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On Turning Down a Salary to Pursue Passion

The title is cheesy, right? Perhaps even cliche? What about plain ol’ disagreeable? Trust me, these are all thoughts that have already barged their way into my own head. Knocking and saying, “Hey. Hi. Hello. Are you there? If you don’t let me in I will find the key hidden conspicuously under the planter or climb through an unlocked window.” Oh, thoughts. What unwelcome guests you make.

But no matter how incredulous the title may seem, it is true nonetheless. I was recently faced with a decision: Would I pursue what I love? Or maintain the steady course of reason? You know, the one that pays.

I’m a 23-year-old female who has held two different editorial positions in the last year and a half. The first: my dream job. The second: my paying job. So what’s the problem? Why can’t I do both? Well, one cuts into the other’s time. And my dream job doesn’t help pay the bills. It’s quite the existential dilemma, I know.

Yes, I am young. Yes, I should take advantage of the job I already have. But that’s just it. I’m young. Now’s the time to pursue what I want, right? Now is the time to fall so hard on my ass it bruises. But bruises heal, and you pick yourself up and keep on walking. Even if you have a limp. Because you learn from that time you stumbled and fell. You remember to avoid that pesky root, and you walk around it. You say, “Root, you may have gotten me once, but I see you this time. I will walk in spite of you.” And you may look crazy talking to a root, but crazy takes you places; caution doesn’t.

My boss. a middle-aged newspaper editor, had me make a decision: I could continue getting paid at my place of work, or I could keep pursuing a career in music writing elsewhere. So, I took the latter option. I’ve never been good with ultimatums. You can ask my exes. When my boss made this proposition, I saw my future laid out before me, and I was saddened that someone would not encourage another to pursue what they deeply loved. I was saddened that mediocrity was the best option in his eyes. I could be him if I stayed, thinking newspapers were the end-all-be-all of information. Sorry, but the Internet exists. And mediocrity isn’t good enough.

Why would I give up what I love for money? Is this a selfish way of thinking? It’s possible. Although I will not be supporting #OccupyCouch. No. I will be writing until my eyes grow bleary. I will be listening to music until my ears ring. And I will be dancing until my toes are numb. And I may not have a penny in my pocket, but I will be happier than I ever could be with the stability that staring at a screen all day provides. I will be happier than I ever could be sitting in a squeaking swivel chair in an office with walls the color of blueish-gray, a color so boring, it can’t even be described. I will be happy because I’ll have talked with people who care about what they’re putting out into the world, people who take pride in the art they make. I absolutely refuse to be jaded by the age of 23.

Am I arrogant? Defiant? Ungrateful? A clueless brat? Perhaps. Am I a fool to walk away? We’ll see. But I do know one thing for certain: At least I tried to do what I love. At least I know I wouldn’t give up my passion for money. I own it, and it’s not for sale.

You can read more from Gianna Hughes on her blog.

Featured image via John Liwag.

  • Lauren Ashton

    I’ve turned down a Salary to pursue a career as an independent fashion designer, but now at the age of 25 yes I have my nice little boutique and design studio and lots and lots of fun and I get to do exactly what I want every day…But I still live with my parents, my friends are all getting married, signing up for mortgages, travelling, even having babies and none of those things are viable for me in my current situation.
    I think you’re right to follow your dreams now whilst you’re young and don’t have a house to lose or anything but there does come a time when you’ll completely start to question what it is that you would love to wake up to every day and my idea of perfection at 25 is starting to no longer be my own design studio.

  • Kelly Bromfield

    I had a good, secure job that had great health benefits and offered great vacation time and growth possibilities. And I quit at 24 to go to college. I was miserable with what I was doing for a living and I couldn’t keep waking up to the same, mentally unfulfilling job. It was the single scariest and exciting thing I ever could do. I am now about to graduate, freelance to pay the bills, and about to pick up another part time job.
    It’s been rough, but I don’t regret it one bit. Because for once, I’m happy.

  • Amanda Gibbons

    Way to go-and best of luck. I absolutely adore this article, even more so because I’m in a very similar place in my life. I’m a 21 year old college senior-English major-at the start of seriously pursuing dance. You’re only young once-you’ve got nothing to lose. I don’t want to look back with any regrets or wonder what if. Recently, a lot has been happening and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Everything is going to be ok. More than ok. I’m just going to roll with it. I think it’s very exciting not knowing where I’ll be five years from now, or even what will happen next. I’m at peace with that completely. Still scared-terrified-but never been happier. Keep writing, both music and otherwise, and know that you have tons of support from over here!

  • Jenny Lynn

    At 26, I’ve taken two pay cuts to finally work for the company I love. For me, it’s been worth it because it means my sanity. I’d rather do something I love and have fun with it than be absorbed in how much money I want to make. I’ll scrimp and save, but where I am now, I can move up in the ranks. I’ve always looked for opportunities and I’ve had to take a lot of chances, but, for me, they’ve been worth it.

  • Alexandra Rae

    YOU GO GIRL. I would have done the same thing.

  • Asha Galindo

    “but crazy takes you places; caution doesn’t.” I love that! I wish I was brave enough not to be so cautious. I feel like I’ve wasted time.
    I love this article

  • Susie Hughes

    This is perfect because I was just thinking about this last night…as somebody about to enter that scary world of college. TOO many people are stuck doing something totally unfulfilling these days, but which path am I going to choose?? I think you just gave me the answer =]

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