Dear College Kid is a series I write to my younger self. I would send them too, if I could somehow teleport myself via time machine to my late teens and early twenties. I hope other college kids find these letters, and garner some foresight that I myself had lacked. It’s not finance advice by any means, but rather, personal anecdote. Still. I hope it changes lives.
Dear College Kid,
Sometimes, pursuing your passion is bad advice. Not because you shouldn’t pursue them, but because it may be too soon to start. When you’re young, you won’t a clear sense of your passions just yet. Perhaps you have a good idea, but there are nuances that you can only realize from experience. Instead, you should pursue learning.
For example, I entered a field of dentistry that I told people was my passion. Turns out, it wasn’t quite honed in enough to what gives me joy. You see, I love taking care of people, working with my hands and interacting with patients. But I don’t love the stresses of dentistry. I don’t love seeing people in pain. I don’t enjoy feeling helpless when I can’t do anything to fix a situation. It feels awful to give my patients a quote for a treatment they can’t afford. It pains my perfectionist self to do sub-ideal work, but sometimes I have to because of financial constraints or time constraints on the patient’s end. As a people-pleaser, it hurts to have patient’s introduce themselves and then tell me they hate the dentist’s office. They scurry out of the dental chair and as much as I understand it, it doesn’t feel great.
Now, I see that my passions of taking care of people, working with my hands, and socializing would have been better in the hospitality field. Professions like baking and coffee are more aligned with my soft self. Creative spaces such as wedding venues, or crafts such as pottery would have been better suited to me. The painful parts of dentistry is an emotional and mental toll and it makes my job stressful. I’ve learned to create a dental space where I reduce the negative parts, but I can’t get rid of it altogether. That’s why I only work half of the week as a dentist. Because I only like half the aspects of the profession.
Here is advice I wish I received when I was in my 20’s. Instead of pursuing your passions, pursue learning, personal discipline and growth. Focus on improving yourself. That’s what I did in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I decluttered everything in my life first because I realized outside influences could have shaped what I thought I wanted. I read many self-improvement books (or books in general). You can view my reading list on GoodReads here. I built stellar habits and really stuck to them. For example, I write, read, and exercise every day. I reflected each night through gratitude journaling. I wrote down how to improve the next day, looked back on my struggles, and asked ‘Why?’ A LOT.
On top of that, I sought out connections with people across the planet. I traveled to 10 countries and 10 states. I talked to different people through my blog. It was a gift to share my story and listen to others. I spread myself across different professions.
For example, I took ceramics classes, did yoga, boxing, swimming, pilates, and weight-lifting, volunteered to help at a bakery and eventually opened my own, started dog-sitting, volunteered at a national barista championship, started helping with wholesale and learned about sales and accounting, and of course, I studied blogs. I learned about email marketing, SEO, and how to write courses. In all of these endeavors, I talked to people. I also probe my patients’ brains. Not only do I ask what they do for a living, but also how they like it or don’t like it, and how it’s applicable to dentistry. I make an effort to make one connection between each person that I meet and myself.
Let me tell you that it’s okay to support someone else’s dream for a while. Know that while you are doing so, you are building yourself. The relationships and knowledge that you earn is valuable too. It isn’t all about you. (Actually, making life about others is good advice in general. I would jot that one down.)
And honestly, I have seen time and time again, young people pursuing their passions too soon and burning out. I see them failing at their endeavor and entirely giving up. I see them get lost, because their path isn’t super clear. They aren’t intentional enough, and then they blame the rest of the world for their failures. But it takes work and time.
I promise you, one day, you’ll wake up, and there will be a very strong whispering in your ear saying, “This is it. This is your passion.”
Have patience with yourself until then.