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The other day, it hit me.

Out of all the jobs I’ve wanted to have, only two weren’t creative. Two. Amongst about 14. Aside from wanting to be a doctor and an international human rights lawyer, I’ve aspired to be a graphic designer, fashion designer (thank you Project Runway), architect and author amongst a heap of others. Another particular job I wanted was as a creative director, although at the time, I had no idea that that was even a thing. 13 year old me never bothered to research it and completely forgot about it. However, last week I had one of those weird moments where the most simple and trivial thing sparked a new wave of inspiration in me. Or, maybe it was just that new burst of creativity my horoscope has been yapping on about. Anyway, back to the point. I walked into Mecca Maxima and I picked up the monthly magazine. The A5 booklet was promoting the latest Urban Decay Naked palette amongst a number of new products. It was one of those bizarre moments where I had an epiphany.

So how exactly, with all this love for being creative I have, did I end up studying a Law and International Studies degree? A course that, if I had to be honest, isn’t the most creative nor does it allow you to explore your creative endeavours. In no way am I writing this with the intent to spread my bitterness about the choices I’ve made, I’m merely just highlighting how I came to be a law student over some kind of design student. Although I’m not going to lie, my realisation at the reasoning behind why has got me a mixture of frustrated and concerned.

One of the major things that I think deterred me from pursuing a creative career initially was this idea I had planted in my head from the environment around me that a creative career wasn’t as reputable as something like a career in law. Perhaps it was a pride thing, or maybe it was just wanting to show off a little bit. Or maybe it was me just wanting to people to be proud of me because I was doing such a ‘prestigious’ degree. Or a bit of everything. When I would mention something about a more creative career, such as being an author or interior designer, I would be laughed at and judged. I would get questioned and told how hard it is to be a successful author and make loads of money. It would be ‘made aware’ (as if I wasn’t already) of how everyone wants to be one these days and how difficult it is to get published. It was like I was a naive fool who had an unrealistic dream and did no research for whatever arts-related career I wanted. It was like I hadn’t spent hours researching options for what I could do, how I could make money and what it would take to be super successful.

In this day of age, the decision to choose a particular degree is often centred around money. In no way whatsoever am I saying this isn’t a good thing, nor am I saying we should revert to communistical mindsets. Far from that. My point is that people are solely choosing careers for the mere reason that  you will apparently make a heap of money and if you don’t, you’re a failure. If you’re a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or someone in business, you’re going to be bringing home the big bucks.  Sure, typically these careers appear to have higher salaries. Technically though, this is when you’ve been in the workforce after a number of years and you’ve worked your way up. Unless you have a genuine passion for that job and are willing to put the hard work and long hours in, you’ll likely find yourself a slave to the system and incredibly unhappy. Where there is passion, the hard work and dedication will follow and instead of there being a constant daily struggle where you whinge about how tough you have it, it’ll be more of an understanding that what you were doing was just a step you had to take to further your career. Sure, money is important. It makes life a whole heap easier when you’re dealing with rent, a mortgage, food, clothes and other essentials in life. It’s necessary for stability. However, just because someone has a more creative occupation, it doesn’t mean they don’t nor won’t make money. Just because a career has a title doesn’t mean they will provide you with the benefits you have been told about. Being creative doesn’t mean you’re unrealistic, it just means your passion lies more so in the arts than they do in sciences or law.  

If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard things like an Arts degree is just a paper degree, I would be a billionaire. The truth is, every degree is a paper degree if you have no idea how to use it. If you have a vision, if you know what you want to do, if you know what you have to do, then any degree is useful. Yeah sure, diplomas and degrees in things like fashion and interior design are competitive, but so are law and medicine degrees. Just because something isn’t as prestigious as another thing, doesn’t mean it’s any more or any less competitive, nor does it mean one would make more money than the other. That’s to even assume in the first place that someone chose a career for the money. To a number of people, it’s not even about the money. They just want to create and live life doing what they love. Surprise, surprise.  Not everyone needs a whole heap of money to be happy, contrary to popular belief.

So the truth is that if you are good at what you do, you have a greater chance of making more money. If you have a vision and set out your goals and how to achieve them, you’re more than likely going to make money regardless of the career you choose. If anything, creative careers provide more of an opportunity to do so as the ranks you need to climb aren’t as structured as that of lawyers, doctors or engineers. From what I’ve been told, there are more students studying law than there are jobs available in law. Yeah so about that competition within arts related careers…

I’m not saying that every single person should undertake a creative career, but I can assure you that this post will resonate with anyone who has wanted to pursue something far more creative than the typical prestigious degrees. My message to those trying to figure out what they want to do when they finish high school is to follow your passion, find a career you genuinely want regardless of how much money it makes or what people around you expect, and most of all, allow yourself to grow as a person and not beat yourself up if the path you wanted to go on as a 17 year old changes as a 20 year old. Follow your goals and whatever you do, make sure that you are happy. As I said before, where there is passion and hard work, money will follow (if you want it too). Life is too short to be unhappy and there’s no point wasting years away in a job that you knew from the beginning wasn’t what you wanted. Not only do creative careers (like many) have the ability to make you the big bucks if you play your cards right and have a vision for what you want, but they will more than likely have a heap of health benefits and give you the chance to explore and utilise your creativity. Without art, the world is a boring, dull place where people will forget what it is like to use their imagination and discover the endless possibilities available to them. Whatever you do, do not let others impede on your passion for creating. Sure, they might say they want the best for you in terms of making money and living a more stable life, but only you know what’s really best for you. Make your choice based on what makes you happy, ensure you continuously remind yourself of your end goal and tackle any obstacles in your way with optimism and an open-mind. If you stick by that, and work smart, success will follow.