It was my life’s dream to work in the theater. I began performing at the age of 8 and for the following decade, I leapt at every opportunity that came across my path, both on and off the stage. I had experience, passion, serious drive — and I even had talent. So, as the time came to decide on my college path, I chose to major in theatrical technology and design at the University at Buffalo, with hopes to become a director when I graduate.
My first year of college was nothing short of wonderful. I was finally studying my passion and being fully immersed in all things theater. Every day, I was knee-deep in practical and theoretical art, and I began to rise to the top of my class as I took on more and more opportunities. I was working closely with the faculty and with the seniors in my program, all of whom seemed like almighty theater-producing legends. At the drop of a hat, these legends would pull stunningly beautiful visuals, movements and sounds from thin air. But then the seniors graduated, and they did so without a job. And then they found jobs as wait staff and receptionists — and they still were unable to land steady jobs working in their field. This reality that the alumni faced was stirring and made me look my future in the face. After a serious amount of contemplation, I decided to give up on my dream and sell out.
I then attended community college for a semester and dealt with the fact that my life plan had melted between my fingers. Finally, I decided to transfer to Ithaca College to study integrated marketing communications. After one of those alumni heard what I had done, he told me I had wasted a decade of my life and sold out to corporate America. He was right. Although I do not believe that I wasted any amount of time, I did sell out, and I could not be happier with my decisions.
College is an investment. It took me some time to fully understand what this meant. But it is true. We pour incredible amounts of money into our college educations, and we should expect to see some form of return on that investment. It is important to at least get your money’s worth, whether it be a high-paying job, marketable subject-specific skills, social capital, life skills, fulfillment or any of the other social aspects of college life. As I was chasing my dream, I could not foresee that money coming back to me in the ways I wanted. Sure, I loved every moment, but how likely was that to continue
I am certain that I could have survived working in the theater. I could have earned a vaguely comfortable wage at some point, but I realized that chasing my dream meant giving up on a number of other dreams. I want to travel, provide for my children and dogs, own a lake house and retire comfortably. By selling out to pursue a corporate career, I can entertain the possibilities of these luxuries and have a slice of security that I would have never known.
This was my choice, and it is a choice that may not be right for all people. There is value in pursuing the arts. This world needs the arts. I have
nothing but respect for those who go down that path and help illuminate stages, galleries and public spaces across the world. But, the world also needs those of us who love the arts and have the means to support it, both physically and financially. In the future, I hope my decisions have led me to have the financial resources to do so.
Selling out? It was the perfect solution for me.