On Choosing Careers for Love or Money
I think when it comes down to it, there’s one age old question that will stop you in your tracks and make you reconsider your entire existence:
Am I in this career because I love it, or because I love the money?
I first asked myself that question five years ago. It was the wintertime in Pennsylvania and my office building always seemed to hold the same frigid temperature as the air outside of it. I was 26 years old and the charm of a big time finance career had begun to fade the year prior. I knew it in my gut, cooped up in my office building past nine one night, as I frequently did, three layers on my cold body and trying to make a deadline that I could never quite meet.
In my wonderful downtown apartment was a massive western-facing window. I had the ability to buy most things I wanted, and the exquisite relief of having a savings account that grew as rapidly as my client list did. But I was irrevocably and desperately unhappy.
Let’s rewind a bit.
When I turned 12, my mom gave me a year’s worth of art lessons for my birthday. We were on our own living in a grey Ohio winter and we were Ramen Noodle broke, but I loved painting the vibrant colors of my young life.
What began as a hobby blossomed into a budding career. I sold my pictures to my classmates for a dollar, and saved up enough of those dollars to buy oils, then acrylics, watercolors, and pastels. And I stretched canvas because it was cheaper, and entered art shows to win extra cash. I knew what I wanted to do, and that was painting.
I had my heart set on Columbus College of Art and Design. Even went as far as touring the grounds with my mom in my junior year of college. I like to believe I would’ve gone to CCAD had I grown up in a more financially stable environment, and that I would’ve painted portraits of first ladies and rockstars, would’ve had galleries in France and New York, would’ve accepted awards humbly and gratefully. Little girl from small town Ohio, une femme à Paris.
But like many people often do, I chose practicality over dreams. I chose a savings account, that large western-facing window, clothes and cars. After all, what was I supposed to do with an art degree?
I quit my finance job that same winter, just after my 27th birthday. I was officially in my “late twenties,” single, and had no idea what to do with my life.
Except, I think I knew all along.
Today, I am proudly in my 30s, no longer bothered if it’s young, mid, or late. Quite frankly, the third decade of your life is fabulous—don’t be tricked into fearing otherwise.
I still haven’t traveled to Paris, but I do have an exhibit in a small gallery in Pittsburgh. The title of that particular exhibit is called “Blossom.” I also became a curator for a museum in the city last spring, after going back to school.
To the career women who wish they could tell their younger selves to follow their dreams, just know you are not alone. I recently read that 62% of people would change their college major if they could do it all over again, and I thought to myself, well you still can.
We all have time to grow and change, no matter what your age is and where you are in life. If you are unhappy in your career, think about your younger you, and work toward change.