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