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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.

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