Follow your dreams….no seriously

Sophie Oehler, Staff Writer

My mother and I like to do this bit where I walk into a room and loudly announce that I am going to change career paths and become a stand up comedian like Pete Davidson and John Mulaney. To which she replies “God I hope not,” or “Over my dead body,” or “Will you stop with that!” depending on how many times I’ve already said it that day. 

I’d like to add that my mother is very supportive of every other off the cuff, existential crisis fueled decision I’ve made. Stand up comedy just doesn’t seem to be a ship she wants to board.

I’ve wanted to be many things in my life. Professional soccer player was an early interest, though as I quickly realized, athleticism is far too fickle to make a career out of. Forensic science followed soon after, and lasted for a while, until I sobbed my way through AP Chemistry and decided that any career in science was out of question.

Lately, I’ve taken to looking at myself in the mirror and practicing my inaugural speech for when I become President. And then I recall the scripts I have had to write to place orders for take out, and elect to leave “Commander in Chief” on the shelf next to “large animal veterinarian” and “celebrity photographer.” 

We spend our twenties searching for our life’s purpose in our education, internships, semesters abroad, gap years, etc. And some of us will find it. But others will pick a career like someone being thrust into an arranged marriage- it’s there, it’s an opportunity, and though we may not love it right away, we’ll grow to. Or so we hope. 

The latter fate seems rather futile. At the risk of sounding cliche, and embarrassingly 2012, you live only once. We live only once in a country that lives to work and works to live. So, if you are going to do anything with your very brief existence, you should at least have a career that you enjoy. 

Our lives are worth more than a nine to five shift in a job we sort of like. We shouldn’t have to settle for something that pays the bills, and nothing else. 

There are a lot of careers out there that we’re discouraged from because they’re “unrealistic,” or “not a stable income,” or “hard to break into.” Tattoo artist comes to mind, along with novelist, musician, or restaurant owner. But someone’s gotta do them. So why shouldn’t it be you?

And I get it. You want to make sure you’re successful, or that you’re making your family proud, or you want to do what’s sensible and secure. But success does not always entail happiness. 

Your family might be proud of you, but are you proud of yourself? And while security is comforting, do you really want to die knowing you played it safe? 

So stop putting up barriers. 

David Sedaris dropped out of college twice before his works gained any sort of recognition. Lizzo was sleeping in her car before her career took off. Frida Kahlo was paralyzed and clinically depressed before she began painting. 

There is nothing in this life that we cannot achieve if we only tell ourselves that we are capable, and worthy of our own dreams. 

I remember sitting at the kitchen table making my Christmas list when I was about six or seven. At the time, I was very interested in being a ballerina (another career option, though abandoned on account of weak ankles), and was planning on asking Santa Clause for a pair of pointe shoes.

I remember asking my mother if Santa would really bring me those ballet slippers if I asked him to. To which she replied, “It depends. I could ask him for a trip to the mountains, but he probably wouldn’t bring it to me.” 

It seemed a silly response. Why would you bother writing the request down if you felt it was unlikely to turn out? I passed it off as Santa’s inability to fit an inanimate fantasy of a ski trip in his sleigh, and added “tutu” and “pony” to the list. 

What is the point of having a “dream job?” As a daydream to distract yourself in traffic on your way to the job you’ve been telling yourself for ten years is just a jumping off point?

As an aesthetic addition to your dream board that collects dust on your kitchen wall? As a conversation starter for your company to shoot down with “But that’s not what you really want to do, is it?” 

Is there really a point in having a dream at all, if not to follow it? 

Sometimes it seems as though we are all greyhounds, lounging in open gates watching the rabbit- our aspirations, goals, hopes and dreams- drift lazily by, practically begging to be chased. And maybe there are some things holding us back. 

We want to make the most money, we want to please our parents, we want to take the path of least resistance. But I don’t. 

If I am going to toil relentlessly at the same thing for the rest of my very short life, I’m at least going to make sure it’s something that brings me joy. 

So maybe in a few years while you’re browsing your streaming service, you’ll stumble across the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live. And maybe you’ll click on it and see my face in the opening credits. 

And maybe you’ll turn to whoever is next to you, a life partner or a roommate or a pet who has long since fallen asleep, and say, “I know that girl, she used to write for the university newspaper. I wonder if she’s happy now.” 

I’ll save you the breath. I am. And I hope you are too.