Dreamy Careers: How I Got Caught in the Vortex of ‘Following Your Passion’

POV

Dreamy Careers: How I Got Caught in the Vortex of ‘Following Your Passion’

Illustration: Arati Gujar

The summer after my second year of college was the time I bagged myself an internship that changed my life. I was just another kid trying to figure out her life; it gave me answers and showed me a path. It’s been six years of walking on that meandering road-not-taken, the one that most stories romanticise. But all these years, working non-stop at something I am supposed to love doing, I’m at a crossroads – forced to wonder if passion alone is enough to ‘make it’ in life. Though I don’t regret my choices, I feel a harsher reality check at the entry point would have done me good. Sort of pulled me out of the many fantasies I had about ‘doing what you love’. Watching Bunny turn into this wonderful photographer in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and thinking ‘Mujhe Bhi Rukna Nahi Hai’ was certainly not a practical career move. Or at least it doesn’t feel like one now.

Though I don’t regret my choices, I feel a harsher reality check at the entry point would have done me good.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s the passion that keeps me going still, because I feel there has to be more to the work that I do. But maybe being obsessed about things should also be an objective decision. If you are into something not many people get or want to pay good money for, your sense of victimhood begins to precede any aspirations you might want to nurture. The world is against you, and against anything you think you deserve from it. When I watched Little Women, I could find myself echoed in Jo March’s story, her struggles to get her book published. But at least we are assured she has the talent, the skill to put out something of note. ‘What if I believed I had this talent, but actually don’t’ is a question that often haunts me. But then again we have learned that passion comes at a price.

What is passion anyway? Motivational speakers will give you different definitions but they will all point to the same essentials — something that brings you happiness and takes away your sleep. I have had my fair share of both. What this conversation misses out on are existential aspects like money and livelihood. The practicality of wanting to both be good at it and be paid well for putting everything into it. I was fortunate enough not to fall into the clutches of unpaid internships, but if such an opportunity had ever arrived in my inbox, I would have said yes in a heartbeat. Over time, with rent and bills, the urge to say yes has thinned. I’ve learned, perhaps the hard way, that opportunities don’t always consider your desire and motivation, but also the circumstances of your approach.

It’s the passion that keeps me going still, but maybe being obsessed about things should also be an objective decision.

One of the main problems with working with something you love, is the fact that you are invariably going to make compromises where you shouldn’t. I have taken less money because it was something I wanted to do, I’ve said yes to things because it was the opportunity that I always wanted. I have chosen romance over fairness, and now that I’m old enough to want other things, I resent the fact that the things we love doing, must also be the things we are prepared to give up objective realities for. I never thought this sentiment of being worn and resentful would ever get to me, but I guess, as you grow older, life’s canvas asserts its own textures and patterns onto you.

Today I often wonder what success even means. I like what I do, but it simply doesn’t add up to the amount of hard work it takes to make things happen. On some days I think it is not hating what you do, in an intellectual sense. On other days I feel it is simply the kind of car you can afford, or the kind of places you can visit on holiday. Not always, or not all the time do the two overlap. It’s the two worlds of want and regret I now live in. Sometimes I tell myself it is all about the journey, and sometimes I tell myself it is the destination. Honestly, I feel both stuck and lost at the same time.  But I have at least understood that passion and hard work alone won’t cook the broth I am looking to feed on. It takes a lot more, most things not even in your control. Maybe there is no answer to this question. Or maybe I should simply stop asking it.

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