The unintentional shaming of a person’s career choice is subtle. The frozen stares, the fake smile and the slow nod that so obviously wants to criticize you but refrains from saying a word.
These are the familiar expressions of those who don’t know how to react when I tell them I want to write for a living. These are the shared looks of judgement that most people who want to be elementary school teachers or truck drivers are oh-so familiar with.
It has become a societal norm to shake our heads when a person chooses not to pursue a job that doesn’t follow a highly ambitious path or the standard nine-to-five routine. And this condescension isn’t even just isolated to careers in the arts.
A bias has grown within us through the influence of mass media, that looks down on people who want to drive a dumpster truck, work in the public service industry or become a
stay at home parent. Why should a person’s career choice be up for any criticism?
But why don’t you want to do something more…safe? Like a doctor? Engineer? Lawyer?”
I thought about how I wanted to justify my choice to pursue screenwriting for a very long time. I thought about how I wanted to prove to people that I wouldn’t be in debt after college ― a lie; the average student loan debt is $30,000 regardless of major. I thought about how I would convince myself that this would be the right choice.
Should I switch to an economically stable career where I know I won’t have to bus tables or take up odd jobs to pay off my tuition? Should I ditch pen and paper and pursue a career where I still get to tell stories, argue and write, such as a lawyer, but get paid much more?
Illustration by Katy Strong
I want to write for SNL. I want to work on television and movie sets with a script in my hand and a pen behind my ear. Just because someone wants to write, or work with their hands and build cars from scratch, doesn’t make them any less educated or happy than someone who chooses to become a neurosurgeon.
You should not base your decisions off the opinions of others because, at the end of the day, you’re the one who is doing the work; you decide what you want to do in your life. Yes, I will be starting from the lowest tier of the industry, and no, I won’t have a six figure salary, but who is to say this is what truly matters?
There is no “right path” for me to take because I don’t know where my career will take me, and I don’t know why someone’s career choice should determine their worth.
But there’s one thing I do know: whether you choose an obscure art major or a law degree, you should do what you can see yourself loving twenty from now. And even if you don’t what direction to head in, move towards something that will pay you not only in fortune, but in fulfillment.