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There has to be a balance between what you do for others and what you do for yourself. We all have responsibilities to others and it’s important to think of how our decisions now will affect those close to us in the future, but we also owe it to ourselves to make choices that lead to our own happiness. It can be hard to figure out where the line’s drawn between pleasing others and taking care of yourself.

I’m where I am today, in college, because of the countless sacrifices my family has made and continue to make every day. I never asked them to do that but I feel obliged to provide for them one day, as they have done for me. I should be a good daughter and get a degree that can let me support myself and my parents.

All the same, what good is their effort if I’m miserable in what I do? I spent a long time figuring out the major to take alongside my future prospects. Eventually I found a method for discerning what I should do, and what I want to do. If you have responsibilities, then you will need a career that can support them; this doesn’t necessarily mean choosing from options we believe to be set by others. Whatever your choice, it must be yours, ultimately uninfluenced by anyone else. 

I used to hate the idea of being a doctor because it was what my parents always encouraged. But after becoming an optometry technician I realized I loved it; I loved helping people and now I can’t imagine being anything other than a doctor who helps improve people’s lives every day. I ended up choosing the path of what I should be doing but also what I wanted to do.

You may find that there’s overlap in those two categories. If there’s something you simply can’t handle not doing then you have two options: you can do it for money or you can do it for free. You can make a living off of the thing you love, whatever it is. My thing is dancing; I grew up dancing and I couldn’t imagine never dancing again, but I’m also not someone cut out for professional work. I don’t have the discipline so I just do it for fun, on my own time.

If you want to make a career out of your passion then treat it like a job. If you want to design video games, give yourself deadlines and emulate a professional model. Pursue your passion full time if you think it can help you support yourself and others; if it doesn’t work out and you find there’s passion only as a hobby, then just do it for yourself. 

In a similar way, try giving different careers a chance to catch your interest. There are so many opportunities for volunteering in places where you could one day find work. If you like interacting with people, try volunteering in a hospital, homeless shelter or orphanage. If you like interacting with animals then you could try volunteering at an adoption center, shelter, zoo, aquarium or farm. If you like interacting with no one, see if you can volunteer in a botanical garden, research lab or a park.

The point is this: there are so many paths available for those of you who want something different than what others expect. If you have niche interests try Googling careers related to them, even if it’s just watching a show or reading a book. For horror lovers, look into being a mortician — I guarantee constant creepiness. For people who love mysteries like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” or “Law and Order,” maybe you could look into investigative careers. People who enjoy being outdoors and minimal social interaction, how about being a park ranger? Whether you love the ocean, cooking or reading, there is probably an occupation based off your interests. 

We live in a very diverse world with tons of opportunities, and what I have learned is that we should do what we desire. There are many different ways to find careers in your areas of interest. All you need to do is search for them.