May 17, 2007

Pursue the Passion - Three recent college graduates dealt with the post-college "What now?" freak out by touring the country and interviewing professionals who are passionate about what they do.

They compiled the interviews and created this site to give people tools to transition into meaningful careers. I spent the summer after graduating with my undergrad degree basically freaking out and hiding under the covers wondering what to do with my life. This site made me wonder how many people out there are doing or working towards doing what they love. Are you? If so, what helped you get there?

  • The reason most people don't do something like this is that they have to immediately start earning a living. Heck, I'd be out there tomorrow pursuing my passion and following my bliss if I had the thousands of dollars a month I'd need to cover my prescriptions without insurance.
  • Yea, there's the lucky ones, and the rest of us.
  • For years and years I ran big restaurants and nightclubs. It was fun. It was crazy. It wasn't me. I knew what I loved was antiques and junk. I quit. I got a job as a grunt for the best antique dealer in Chicago. I watched, learned, and listened. I started my own antique business. Now... I sell absolute crap fine antiques for a living and am happier than I have ever been in my life. Am I rich? No. Is there the potential to find something that will make me rich? Yes. Is it a tough business? Yep. Am I happy? Fuck yes. Follow your dreams. Life is worth living.
  • Argh: Did/do you have hostages to fortune? Were/Are you free to up and change jobs/careers/cities at the drop of a hat? Did/do you have a mortgage/car payments/your mum to take care of? Are you healthy? How old are you? Sure, you can dump a lot of the externals--a house, a job, furniture, but you can't dump your kids/mum/your special pet, and sometimes health and age won't warrant taking the risks that you might if you didn't have other considerations. I gave up a lot for a long-time marriage and kids. I got a lot out of it, too. Some of it unexpected. Would I do it again? Some days, yes. Some days, no. Would I do it differently? Sure. My hindsight is perfect 20/20. Am I willing to stay in the same spot I am now? No. What am I going to do about it? Dunno. But I'll evaluate, and hopefully, I can keep the things that bring me comfort and make me happy, and find new things that excite and fulfill me. Life is always worth living, even when you have to make sacrifices.
  • Being an accountant isn't what I wanted when I first went to university. I had dreams of being a psychologist, but Berkeley, at the time, was into behaviorist theory and we studied fruit flies, rats, and chickens instead of people. When I went back to school years later, after working as a bookkeeper, solving the puzzles of money in and money out did fascinate me, and making an entry in one place would echo through the financials of the company I worked for, kind of like music. Later on, I moved into a finance role, where I was a consultant to the sales force and spent a lot of time negotiationg with customers. I really got off on being able to find out what the customer really wanted and finding a way to provide that without giving up what my employer wanted. And, I never lost interest in the process. There are some of you who may find this upsetting, but, you know what, it was beneficial. Just think of the effect of companies not being able to reach reasonable agreements. Your toys would cost you much more. While it may not look like it, my point is that you can't always tell in the beginning what will bring you satisfaction later on. The surprises are the best part.
  • I'm having deja vu: I remember seeing a tv show a few times about three recent college grads touring the U.S.A. in a winnebago, interviewing people who had jobs or made jobs for themselves which strayed from the norm. I just did a search and found it was a PBS show called "Roadtrip Nation". The green from these students gushes forth in the series during the interviews, which tend to be fairly informal. It was a half-decent show, but the sound-track was awesome.
  • I was born with an all-consuming passion for banking. Numbers get me hot.
  • I haven't pursued my passion because I was scared. I grew up in the (overeducated) Northeast, and it's impossible to find a job. I have a volunteer position right now that I've realized - only in the past few weeks, when they haha-only-seriously called me 'boss' - will be a fantastic launching pad for a career. However, it may launch me into the Middle of Nowhere, NE. That's what I'm scared of. I'm scared I'll never make it back. Well, you know what? Screw it. A year or so more and I think I'll be able to make the jump. I have some concrete goals at the volunteer position, and once I do those, I'll be in golden for those good jobs in crappy places. If I don't make it back? To hell with it. I'll have my (currently hypothetical) goat farm and my job and that'll do.
  • I think My Currently Hypothetical Goat Farm would make an excellent name for a rock & roll band.
  • I hvae always envied the surety with which people who know what they love and seek it out proceed through their lives. But I have never been one of them. I have never found the THING, the one calling that draws me inexorably in. Instead, I have gone from place to place, avocation to avocation, without every really finding the one that I could call my own. I do well at most things I set my mind to, and take pleasure in that - the satisfaction of a job well done, increasing power, reponsibility and recompense. And I have had dreams - once, I hoped to be a novelist. But as reality diverges increasingly from the possibility of that ever occuring, as I increasingly must acknowledge that I have neither the talent nor the inclination to truly pursue such a course, I must reconcile to the fact that like most of us, I will ultimately lead a life of rather average means and mark, and never be famous, nor rich, nor influential. This is difficult for I am, as we are all, in our heads, the protagonists in the fascinating and compelling drama of the Story of Me. (you'll laugh! you'll cry! you'll barf! See it today!) I take comfort and direction, since that reconciling, in what I have since taken as my main avocation: ensuring the safety, comfort and requirements of my family and those dear to me, and passing through this life as a gentleman, giving no offense and taking little, enjoying those pleasures that life presents, making the machinery of life and purpose work a little more smoothly in my infinitesimal way, and otherwise avoiding the prevailing madnesses that capture people and seeking to be a rock of cultured equanimity, albeit small, is a sea of ungovernable irrationality. That, I have decided, is enough. But in the end, I do wish that, perhaps someday, I will find the thing that I love to do, and do it. In the interim, it is enough to do a journeyman's job and go home with clrea conscience that I have brought more than I have taken, to spread such bounty as I take to those that I cherish and, after, those that need, and to enjoy those products of me that, while beyond my capacities to create, are well within them to enjoy and appreciate.
  • those products of MEN, doh. Sorry. The muse, she was upon me :)
  • The reason most people don't do something like this is that they have to immediately start earning a living. Heck, I'd be out there tomorrow pursuing my passion and following my bliss if I had the thousands of dollars a month I'd need to cover my prescriptions without insurance. posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:19AM UTC on May 18, 2007 True dat, TUM. It's depressing, but true. Type I Diabetes is considered pretty livable as most chronic diseases go, but it keeps me pretty well nailed down to a job with a company big enough to have a group insurance plan, as individual is out for me. So yeah, "freelance writer/novelist" is hard to envisage from my current place. :(
  • (I've always enjoyed the Story of Fes. I would buy it on CD if it were somehow possible to have it narrated by the late Alan Maitland.)
  • Fes, I'd expect you are a genuine hero to your kids. At least, unless they're teenagers. In which case you should take delight in a new HD DVD player.
  • For my entire carreer I have been doing almost exactly what I wanted to do since I was twelve (and my dream of playing for the Maple Leafs faded into house-league reality). It's not glamorous, and it bores most people, but it's me. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to say that.
  • These are all really interesting responses. My life has changed so much recently ... five years ago I decided I needed to go back to school. Three years ago I quit my corporate job and went to graduate school half way across the country. One year ago I graduated. Six months ago, I discovered a new direction for my life. Two months ago I decided to start my own business. One month ago, I started it. It's exactly what I wanted to do even though I never knew it. I was lucky to have a wonderful husband (with health insurance) who never once said, "You're crazy." He always, always supported me and said only that he wants me to be happy. But I still had to take big risks, and there are lots of people who don't have that kind of back up system. I really feel like a big part of it is sticking to the idea that it can be done and to an insane degree. (The health insurance thing is a tough one, but there are more and more guilds and organizations for the self-employed who offer plans with membership.) And I've noticed that once I started focusing on something I am passionate about, that energy helps find ways around problems for me. It's a rush. I read the blog of a woman who is a single mother of three kids and she's sold several books so far. They're small press, some children's books, etc., but she has a passion for writing and keeps doing it in addition to her "bring home the bacon" job. It drives her and makes her feel like she has a real place in the world and I believe that one day she's going to be able to quit her corporate job. Anyway, thanks for your responses. This whole topic is fascinating to me right now.
  • I was very secure in the fact that I wanted to be a web designer for a long time, and that made me very happy. I worked on my own website, did a few on the side, and furthered my knowledge and talent whenever I could. Then I did a site for a relative that brought the reality of the business crashing down, and my passion fizzled out. For a few years, I was simply devastated. I had no idea what I wanted to do, no real desire to do anything at all. I still don't, really, but I take satisfaction in my family and my gardening, and that helps.
  • Fes, I'd expect you are a genuine hero to your kids. Thank you :) But I don't think I am any more so than any other father. I'm no superman - I sometimes work late, I go on business trips, I get grumpy, I yell at them when they piss me off, sometimes I have to punish them for the things they do, sometimes I am brusque, sometimes I ignore, sometimes I would rather sit still than play. I fight those tendencies, and I have taken the tack that I am their father first and friend second, which clarifies my responsibilities on certain things. But they are my sons, and I place inordinately, almost Elizabethan, emphasis on that. My own early life was, shall we say, not what you'd call the norm, so my providing them the stability, guidance and comfort that I did not have is very important to me, as is taking those steps to ensure they grow up to be proper men.
  • *Thinks that Fes' kids will help make the world a better place*
  • I will happy andn consider my job well done if they do not make it a worse place, and comport themselves with honor, industry and good-naturedness. To that end, I'll try to be a decent example, get them as fine an education as I can, make sure they know of the world outside their scope, try to make sure they understand that other people are people too, and see to it that they are fitted with at least one really good suit, before they depart from the mantle of my care and authority.
  • And I won't let them move back home after college. That's just candy-assed :)
  • I'm lucky in that I've stumbled across a career I really like (me also web design). I've tried to work for other people - but I realize I just can't. And it is really hard having your own business and in some ways I have no life - on the other hand I get to play with a lot of things - animation, design, video and audio. It's been a tough road - and still is - but I've done the living on ramen situation to get where I am now. And there is still a long way to go to get to the level that I personally want to achieve. But then even though there has been a shit-load of personal drama - I am lucky in that I can pretty much live on the edge of my seat. I don't have any medical issues (and am living in a country with pretty decent health insurance) I don't have kids (yet) - but also I've rarely had support from my family (who weren't able to help). I think being in a field like web design is pretty hard. It's one of those "cool" occupations (here in Japan at least). The reality is that it's a lot of slogging away. Gone are the days when designer could whip up an idea in Photoshop and hand it off to a code monkey. And I think that's a good thing really. You have to be a part of what's happening online - see the trends and also get into the way people use the web. Of course dealing with clients is the hardest part. Trying to match their views to yours and somehow produce a site. I'm also lucky in that I have people who help me with this. I guess I'm pretty passionate about what I do - I wouldn't rant on if I wasn't it. I've been in tears on occasion in private when a client insists on wanting something I find repulsively ugly. I guess you have to have a thick skin to survive - but also be able to have the "balls" to fight for your point of view too. I still wonder if I should have fought harder in the first career I chose (radio/music production) but now from where I am I can see the goals I have - and I'm ok with it. I think that if you can't feel personal satisfaction in what you are doing - then you should move on. And personal satisfaction comes at many levels. I have as much respect for someone who works at a convenience store and has everything running smoothly and they are happy - as to a fellow successful designer. You have to take things in perspective for yourself - the only person who cares what you do ultimately... is yourself.
  • Well I think Fes is a horrible father, and a terrible cousin, but he's probably an OK uncle and if he ever became my mother-in-law, I'd be proud to serve under him. The rest of you people are also complete assholes, so please don't think I'm singling him out here.
  • I never had any idea what I wanted to do. I did very well on aptitude tests, and I get along rather well with people. Because of those two traits, I and other people thought I would be successful. I drank too much in college and never studied. I have missed over one hundred classes in a semester probably about five times -- including law school. I took the LSAT in college because I had no idea what I would do after college. I majored in theology because I liked the subject matter and figured I could get a degree on time. I applied to one law school because I could only afford one application fee. I got in, so I went. I didn't want to be a lawyer. I didn't not want to be a lawyer. I just wanted to avoid having to figure something out. I went to law school and my drinking and class-skipping got me tossed from there. I quit drinking, got my act together, and went back to law school. During that final year of school, I decided that I thought I would like to do criminal defense. I particularly thought I would like to be able to represent indigent defendants. Here I am, and I have been doing those things for nine years. I am my own boss. I am happy with my job. I am lucky. When I finally woke up and decided to get my act together, I was a college grad with two years of law school under my belt. When most people wake up, they do not find themselves with so many positives in their lives. What would I really like to do? I would like to write. But doesn't everyone wish to write? Specifically, I would like to write comedy. But will I ever try to actually get something published or get a job doing it? That would be highly unlikely. I wouldn't really know where to begin. So I have a dream that I will probably never fulfill, but I think that dreams that involve the entertainment industry deserve their very own category. They are not too realistic. I seem to be living my non-entertainment industry dream, and that is not a bad thing at all.
  • will I ever try to actually get something published Well, strictly speaking, you're already published. And frankly, I felt it was a little flat. I know some dynamite monkeys who'd be perfect to punch it up though. Unfortunately they're completely anti-social and a bit on the unstable side. But it's all good. Just try to keep your main characters and feet away from their mouths.
  • I wouldn't say that I'm working my dream job, but I've certainly worked jobs that were a lot worse. Even if I was working my dream job, I'm not sure just how much happier I'd be -- I'm making decent money, enough to supply me with books and cds and food, my work is no longer keeping me up nights, and my quality of life has improved markedly since I took this job. So there's a different kind of success that way -- I'm comfortable enough to suit my particular needs.
  • I'm about to be laid off - woot!
  • SE-VER-ANCE! SE-VER-ANCE!
  • pogey-pogey-pogey-pogey!
  • Pogey?
  • Huh. Never heard of them. Wonder if they could use my musical talents - I play a mean buffoon.
  • Didn't mean to lower the tone - last time I was laid off, it enabled me to move back to my favourite province. This time, I will be able to move in with my favourite monkey - yay!! And maybe start that novel. Heh.
  • curieux, are you ready for the fish tick influx? I have had a dozen dream careers in thirty years. I'm flaky. Once I was going to be the next Tempe Brennan, except not fictional. Now I'm going to be a teacher. Both satisfy me and, when I'm actually working, give me a buzz. Teaching is amazing when you can see the synapses forming and the excitement in their faces when they're engaged in something you've created. Forensic anthropology is fantastic when you identify some tiny bone fragment that's been long buried and scarred by animals or environment. Being back in New Zealand severely limited my options (as did children, although I don't have a problem with that), and so teaching it is. And I'm perfectly happy to be doing that for the rest of my working life.
  • Judging by your posts, 'nockle, don't quit your day job. Fes: good on you! That's exactly the kind of thing I was trying to express! And I won't let them move back home after college. That's just candy-assed :) CAREFUL! That one might come back to bite you. *looks furtively around, checks locks So far, so good.
  • I'm a recent grad; at three decades in the tooth it's a fun place to be. Unfortunately, I'm going back for grad school in the fall. It's damn near impossible to get a job in Cultural/Heritage Resource Management these days in BC. Most of the positions have been filled. I know people who are entirely qualified who are being passed over by tribal council for supervisory positions because other people who are not qualified at all for this sort of position have bowed deeper to the double-faced goddess of networking, despite the pleas of the archaeology branch of the tribal development corporation. As for me, I have found my ideal career in unemployment. I have learned how to flip my phone with both my right and left hand in half, full and double spins - flawlessly. I've moved on to knives. I'm signing up for medical experiments and enjoying the little things in life, like midgets. I'm considering becoming a parent to one or two of the Steller's Jays that land on my balcony and offering sage advice and small monetary loans to them (but only for necessities to get them on their feet, no drinking all night, bird-o). This is as good as it gets. Except I'm out of dope.
  • Yikes. I try to open up a bit here and share my unfulfilled dreams only to learn that two members of Monkeyfilter royalty find me to be unfunny. There is some sort of lesson for me to learn in all of this, but I am not quite sure what it is.
  • *giggles at bernockle* Feel better now?
  • A longtime lurker is coming out of the closet on this one. This topic has been largely consuming my (rather young) life in recent months. After Hurricane Katrina & Co. blitzed the hell out of the Gulf Coast, I enlisted in Americorps and worked on recovery for a year. Before I went South (native Seattlite), I had been vague about future careers, and unmotivated to settle into a firm plan. Teacher, psychologist, lawyer, maybe? Nothing quite fit, and nothing seemed worth the fantastic amount of effort and schooling that those jobs required. Before two months of Katrina relief was out, I knew absolutely what I wanted. I loved the work that I was doing. I wanted to do disaster relief and recovery for the rest of my life. A Masters in Emergency Management is required, but seemed easily obtainable. At the end of my term of service, I came home to go to school and start working towards my goal. Which brings me to this point, six months later. I couldn't get accepted to a four year school because of my abysmal high school GPA. I enrolled in a community college, part time, evenings to be able to make my rent. I washed dishes until Tuesday, when I got into fight with my chef and ended up fired. My only prospect now is another dishing job. I know, cognitively, that I am getting closer to my goals. Every day, though, I feel that they're further off. My general dissatisfaction has made me start missing life when I didn't give a shit about what I was doing or what I wanted when I 'grew up'. I still think that pursuing my dream is worthwhile, but I envy those whose dreams can be realized by 'dropping out' and giving things up. While it's necessary for me to make sacrifices, I have massive amounts to accomplish to even begin to work in the field I want, in the manner I want.
  • Hey VictoryGin, I'm really happy that you've found what you want to do in life. That in and of itself is huge. Perhaps you could find a job working with a non-profit in your area instead of washing dishes? The pay is not great (but I'm assuming neither is a dishwasher although I've never done that) but you could build up skills in the non profit sector and possibly meet people who could give you good recommendations. Keep the faith!! :)
  • I fell into my occupation out of luck, really. My basic graphics education, coupled with my hobby twiddling pixels (big, chunky, unruly ugly ones back then, but they kept becoming smaller and nicer) landed me in the right place, at least for a while. Day job taming them into paper, freelance making them dance on video screens. Passion? Yes, for a long while, I poured my imagination and way-too-much time in work. But now... as scary as it might sound, the thrill is gone. Less space to try and experiment, more dire consequences if chances are taken. And the push of new generations is both refreshing and intimidating. I've been in tears on occasion in private when a client insists on wanting something I find repulsively ugly. Not so much tears but rage or frustration when someone chooses or imposes a 'bad' solution. But The Client Is God, King or whatever. I fantasize with tossing it all away and just spending my full time making those little doodles I create for steam-venting. But, damn, those pesky bills...
  • tracy: I believe I am more than ready for that fish tick influx. 3.5 years long distance relationship is more than enough. Perhaps she'll finally learn to play proper cribbage. Passion ... I have been fortunate to pursue studies in Physics as far as possible and obtain an academic position. Then got the opportunity to try something else, in administration, discovering many things I liked. Looking for something to complement my work that I could pursue on my own, I discovered programming in Python, became passionate (some would say obsessed) about the creating process, resulting in two programs designed to share my programming passion. Seeing things like this is quite rewarding. I hope the self-links are not considered inappropriate.
  • Hey, look, my goal is closer! I got my two weeks notice today! (grumble, grumble, and no, I wasn't fired, I just wasn't hired from this contract, even though 'oh, really, these other interviews are a formality.')
  • Curieux, two 404s, but the ShowMeDo was rather interesting. Oh, wait, I'm supposed to be indignant. *screeches SELF-LINK! SELF-LINK! Victory Gin, hang in there. If my daughter can put herself through law school with a baby with no monetary help from her family five states away from GramMa, who would love to at least babysit, then you can do it. Focus on the good, make contacts, and go for it. The world will be glad that you did! two members of Monkeyfilter royalty *looks at PeteBest *cracks up, rolls on floor hahahahahahahahaha ahhhhahahahahahahahahah hahaha hee hoo ha Whew, that was a good one, eh Pete? ColbaltNine, ain't interviews a b*tch?
  • Bernockle, you crack me up! I am so glad that you returned.
  • I fantasize with tossing it all away and just spending my full time making those little doodles I create for steam-venting. But, damn, those pesky bills... I think it's important to spend a percentage of your time doing your own thing so that you don't burn out. Also I try to connect with people who are motivated and open to ideas to work with.
  • Oddly enough, I was just talking this evening to someone who has gotten out of working within her passion. She took a job making 10k LESS at a "soulless corporation" because she said she can now go home and continue to pursue her dream of training cutting horses on a casual basis. As a pro, she had to take nearly every large account that wanted her to train and show their horses--you can only be so choosy after all when it's your sole income, but now, she can focus on working her OWN horse, and doing a few outside horses if she feels like it. She may get out of the professional league altogether and go amateur again, just to avoid all the stress that comes with that type of competition. She says it's wonderful to not have to devote hours and hours each day supervising employees and making sure the business is running smoothly, and when she leaves work, she doesn't think about it till next morning. They'd like her to be a 60 hour a week employee, but she doesn't give a rat's ass--she's had a career and put some money aside, and now this pays her bills and her fun. She says she spent ten years building up a very successful business that nearly destroyed her love for what she does, and figured sometimes your passion is not something that you want to make marketable. YMMV