We’re all trying to figure out what we’re doing in life. Like the children that we are, we’re sitting in front of a table with three shaped holes in it: a square, a triangle and a star.

Twenty-one year olds are the proverbial infants of the adult world. They’re stupid, they smell bad and tend to throw up on themselves. And not everyone’s on the same level. Some people are eons ahead, while others are still trying to fit the ‘what am I doing with my life’ peg into the ‘what do I want to do with my life’ hole.

And it’s a difficult balance to figure out. It’s the paradigm of passion vs. practicality. Who else wanted to be a rock star? Astronaut? Business tycoon, video game tester, stuntman, the star quarterback. How many dreams have been given up in the pursuit of a ‘real career?’ Unfortunately, we’re being forced to choose. How likely is it that we’ll be one of the 20-some actors and actresses that grace the silver screen a dozen times a year? Or we could go into sales and end up in a cubicle bucking for minimal promotions. Naturally, those are the extremes, but the compromises we find ourselves making tend to add up.

Who doesn’t love a good example? I’ll volunteer. I love writing creatively. Some people can doodle, monochromatic murals splaying across blue-lined paper, as a teacher’s words go in one ear and out the other, but I’m not one of them. I doodled, but with words scrawled in the corners of my notebook. Face close to the paper, in a quiet room, a clock the metronome to the melodies of scratching pencils, but on my paper, another story would play out.

That’s what I’ve known. But am I going to write the next “Harry Potter”? Probably not. Everything has been telling me that you need to go to college, need to get the diploma, need to have that respectable something that ensures that you’ll be able to get a job somewhere. Everything tells us that you can’t just say “screw it,” move to New York and become a writer. So what do I do? It’s another choice, another compromise to be made, following a degree in writing, or finding something that I’d be more likely to survive off of. Sure I could, theoretically, end up writing the next “Harry Potter,” but in reality it’s much more likely I’m going to end up editing some sitcom for ABC Family from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. I’d rather be the respectable something.

So I found something else. I decided to major in journalism. Journalism involved writing and was a bit more substantial. But it was still compromise. A step in a new direction, a new door open, a new challenge.

This whole journalistic spin on writing was a totally foreign concept to me when I started. I revel in description, lollygag in metaphor, and the tight, straightforward style required for news writing I initially found constricting. But it was challenging, it was interesting, it was new. I found that this argument, this dialogue between passion vs. practicality, presented two options that weren’t mutually exclusive. The compromise led me to something that I had a real interest in.

The argument of passion vs. practicality isn’t black and white. If you never make a compromise, never back down from the stage or the canvas, it’s still very much up to luck. How likely is it? And that translates to how happy are you? Likewise, if you take the first pencil pusher job you get, forget anything you’ve ever wanted to do, is that security really worth it? Dedication to one or the other, circuitously end up at the same location. Success and happiness are in the middle of the circle, unattainable through the peripheries, only accessible through turns on the roads of both passion and practicality.


Augustus Stahl can be contacted at 


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