You Don’t Have to Choose

Career vs. Extracurricular, Work vs. Love; The impossible choices of what is more important in your 20’s and which gives you a leg up

I accidentally fell in love with two things in my first year of university: Directing (like film and tv) and Student Leadership. They feel one in the same to me. I approach both realms of work similarly, as part traffic light and part cool mom. More on that later.

Ever since then I’ve been constantly chasing opportunities to do a bit of both. But in March of last year, I found myself wrapped up in the falling out of what happens when everything goes wrong with student leadership. I bottled up anger, stress and distanced myself from the people I love. I couldn’t socialize with people who didn’t understand exactly what I was going through. My body and my relationships are still recovering from physical and emotional effects of constant stress over long periods of time. And then I had a terrible few months of re-adjusting to the reality of where I am in my life, and experienced a little something called burn out.

While making decisions about what my final year of school would be like, friends and family repeated something to me that I really took as hard fact: “You need to figure out what’s MOST important to you”. And I am here to say, that’s bananas.

My bad experience in student leadership at the time certainly took its toll, but that was never a reflection of who I am. In those moments, I stuck to who I’ve always prided myself on being; I stuck to my values, made bold moves when necessary and did my research. But I forgot to have fun, and decided I cared more about my career than anything else. That is ALSO bananas.

After a tough few months, I’ve realized my career means nothing if there aren’t people I love to share it with. What’s the point of making good money if you aren’t buying someone a milkshake? I’ve realized ultimately, why I love both student leadership and directing is for the compassion, nurturing of others and mutual support the work depends on. I somehow lost track of that on my hunt for the mythical idea of “success”. As someone who moved away from home at 18 and never really looked back: student leadership is how I get to be a part of a support system and build a community.

Student Leadership isn’t a distraction to me; it’s what gives me vitality and hope for the future of education. It’s what I want my work place to look like; somewhere with upward development and making things your own for the benefit of the community. I found my strong preference to work in the public sector and that has made a world of difference.

The idea we cannot be our full selves, in every specific detail, is outdated. Our 20’s are the time to get messy, make mistakes and have fun (as Mrs. Frizzle puts it) and this is not the time to sacrifice what makes you happy for what will “build your future”. What makes you happy will help build your future just as much as any professional opportunity.

So don’t let anyone tell you your passion project doesn’t matter. If it makes you happy, it matters to you, and that’s what counts.

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