There has always been some debate as to whether it’s better to “follow your dreams” or to stay rooted in reality. My mom has always told me to follow my dreams, but she also says I’m the most handsome person she knows, so her judgment is obviously dubious. Of course, she isn’t the only one. It’s something that, as college students, we hear all the time (“follow your dreams,” not comments about our good looks). It’s an age-old notion that we, as students, should use these formative four years to follow our dreams and to find and pursue our passions. There is, however, an issue with this logic, and it has to do with the fact that we live in the real world.
My dream is to be a trophy husband for a ludicrously wealthy woman living somewhere in the Caribbean with six dogs. Oddly, BC does not offer a major that would translate into this lifestyle. There is no class in MCAS called “Marrying Rich and Raising Dogs” (there might be in CSOM, but I’m not sure). The thing is, even people whose dreams are slightly less ridiculous than mine still frequently find them to be at odds with reality. In the words of Monique Valcour, a professor at a French Business school who has spent 15 years studying employment, a career is not typically built off of passion, but rather, “a sustainable career is built upon the ability to show that you can fill a need someone is willing to pay for.” For some reason, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to pay me to be a trophy husband and live with her in the Caribbean. Bummer.
BC's culture, though, doesn’t perpetuate this “follow your dreams” mentality. Instead, there is an overwhelming pressure to have a major that is applicable to the real world. More worth is automatically assigned to a degree from, say, CSOM, than a theater degree simply because there seems to be a more direct connection to real world success with that CSOM degree. Because of this, Boston College embodies a strange dichotomy: We’re supposed to follow our dreams, but we’re also supposed to make sure we set ourselves up to gain employment, even at the expense of dreams or passions. The pressure to do so is immense.
It seems as though the desire for employment has superseded that for following one’s passions, as more than 50% of American workers are unhappy with their jobs according to a recent study by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research organization. The question that arises is whether or not there is some happy middle ground between being unhappily employed and following your passions and being happy. Valcor seems to think so. She argues that the key to this is identifying a potentially marketable skill you enjoy and working hard to develop it and market yourself.
Translating Valcor’s advice into the realm of Boston College would indicate that the most important thing is to not abandon your dreams. If that dream is impossible to mesh with reality, then refine it to a point where you can identify an aspect of it that is marketable. While this advice means that I should abandon both my original trophy husband goal and my “accidentally stumble across buried treasure” backup plan, it doesn’t entirely discourage any passions I have.
The more important truth that this advice suggests is that following your dreams and earning a career are not mutually exclusive. There is a middle ground between the two that involves doing what you love but always keeping an eye towards the future.