“The Road Less Traveled” was what I named my college personal essay. I wrote about wanting to be an English major despite my father’s fears of economic insecurity. It was my passion, I wrote. And now that college is over and I have secured my coveted English degree, I find myself down this woody path of dark undergrowth with nothing but my wavering passion to light the way.
During a meeting of friends, a consultant who enjoys his work while not loving it asked the three present who had decided to take a more non-traditional route. For Harvard students, the “non-traditional” route is the one not necessarily paved with gold. The “traditional” route is often consulting, iBanking, academia, or something in the tech field. As someone interested in the arts or writing, I would definitely fall under the “non-traditional” route.
Most of my good friends have, in fact, decided to take the non-traditional route. My best friend went into interior design, another friend trying to become a comedian, another into graphic design, and so on… I noticed a marked difference between the friends and acquaintances who had their lives set on a traditional path, and those on the nontraditional. The traditional ones knew what to do next. There has been always a next step. For example, if you’re going to become a doctor, you do your premed requirements, then your lab work, then MCAT, then medical school applications, and so on and so forth. But those in the nontraditional field? We were all a little more lost. Part of this was due to the fact that there simply was no universal “next step.” This leaves us all a little lost. Going to the career center probably doesn’t help either since they’re more geared in guiding you onto a safer, more traditional path. A different friend of mine wanted to get a PhD in philosophy, and when he went into the office of career services, they told him there was no real future in philosophy, so why not try law?
I must admit, the nontraditional route not taken is definitely a hard path — in many ways it’s far harder than the traditional one. For one, the conventional route often is a “known” way to monetary success. Becoming a doctor, lawyer, consultant, academic – you often have a safety net to fall back upon. For another, once you get “in” (get on the pre-med track, pre-law track, or get a consulting job), all you need to do is work hard. I’m not suggesting that medical school or law school is a cakewalk, but you already know what you need to do to succeed. When you’re working to be an artist, designer, philosopher, or the like, you have an empty canvas to work with. You never know if all your hard work is ever going to pay off. You never know what the next move will be. The nontraditional path is lined with endless anxiety. You think, why don’t I go to law school, make a ton of money, and then pursue my passion? Why live with staring at the ceaseless possibility of failure?
Moreover, you start doubting your “passion.” What is passion? Some days I wonder what my passion really is. There are times when my self-confidence wavers. In the present day, we (the newest generation) are told by society to pursue your “passion.” But passion isn’t always such an easy thing to understand or even define. According to Wikipedia, it is “an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something.” The word comes from the Latin verb patī meaning to suffer — rather fitting, actually. Many people have called this generation of twentysomethings a bunch of spoiled and selfish dreamers who want what they want (check out GIRLS). While I think passion must have a compelling emotion (such as love or excitement) attached to it, I really don’t think you can have passion without hard work or success. Would we all be passionate about pursuing an activity if we didn’t have achieve any manner of success or enjoyment from it? And would we be any good at it if we didn’t work at it?
Looking back, I wrote my way into Harvard with my “Road Less Traveled” essay, and ever since I have been battling it out in these dark woods. I need to work hard again to rekindle my passion and motivation, my love of creativity and art — otherwise I will forever be lost. However, I will be very proud one day when I can confidently say I forged my own way. After all, according to Robert Frost, what’s the way out of this forest…?