Choosing to leave a “practical” study in order to pursue your passions may seem foolhardy, but often times it can be the most rewarding.
After transferring out of business school after my freshman year of college, my father was baffled at my decision. My proud announcement of my unpaid publishing internship—”Don’t worry, Dad, I get paid in books”—made him further question where things had all gone terribly wrong.
In hindsight, I admit I may have secretly shared my father’s anxiety in these moments. Leaving business school to pursue the nebulous and less practical world of liberal arts and the often-mocked English major may have been my best decision. This didn’t take away from the fact that my drastic decision seemed scary and potentially stupid. It made sense that my father had difficulty understanding.
I departed the route I thought I “had to take”—a seemingly clear path to entering the corporate workforce and getting a “good job”—to one I felt like I had to take. Or as painter and designer Elle Luna calls it the crossroads between “should” and “must.” This was my must.
My freshman year classes might be to blame—my self-selected upper-division philosophy, literature, history, and cultural study classes were not useful to my major.
However, they made me yearn to dive deeper into the cognitive frameworks of the strange worlds many people had penned and brought to life.
Rather than going to classes about how to bring a product to market, I learned how to learn—how to read, debate, and think. I wanted to immerse myself in the complex ideas, theories, and plots of James Joyce and Shakespeare, Ovid and Virgil, Judith Butler and Michel Foucault.
In my smart and sincere father’s eyes, my decision may have seemed naïve, idealistic, or misguided. And while I value his advice (and still try to convince him I’ll listen now), I had to embark on this pursuit—it defined who I am. It gave me license to live in this world, set up camp, and be a contributing citizen.
Fast forward a decade, I now work as an editor in traditional book publishing and ironically strategize and almost obsess over how to bring a product—a book—to market. I followed my “must,” even when I didn’t know where I was heading, to find a job I love. When charting your career path or establishing your job goals, remember to follow your “must.” Not only can it be more rewarding, but it may also deliver more long-term success than your “should” option.