The high flyer: choosing between passion and practicality

By Erin Loh

I took Java freshman year. 

Props to my indecisiveness, choosing Java was the result of a long process of weighing pros and cons, and comparing it with other electives like Art, Writing for Publication and Business. Through this process I recognized my own struggles with choosing between passion and practicality, and realized passion would ultimately make me happier in the long run.

At a crossroad: choosing passion over practicality will impact my studies, career and life. (Illustration by Erin Loh)

After reflecting on my decision to take Java, I saw that deciding between electives was not a question of which would be the most fun — rather, it was the choice between the relatively dull but practical, better-for-my-future electives, Java and Business, and the enjoyable but “impractical” electives, Art and Writing for Publication. 

Growing up in Silicon Valley, the community around me is famed for its booming tech businesses and STEM success stories. I have always felt an implicit pressure to go into STEM when I grow up, as if STEM careers are the ideal job for anyone who cares to make a decent living. Art, on the other hand, is viewed as a good hobby but otherwise useless. 

In choosing Java as my elective, I gave into choosing the ‘practical’ elective and tried something new.  The experience taught me that while coding was fun, doing it as a career would be exhausting and unsatisfying. However, I am thankful that it helped me define where my interests lie, and showed me that society’s most praised fields of study may not be enjoyable for me. I realized that rather than trying to impress others, I should stay true to myself.  

Through reaching this realization, I was able to explore more creativity-oriented careers that suited my interests: being a writer of some sort, or perhaps an animator who contributes to movie making and those delightful Pixar shorts. 

My eighth grade math teacher once told me that passion versus practicality in career choice is a decision everyone must make for themselves. To me, that means in whatever career I end up in, I will be happy as long as I have chosen what is best for me, not what is most impressive to society.