By Sabrina-Belle Dorien
College students and today’s youth culture are all probably very familiar with the outcry to “follow your dreams”.
In fact, one might even argue that that advice is now more often asserted than the advice of my childhood —and my present—, “Go to college and marry a doctor!”
All jokes aside, while the generations to come are being provided with this new form of enlightened advice, why then are so many still struggling?
What was once a struggle to appease and fulfill their parents’ expectations, has now become a struggle to appease and fulfill themselves. And, if any of those students were like me, many would curl-up on their bedroom floor contemplating existentialism, whilst becoming overwhelmed with the pressure to discover the answer to a question believed to define them, “What are my dreams?”
Like many, I once clung to the idea that, having only one life, people should pursue what they love to do.
One way of going about this was researching reasons as to why students did not have to earn college degrees to be successful. For example, authors, Jaison R. Abel, senior economist, Richard Deitz, assistant vice president in the Regional Analysis Function of the research and statistics group, and Yaqin Su, intern of this same function for The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, stated:
“For college graduates as a whole, the underemployment rate has held steady at around 33 percent over the past two decades — meaning that about one in three college-educated workers typically holds a job that does not require a degree. For recent college graduates… the underemployment rate is higher… increasing to roughly 44 percent by 2012.”
Utilizing these statistics to prove that attending college could potentially be fruitless, I stood by my ever-favored and well-known Jim Carrey quote, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
Additionally, I had even researched the high demand for and surplus of job opportunities that did not require a college degree.
“America clings to the conceit that four years of college are necessary for everyone… This has to stop…A four-year college degree isn’t necessary for many of tomorrow’s good jobs.” states Robert Reich, author of “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few”.
He continues in his entry for the Huffington Post, “For example, the emerging economy will need platoons of technicians able to install, service, and repair all the high-tech machinery filling up hospitals, offices, and factories. And people who can upgrade the software embedded in almost every gadget you buy. Today it’s even hard to find a skilled plumber or electrician.”
Quotes such as this criticized the concept of having to attend a university to survive and be respected. As opposed to this, they promote pursuing careers in different fields, primarily those in skilled- trades.
But what then does one do with these facts? It sounds as though America has swayed from one direction — telling students the only way to exist is with a Masters in Bag-piping — to another equally close-minded path — advising students to not bother with college and to, instead, pursue a trade. As a result, many are still left not knowing what to do with themselves — apart from battling existentialism on their bedroom floor.
What more advice could we possibly give them? Or, could this council precisely be the problem.
Rather than telling the youth of today “what to do” or “what not to do”, such an extensive amount of pressure should stop being applied to a topic that has already been blown out of proportion.
It remains true that “having only one life” ought to urge an individual to do what he or she loves, but, that does not necessarily mean pinpointing one activity that he or she adores submersing himself or herself in and pursuing that as his or her career, future, and primary life goal.
For example, one might consider their twice removed uncle, who works in the medical field and leads a comfortable life, while painting as his hobby.
Likewise one might recall stories he or she might have heard about individuals who had pursued art as their career, only to result in hating it because it had become “work”.
Doing what you love or following your dreams does not have to mean pursuing what you love as a career.
It could very well mean doing something you’re good at and having a hobby on the side, doing something you hate but having plenty of time for karaoke nights, or simply doing something that you enjoy and realizing that there is so much more to life than just the degree or career you choose to have within it.
Rather than telling the youth of today what to do or what not to do, so much pressure should stop being applied to a topic that has already been blown out of proportion.
Instead, with a reassuring hand, as if to one who had just been through a devastating breakup and does not know what to do with the rest of their lives, say “It’s okay”. Don’t worry about it. Stop stressing.
What one does, does not define their happiness, nor does it define them. The sooner the generations to come realize this, the sooner they will find what they enjoy doing, not what defines their future happiness.