Finding the balance between passion and reality

How reasonable is it to pursue the arts in today’s society?

Keely Carolan, Staff Reporter
Originally published June 15, 2017

Fletcher Anderson

Fletcher Anderson

In this liberal bubble that we call home, the arts flourish in many forms–theater, music, street art, spoken word and more. Seattle also houses a number of the nation’s (and the globe’s, for that matter) most influential STEM-based tech companies, which have undeniably become a vital facet of our society. Being constantly bombarded with media that covers all of these subject areas has resulted in a wide spectrum of interests taking shape among students.

With such diversity of interests, it’s not hard to find a group of people you can click with. And when surrounded by people with similar passions, it can be easy to get swept up in the hype. At our school, the arts are no exception. Groups of students can frequently be found collaborating on film projects, critiquing each other’s artwork, and attending small gigs put on by student bands or solo artists. Creativity is fueled by the mutual enthusiasm many hold for these forms of expression.

However, as more and more job openings appear in technology-based occupations and the STEM field, it becomes harder to justify the pursuit of the arts in today’s day and age. Is it a reasonable expectation that we should support those who are following their passions, or are we simply fueling an impossible fantasy that will inevitably result in failure for those who aren’t able to make it big in a field where originality is so hard to come by?

This is the question that many young artists are grappling with as they debate between the pull of their dreams and the reality of ever-growing living expenses. Sure, touring the country with your epic indie-rock band may make you happy, but will it put food on your table? Not necessarily. The world is full of wannabe pop stars and edgy avant-garde fashionistas, but how many little kids’ dream is it to sit at a desk all day, laying the foundations for technologies which keep our society running?

It’s hard to become a successful artist, no matter what art form you choose to pursue. If everyone could live off of coffee shop paintings, the world would be a much more blissful place. But the truth is, there’s  no job stability in the arts, it’s difficult to be successful in such a competitive community, and in the meantime there’s nothing to provide for basic, everyday needs.

So yes, I think it’s reasonable to say that the pursuit of the arts can be, at least for most, a bit frivolous. But what’s to weigh the benefits of monetary gain over a life of endless creativity and inspiration? Who’s to say that you will gain more from sitting at a 9 to 5 job making piles of money when you could be out seizing the day, living your life the way you choose to live it? Is it fair to condemn these hopeful youth to a life of complying with corporate greed when there are other options for them out there?

However, what it comes down to here is not how satisfied you are with your occupation, but how successful it is in providing for you a comfortable and perhaps even luxurious life. Many begrudgingly take what could be considered a more “realistic” job in order to fund their artistic pursuits as a side hobby rather than the focal point of their career. Though lack of satisfaction with their career could be a side effect of this, it seems to be a good compromise for those who feel caught in between.

If you are looking for a comfortable life without worrying about where your next meal is coming from, then it’s a good idea to consider pursuing a STEM-based career path. But if you are looking for fulfillment and happiness, and are willing to sacrifice a little comfort for that, then it’s not unreasonable to follow wherever your inspiration may take you. And who knows, your hard work just might pay off.