chapter4( The Detour )
When the Paths of Passion and Practicality Diverge

August 22, 2016

I’ve been chasing my passion since I was a child. In elementary school, I was a compulsive writer, forcing my teachers to comment on every nonsensical short story I wrote. When I got home from school, I would walk up the hill to my best friend’s house and he would illustrate comic books as I wrote the plot. In middle school, I became obsessed with creating music. I was a top clarinet player in our school band, and I begged my mother buy me a keyboard, then a guitar, then an electric guitar, then a bass guitar. In high school, I started at least 5 different blogs. By the time I reached college, I was addicted to web development.

Passion is what drives my work ethic, my energy, and my ambition. If my free time wasn’t occupied by activities that I deeply care about, I don’t know what I’d do with myself. Yet, I think I’ve reached a point where it’s no longer a good idea to follow my passion.

The Main Road (Practicality)

I love web development, but I’ve never fully appreciated it as much more than a safety net. My life’s goal is to become a great author. Unfortunately, development doesn’t fit neatly into that equation. I need web dev, though, because it’s far more practical to my livelihood than writing.

I didn’t study English in college. I didn’t study writing or journalism or publishing. I studied computer engineering, then switched to computer science, and finally landed in digital media and web technology. While passion informed my decisions to choose and switch my majors, it wasn’t my north star. Instead, I have always tried to follow the path of practicality.

Web development is my main road. If I stay on this path, it’s very likely that I’ll be able to live a happy, productive life. I can get a good job, meet wonderful people, eventually start my own business, and contribute to society—all things I really care about achieving. Somewhere in my mind, though, my passion says that’s not quite good enough.

The Detour (Passion)

People have been complimenting my writing for years. English was always my favorite class in school because I found it extremely easy and, even in college, I was often singled out by the teachers as an exceptional writer. I don’t mention this to brag (especially since you’re currently reading my writing and probably aren’t impressed); I mention it to explain why some part of my mind knows, without a doubt, that I’m meant to be a writer.

A few months ago, I diverged from web development. Passion whispered from the bushes on the side of the road and coaxed me into following it to a magical place called Fiverr. Fiverr is a freelancing website that allows you to easily sell your skills. Initially, I convinced myself that it was a great place to make money from my web dev experience. Soon enough, though, the real reason for the detour became apparent.

As it turned out, it was really easy for me to get work as writer through Fiverr. As I completed jobs, my buyers threw more compliments my way and, after a few months, my service was reaching a point where demand outweighed supply. Sounds amazing, right? Not quite.

During my time on Fiverr, I was making less than minimum wage. To put that differently: My very first job as a web developer paid over 75% better than my freelancing adventure on Fiverr, and I was arguably doing an easier, more meaningful job when I was a developer. My detour became so rife with uncertainty that my passion-driven escapade became almost completely devoid of passion.

If I had stuck it out, my detour probably would’ve join up with a new major road that would allow me to keep moving happily through live. I couldn’t wait that long, though. I was in a time and place in my life where that kind of risk wasn’t practical. I stopped, turned around, and headed back for the main road.

Getting Back on Track

I think many people (especially my fellow millennials) insist on chasing their passion because their pride won’t settle for anything less. If they’re like me, some part of them knows they’re capable of more than checkout lines, customer service desks, and cubicles. They know that, by simply accepting the safety of the main road, they’ll be giving up the adventure, the risk, and the reward of the detour. We all believe we deserve more, and maybe we do, but that doesn’t justify the foolishness of chasing your passion.

Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs and blue collar advocate, once said to “never follow your passion, but always take it with you.” That message has stayed with me ever since I first heard it. Even as someone who has written several articles about the importance of following your passion, I now see the impracticality of passion’s pursuit.

Right now, I’m working my way back into web dev. Writing this blog post is actually one of my first steps to figuring out what I want to do. Before I went on my detour, I was livestreaming the process of getting my frontend web development certification. I really enjoyed doing that and I’d like to get back to it. I only have one assignment left before I get my certificate, but I can certainly find other projects to stream once that’s finished.

All the while, I’ll be keeping my passion with me. I’m finally rewriting my first novel, and I’ll be doing some freelance editing on the side. I’ll be maintaining this blog and perhaps starting another one. I love writing, and I don’t think anything could ever keep me from it.

As a final note: A huge shout out to Gary Vaynerchuk for giving me the kick in the ass I needed to finally write this blog post. If you consider yourself ambitious or entrepreneurial, you need to get familiar with Gary; his wisdom is life-changing.