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Reflection: Your career doesn't define you

While capitalism and society may lead us to believe that our career path is what defines us, in reality, it's only a small part of who we are.  – Photo by Unsplash.com

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This seems to be the quintessential daunting question that we’re asked since the early days of elementary school, as if we can compile our endless interests and curiosities into a single profession.

In the world we live in, the emphasis on finding your passion and dream career is drilled into us from a very young age. Many Americans go through the public school system with the goal of graduating high school, going to college and then landing a degree that would grant them a fulfilling, sustainable job.

While this seems ethical on the surface, this linear system of living fundamentally stems from a corrupt capitalist system that values labor over anything else and perpetuates harmful beliefs about work and rest.

Since many jobs now require a college degree, high school teenagers are expected to prepare for college by inundating their resumes with extracurriculars and advanced placement classes, and then in college, decide upon a major that would map out their future careers.

A handful of students enter college undecided, and not everyone is lucky enough to discover a field that sustains their interest by the end of their college careers. Many of them question if they even want to further pursue the industry that they’re in.

People have started to dispel long held beliefs about college degrees, preaching that your major doesn’t have to dictate your future endeavors. You can major in physics and become an author. You can get a degree in business and find yourself promoting fashion brands on Instagram years later. 

Even further challenging the norms, people are spurring conversations about how work and school are driving factors in how we construct our self-image.

From the moment we walked into our first class in kindergarten, we have identified as students. When you meet people at a party or social gathering, the immediate question people prompt you with is “Are you in school?” or “What do you do for work?” We are students up until the day we graduate and then, from then on, perpetually known by our job titles operating in a system that equates our worth with our productivity.

But, what a lot of people fail to consider is that human beings are intrinsically curious and can have more than one passion or life goal. We develop a number of hobbies and interests in our lifetimes that we should be encouraged to explore. The idea that one profession can be fulfilling in the long term isn’t universally applicable and can be detrimental to those who feel stagnant or uninspired by their 9 to 5 office job.

Moreover, finding a job that excites you every day but also financially sustains you is often not the case. Some people use their jobs as a means to fend for themselves and their families so that they can follow other interests that may not be as financially lucrative.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s great when people do find fulfillment in a single line of work that sustains them for a large part of their lives. But, a lot of young people get swept in the pressure to discover their true passion, which can sometimes span across different fields and areas of interest.

I consider myself very fortunate to be going into an industry that consistently inspires and excites me, covering entertainment and important issues I’m doing at this very moment. 

The biggest takeaway from this is that what we choose to do for a living is actually a small part of who we are. All our lives we’re told to dream about work more than the idea of cultivating connections and embarking on new experiences, which a job may not always provide. So, don’t be afraid to take risks, follow your instincts and reject the idea that a corporate job can encapsulate who you are.

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