Teach Your Kids To Follow Their Passions, But Ideally To A Paycheck

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sad-teenage-girl-buskingI want my kids to dream big. I want them to have amazing, wonderful futures full of things that they’re passionate about. Ideally, I also want them to not be living in my basement anymore by the time they’re 30 years old.

Liz Ryan wants me to know that my kids should be allowed to study whatever they’re passionate about in college, and I agree – to a certain extent. I definitely don’t plan on roping my children into a boring business degree, but I also don’t want to spend an astronomical sum for them to major in basket-weaving and unicorn farts. For people like Ryan, maybe it’s practical to send five children to college to major in music and to be all right with the possibility that you will still be a happy family of seven living together once your youngest has done his cap-and-gown stroll across the stage to Pomp and Circumstance. Yes, kids, follow that rainbow, but please be sure there is an actual pot of gold, in the shape of some sort of career, at the end of it.

For those students who don’t have their joy in these interests beaten out of them by studying and then trying to monetize them, there are other problems on the horizon. Sure, some kids are going to grow up to be the next Misty Copeland or Yo-Yo Ma, but for the vast majority of wannabe superstars, the future holds teaching piano lessons to preschoolers (who probably also have other ideas about where they’d rather be). Or maybe they can land a gig writing for Forbes:

I picked a practical major in college myself — vocal performance. Here I am today, singing, writing, drawing and speaking about the topics that interest me! There is nothing la-la or impractical about a music degree.

Giving your children the freedom to be passionate about something is great, but sometimes, passions make better hobbies or side gigs than they do college careers. There are semi-pro orchestras in cities all over the country, there’s community theater, there’s forming a band with your friends. College students can even minor in something they’re excited about: art history, dance, musical theater. None of these options require shelling out for an ever-more-expensive college degree, and really, an earnest attempt at making an actual go of a career in the arts doesn’t necessarily demand that, either. There are things to be learned about art and music at university, but there’s also plenty to be learned outside of the traditional educational path.

I know the job market is still a crapshoot, and there’s no degree in the world that comes with the guarantee of a job; theoretical job security is no reason to push a kid into a field that he hates, or is bad at. (For example, if my kids take after me and not their dad, we can probably leave math-related majors off the table.) Whether they love languages, literature, science, or the arts, I hope my children have the chance to follow their passions; I just want to them to take care that those passions don’t lead them into deep debt, or lasting resentment of the things they used to love.

(Image: Anatoly Tiplyashin/Shutterstock)