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“Follow your passion” is bad advice

The school year is coming to an end, and I’m watching the seniors—some of whom I’ve known for years—graduate right before my eyes. As a junior, it’s an alarming sight. I’m forced to come to terms with the fact that next year, it will be the class of 2015 entering adulthood. And while most of us can’t wait for high school to be over, it’s hard not to stop and think, “What are we going to do with our lives?”

Some obnoxious individuals already know the answer. Doctor. Engineer. Programmer. Starving artist. For others, it doesn’t come as easily. As a result, we become incessantly obsessed with discovering our calling right now, lest we end up trapped in a job we hate for the rest of our lives.

Now, to be honest, I used to be one of those people. While all the normal kids were enjoying their childhoods, I was busy having nightmares about gray office cubicles. However, a few years later, I have come to realize that this fear of mine stemmed from the false belief that “following your passion” is the key to happiness. American media has always spoon-fed us the idea that discovering your “inherent calling” automatically equals a perfect and fulfilling life. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you can find what you love, then you’ll find a job you love.

However, this popular advice oversimplifies the process. It sells us the idea that we all possess a pre-existing passion within us.

But this isn’t true.

Passion isn’t something we naturally possess. Instead, it’s something one develops through experience. How often do you wake up one day and suddenly realize that you’re meant to spend the rest of your life researching Elizabethan lyricism or the Greco-Persian Wars? If declaring one’s passion is so simple, then I have a passion for food porn, laminated maps and sleeping in weird places.

Furthermore, following your passion is a romantic notion that fails to address the realities of the U.S. economy and the average workplace. It assumes that one will be able to find the job matching their “pre-existing passion,” and that one will automatically enjoy that job. However, statistics report otherwise. As of April 2014, the national unemployment rate is 6.3 percent. Moreover, the Society for Human Management has found that work type is only ranked seventh when it comes to “very important aspects of employee job satisfaction.”

Now let me clarify, I’m not trying to persuade everyone that pursuing what you love as a job is impossible. Nor am I saying that people shouldn’t be passionate about what they do. I’m simply saying that the well-known phrase “following your passion” glosses everything behind rose-colored glasses.

If you set out to chase your passion with no preparation for the hardships that may follow, you’re likely to end up going nowhere but your parent’s basement.

All in all, let me end on a clear note. Students need to stop worrying about “discovering” their passion and realize that inherent passions do not exist. Instead, we should keep our mind open, try new things and set out to develop a passion in a certain field.

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