September is my birth month and lately, I have thought of many things in my life, including my personal growth. I’m going 24 in the next few days and I thought of writing something personal—that is the dilemma of working for money or passion.
I grew up in a lower-middle-class family and I am the eldest daughter. In an Asian family setting, the eldest child is usually responsible for helping the parents and siblings financially when they grow up. That is why the pressure to finish school and land a great job is real for those who are in the same position as me. However, I wouldn’t say I was forced to do this, and that, like how Asian parents are stereotyped. It was my initiative to help my family. And at least, I was able to choose the course I liked back in college.
Realizing my passion for writing
When I was in high school, we had a subject called Journalism which basically taught us all about news writing, editorial writing, copywriting, and whatnot. My forte back then was editorial cartooning and we used to compete with other schools, region-wide and nationwide. Competing with other aspiring journalists was one of my unforgettable memories in high school. I was later assigned as the editor-in-chief of our school newspaper and awarded as Journalist of the Year when I graduated.
All the experiences I had learned in this subject led me to choose a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in college. All I know is that it’s what I am most familiar with, so I took it.
In 2015, a publisher reached out to me and told me they were interested to publish my book which I posted on Wattpad. Of course, in exchange, they would pay me. I didn’t expect it would get noticed, since it’s a novel I wrote two years back. Besides, it doesn’t have an outstanding plot because I just wrote it out of a hobby. Lo and behold, I found my story being sold on bookstores. They even invited me to book signings! Still, the happiest part of my teenage years.
Eventually, I had to decide
As the years went by in college, the reality of being in the world of media kicked in. We heard stories of what it’s like in the field, the overworking, depreciating, and underpaying media practitioners. It’s like our professors were straight-up telling us only passionate journalists can survive in the industry. Because, as they said, journalism won’t feed a family. Which is kind of true.
When you’re working in a print newspaper, journalists are commonly paid with a minimum wage. It’s lower if you work in a provincial newspaper. Mostly, you even have to pay for your transportation, meals, and other expenses you have to spend when doing coverages. Unless you are lucky to work in a TV network or a well-known news portal, I guess the situation is better. Or maybe, just the same as many.
These stories made me think about whether to pursue journalism. Here comes the dilemma of working for money or passion. I had to think objectively. Again, I am the eldest in the family and I had a dream to give them a comfortable life. So, eventually, I had to decide on my career.
Taking the leap
In my college, we were required to undergo two kinds of internship – first is at newspapers, second is at any media-related industry (PR, broadcast, communication research, etc.). I took my second internship at a PR agency. Before I graduate, they offered me a job with a pretty decent salary for an entry-level position. I thought it’s my chance, I wouldn’t have to apply for jobs and wait to get hired. I would be able to immediately provide support to my family. In short, I started working with them, three days after I graduate.
I observed that many of my college batchmates as well are taking jobs that aren’t specifically journalism. But I don’t look down at my friends who are working in newspapers, radio stations, and broadcast networks. I’m proud that they pursued it!
Although, sometimes, I think about what could have been if I were in a more comfortable situation and grew up without the pressure to earn and provide. I probably would have worked in the field or a TV station. Or, maybe as a radio broadcaster, or as an editorial assistant.
But this is my reality. And I accept it.
However, I am not saying I am not happy with my current job. I am not even shy saying people that I took PR instead of a journalism job because to be realistic about it, I had to choose money and wished that the passion for my chosen career would grow. It did. I eventually started liking the work. It still gives me the chance to write in the form of press releases, event scripts, media advisories, and all.
To anyone who is going through the same dilemma – whether they would work for money or passion, think about it a thousand times. The best tip I can give is to understand your priority. If you feel like you would dare work for something you are passionate about even if it pays less, it’s okay. If you think it’s more important to land a job that pays well even if it’s not related to what you studied, that’s still okay. Working for money in a decent job is normal, especially if it what helps you live a better life. You’re not wasting your years—you’re trying to live.
What’s important is, whatever you decide on, be proud of it. Take what you think is best for you, and no amount of judgment should demotivate you from what you’re doing.