We live in a tech bubble. Within a quick drive are the campuses of Google, Facebook, Apple, and so many other tech giants, creating an abundance of Computer Science and engineering jobs, which seem to be the only paths anyone is considering. But living in Silicon Valley should not limit our options to only going into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Many parents in our area put pressure on their kids to go into STEM even if the student is passionate about something else. Our society places a greater emphasis on STEM and constantly makes it seem as if it’s the only viable option. When adults talk to us about college, they repeatedly use going into STEM as the example major and only mention majoring in something else as a side note. While this is fine in theory and probably really helpful to a lot of my peers, it seems as if it’s just another thing pushing the fiction that STEM is the best option.
“There is a lot of societal pressure, not necessarily explicit, but there’s this attitude where people who are smarter are expected to become doctors or engineers, and it’s just seen as a normal thing,” said senior Zachary Lo, who is considering majoring in Creative Writing or Screenwriting, despite excelling in higher level math classes.
Following your passion is not a stupid idea. In 30 years, when you’re sitting in your office and work is no longer new and exciting, will you still be interested in your job? Chances are, if you followed the dough and not your passion, you won’t be.
If you listen to any conversation about college, I bet the majority of the students in the group will say they intend to go into STEM. Those who even mention the possibility of following their passions in the humanities are repeatedly told by their parents or peers that they won’t succeed because, in society’s mind, one’s success is defined by their paycheck.
Yes, STEM majors do tend to earn more money than other majors. According to a 2014 study from the United States Department of Education, STEM majors make an average of $65,000 per year, while non-STEM majors make an average of $49,500 per year. But that shouldn’t sway anyone passionate about the arts to go for the higher paying job. In our materialistic, capitalist society, success seems to only be measured by the make of your car, the size of your house or the brand of your clothes. The true marker of success is pride, happiness and passion for your work. Aren’t these qualities way more important than a number?
Now don’t get me wrong, earning money and making a living wage are still important, but there are options for humanities and arts majors that don’t include being a struggling artist. The Hollywood depiction of anyone who goes into the arts being miserable and living in a crappy apartment isn’t true. Sure, not everyone will become the next George Clooney or Beyoncé, but not becoming the next famous celebrity does not equal a life of poverty.
The next time you’re talking about what you want to do in the future, don’t demean someone who says they want to go into the humanities or arts—you’re not helping anyone. And when it’s your turn to talk, don’t just say you’re going to become an engineer or doctor because you feel like that’s what’s expected of you. Say what you’re actually interested and passionate about. Never apologize for who you are or what you’re interested in.