Should You Follow Your Dreams or Be Realistic?

Should You Follow Your Dreams

When, as kids, we tell the adults in our lives what we want to be, their responses tend to be predictable. If we want to do something artistic, creative or entrepreneurial, then our aspirations may be called unrealistic. More tactful adults might say, “That’s nice, but you need a plan B in case it doesn’t work out.”

These reactions are understandable. Those who care about us want us to be financially secure. They don’t want us to have to worry about keeping ourselves fed and having a roof over our heads. But I think their attitude is misguided.

For one thing, the ‘realistic’ options aren’t as secure as they used to be. So many people have degrees these days that competition for well-paid jobs is huge. In most industries, there just aren’t enough jobs to go around, especially with the rise of automation and the decline of manufacturing in many industrial nations. You might work hard for that secure job, only for it to disappear within a year. There are no guarantees anymore, so why not pursue what you really want to do?

I personally fell into the ‘realistic’ trap whilst taking my A-Levels. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and work from home. Often, I spent lunch breaks working on a novel in the library. I hated the thought of having a 9 to 5 job. Initially, I chose English literature, Art, French and Computer Science as my A-levels, picking purely what I was interested in. But when I started thinking about university, fear took hold. I felt like I had to go, but I didn’t particularly want to. And everyone said it was impossible to get a job with an English degree.

I decided that there was only one thing for it – to pursue Computer Science. There was plenty of work in that field, and salaries were high. There was just one problem – all the Computer Science courses at the prestigious universities I looked at required A-level Maths. Hastily, I dropped French and took up Maths, having to catch up on more than a month of missed work.

I made it onto the Computer Science course at a top university, and immediately began to struggle. Though I was good at programming, many of the modules were very maths-oriented. I soon discovered I wasn’t as interested in the subject as I thought I was and found it difficult to stay motivated. In school, I had always been a high achiever – now, my marks were mediocre. Worse, I had no time or energy to devote to my writing.

We were strongly encouraged to do a placement year between the second and third years of our course. Beginning to worry about the future, I applied for it. But the positions, though well-paid, all seemed hopelessly dull. Investment banks and software development companies dominated. I couldn’t stand the thought of working in such a structured environment, helping a large (and probably unethical) company to make more money.

Eventually, I dropped out of the program. I was feeling increasingly depressed about going back for my final year, especially since all my friends were on placement. Then a friend pointed out something obvious – I didn’t have to go back. There were tons of things I could do instead. By this point, I knew I didn’t want to go into computing, so why waste another year of my life?

Should You Follow Your Dreams

He was right. I dropped out with no plan (much to my parents’ dismay!), and began trying to work out what to do with my life.

One of the first things I did was rediscover my love of writing. I started Little Green Seedling and began to dabble in online writing. And recently, I decided to delve into full-time freelance writing. It will probably be a while before I’m earning a full-time income, but I have some savings behind me and I’ve decided I’m okay with the temporary insecurity.

So here’s my question to you – is it realistic to expect yourself to slave away at a job you hate for 30+ hours a week? Is that sustainable in the long run, given the stress it will bring? Is financial security worth sacrificing your happiness (and possibly health) for?

If you have unfulfilled ambitions, that’s amazing because it means you have something to work towards. The process of getting there is always going to be scary, but it’s so worth it. It’s not like you have to immediately quit your job – you could go part-time and work on your passion on the side. Or you could do some relevant volunteering to gain experience, and that may lead to something more.

I was recently looking for a room to rent. When I went to viewings and talked to the older people living in those houses about what I do, they often responded with “Good for you”. Usually, they then went on to tell me how awful their jobs were. I don’t want to end up like that.

Many entrepreneurs say they only found success by carving out their own path, in some cases creating a job that didn’t even exist before. Drive and determination can get you a really long way. If the world can see that you’re passionate about something, then that thing may just become profitable too. Almost anything is better than having a job you hate and dread doing.

If you’re a creative type, the internet now provides an amazing opportunity to showcase and sell your work. You have potential customers all over the world. Plenty of people are bound to love what you do.

On the other hand, you may be perfectly happy working 9 to 5. Or you may dislike it, but think that the money is worth it. Maybe you’re content to work a job you don’t particularly like and pursue what you enjoy in your spare time. And any of these things are fine. But if you’re unhappy and craving a change, then what’s holding you back?

I would love to hear what your dreams and aspirations are and whether you think you can achieve them. Feel free to let me know in the comments. Oh, and if you happen to need a freelance writer for your amazing new venture, then I’m right here! 😉

13 comments / Add your comment below

  1. What if the only possible realistic option, is to have followed your dreams? here the world of people stands, in this moment, with their dreams and their reality, and it is the least fortunate of us, that sais that they do not, stand for what they believe to be just and true, my sympathy to citizens of USA and Canada, for the poor political performance on the environmental front so far this century, and now it is winter, 2018, with a dawning spring; I love the modern story telling art of cinema, I believe in there being a place for only positive communications, and there is a few, I started an interesting project, to watch just good videos online; free G tv ~ http://www.freegtv.com ~ do you like?

    “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

    Marcus Aurelius – a roman 1st century soldier and last of the so called 5 good emperors of Rome

    1. my apologies for the clerical error in this previous comment, Marcus Aurelius was of the 2nd Century and lived from the year 121 to 180, although 1st century sounds cooler. I mostly wanted to say; Truly; a Great Article; Little Green Seedling; Thank You

        1. it may prove to be interesting and worthwhile, possibly one day, still trying to learn how to grow some traffic, this free product, seems hard to give away. I must learn or practice marketing now to get the product to the people that may want it. and truthfully, secretly, Im bunker-ed in a nice house in the wilderness, and writing a story that took my entire life collectives of various contemplation, realization, knowledge, through various levels of attempted actions; to come to understand; my 5 Ws, and how to; and do it good, strategy. I even blogs!

          the point may be lost in that it is, the telling of the story of acts, which pales in comparison to living the act, that the story is written about

          I so truly loved your article, a heart warming inspirational story, for any and all, to dream work and share

          Im mostly excited about, that Im discovering, all the incredible environmental initiatives, standards, projects, and markets, locally and globally we may draw from our best standards, and once again take it public, hopefully with some impact, a year soon to come, is as good a time as any, to realize a shift to better, 21st century

  2. I have often thought that it’s good look for three things in a job/career 1 – high earnings 2 – enjoyable to do 3 – make a positive contribution to society. All 3 is not usually realistic. Any 2 from those 3 is good. 1 out of 3 is to be avoided.

  3. Yes, yes, yes!

    I did my A-Levels, cocked them up majorly and started working on the railway. Yes. The railway.

    Quickly realised that was a no-go, quit at the drop of a hat and flew to New Zealand. Spent the last 5 years in and out of NZ, Australia, UK and various other travel stints. I’ve ran construction sites, worked in 5-star hotels and was a cowboy for a while (tend to avoid that bit).

    Now home and screwed. Nowhere will take a second look at my patchwork CV, not even for the menial, low-paid jobs I don’t even want. Currently in a similar situation regarding the whole writing thing, hopefully leading into an ethical business of sorts. Maybe? Hopefully.

    10/10 for the post, though!

  4. Hello, I am a young 17 year old in my last year of high school.

    Throughout the course of my life, I have been showered with the expectation to pursue a career of a doctor or an engineer, in order to make myself useful in society. My are middle class workers, working for more than 40 hours a week (due to over time) just to send me to a private school to better my future. However, being a teenager in his rebellious years, I argue that I want to live my entire life producing and making video games, I argued it being a advisable career as I took courses such as robotics, computer science, physics and all the math courses (although i am not very good at all of it, but im still trying). Of course my parents deemed it to be unrealistic.

    I understand that many game producers dream to make it big, but only a very selective few have done so, I understand that my parents worked more than 40 hours a week just to send me to private schools while barely making ends meet. Despite all this I wish to live my life as a game producer (even if my grades arent the best, one can dream right?)

    1. Hi JJ, that sounds like a difficult situation. It’s hard when other people have such high expectations of you, and of course you don’t want to disappoint your parents. But at the end of the day, it’s your life and you have to pursue what you feel is the right path for you. I wish you the best of luck and I’m sure you could make it as a game producer if you have the motivation and put in the hard work 🙂

  5. I found this actually really inspiring and comforting especially since, I was having a mental breakdown at this point.
    I am currently an A-level student and chose to retake the year because I didn’t have good enough grades for the final year of A-levels to go to university to study zoology. But the thing is I don’t want to do zoology all my life. If someone were to ask me what would I do if I woke up one morning and do for the rest of my life, I would have to say I want to do art. I want to make art and let my art speak to people. However, I have always been told that you can never make a living from being an artist despite having an art degree or not, ’cause to make it in the art industry you have to either be dead or crazy. Honestly, to tell you the truth the fact that there is this inner conflict, a tug-of-war inside me between art and zoology I have no idea which side to go to. And I am incredibly afraid to let down my parents who expect so much from me.

    1. I’m sorry you’re in such a difficult situation. Of course nobody wants to feel like they’ve let their parents down! But ultimately I’m sure your parents want you to be happy more than they want you to do any particular career. Maybe try talking to them? Good luck with whatever you decide to do, and I’m really glad this helped you out xx

      1. Thank you! Your comment really helps and I will try some time soon to try talking to my parents. Thanks again

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