When I graduated from the “best” public high school in America at the time, I felt obligated to make a bunch of shot-in-the-dark life decisions. Going to college was never really negotiable for me, but instead, what to pursue in college was. I have had many peers and adults (mainly POCs) ask me if my father supported my initial decision to study English and my dream to become a novelist. I said I’m lucky, and to this day, I continue to be. I had my dad’s approval and financial support, but I also felt I needed a backup plan, something I learned from being my father’s daughter. So I minored in Journalism and Mass Comm, as a practical safety net. Even when those plans didn’t work, I chose a field of study that mirrored my simultaneous thirst for creativity and need for practicality. I needed all my bases covered because that’s what my dad would’ve liked.
My dad’s not a risk-taker, never was, never will be. He’s adventurous and curious, but makes plans in advance and almost always chooses the way that has been before. In part, it’s in the nature of most immigrant parents, which he was. In part, as I have come to learn, and continue to learn, it’s something ingrained in him, something that has allowed him to be as successful as he is today (however ready to retire). He has warned me that solely artistic freedom, regardless of what form, is a difficult path for financial security. This, I understood, as it is true for most people, but I couldn’t let go of the things I wanted to spend all of my waking hours doing. School sucked for the longest time because of this. As stubborn as I am, I wanted to do both, to prove to myself and my family that art can pay my bills.
So, the youngest in the Tsai family has finally graduated college, raising many questions as to what my future holds, having had the opportunity to observe the successes of all the elders before me. And now, nearly two months out of college, I am still unemployed, my confidence and creative spirit slowly depleting. I would even say I’m tamer than others in my generation of liberal arts grads; I actually want that nine to five structure and working in an office. I want the salary and benefits over freedom to make your own schedule or work in your PJs. Creative industries are growing, and I have so much opportunity and potential. While recognizing that my hustle can’t back down, I’m reaching a level of desperation that is new to me but surely familiar to countless of others. That desperation is reminding me that it was not only my lack of confidence or inexperience or fear of risk and failure that drove me to have a backup plan, that had shaped me to accept certain things as they are. I feel that many artist types have a certain adamant way of life that inherently defies normality and dares to be different. That inspires me, but I acknowledge that there is not enough of that free spirit in me to abandon financial security, and so I must allow, in my career, space for things I don’t necessarily like to do. Rationalizing this has made me a highly adaptable person, something I never boasted to be in the past. And so in response to the people I have met and spoken to about my passions, I hope that there is logic to why art is something I do in my spare time and why I have not been relentlessly pursuing it professionally.
I dare to be different, and I will accept artistic opportunities as they come. But for now, I need to prioritize getting on my feet. I guess I’m writing this partially to vent, to justify my current “funemployment” and justify feeling bad about it. I know each individual has their own unique path towards their own definition of success or purpose or happiness, and ultimately, I am unconditionally fortunate to be on the path I am on. Continue to move forward, as they say, and working smart will be worth it.