Choosing a "safe" career path vs. following your dreams

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16 Sep 2017, 2:52 pm

Which are you an advocate of?

Related story: Back in 2013, right around the time I was graduating from high school, I decided to try my luck at the entrance exam of a conservatory (aka music school). I'd started making my own music not too long prior, and I went into the entrance exam with the passion a fresh hobbyist musician could have. Alas, it didn't go so well. I left the exam with a feeling of utter disappointment in myself.

The following two years I spent doing my civilian service and studying English in a folk high school. Between them, I went into the entrance exam of a university in 2014. As the year before with the conservatory, however, I failed the exam, which then led me to the folk high school to study English for the next year. And in 2015, I had the luck of being accepted into the university.

The first year of university was great, with the exception of one major hurdle. Not so much the second year. In the spring of 2016, I'd failed the entrance exams of pedagogical studies (which was the main reason why I went into university in the first place - I wanted to become an English teacher at the time). The second year saw the start of a steady decline in my interest and motivation, and eventually me starting to second-think myself. Did I really want to do this? Did I really want to do something I obviously wasn't going to enjoy for an indefinite number of additional years?


So I started contemplating the possibility of changing school - to go study none other than music. And by the start of this year, I'd pretty much decided to do it. I went into three different entrance exams for three different music schools, among them the conservatory I'd tried for prior. By the time the exams were over, I was filled with what can only be described as half-eagerness and half-dread. I was uncertain as to whether I was going to make it - again.

Somehow, though, I did make it. I'm now studying music in a vocational school and loving every second of it. I'll admit that I do miss the people I met in university, but screw me if I was going to stay there to study without any sort of passion and just barely bust out a degree in whatever.

“They laugh at me because I'm different; I laugh at them because they're all the same.”
― Kurt Cobain

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl

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17 Sep 2017, 2:51 pm

Big advocate of following your dreams, bc i chose the supposedly "safe" path and now hate it. I was very interested in things like interior design, art and japanese culture. I chose to study law bc of the money and now i'm struggling to work at a job that both doesn't suit me and doesn't interest me. I have no idea what to do at this age either.. ı'm so glad you're doing something you like though!


Joined: 4 Mar 2017
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22 Sep 2017, 9:18 pm

employees that work at schools tell students to follow their dreams. it's the entire "college is for everyone" deal. :roll: . if the colleges only offered majors and courses that were directly related to jobs, ie. STEM, trades, accounting, then the college would have fewer classes to offer and earn less $$.

college is a business that sells classes.

nothing more, nothing less.

employees of the business practice "brand loyalty".


my precious lil chinese "parents" wanted my sister and me to be doctors and engineers. that's the "safe" path.

my sister is a medical doctor.

and i flunked out Structural Engineering. 4th year. ucsd. BS.

when i was 22. now i am 34. still obsess about it. daily. profoundly.

maybe i will never get over it.


anyways whatever


my cousin got a BS in Aerospace Engineering. and for 10 years he was unemployed and underemployed. and counting. he lives with his parents in a crowded apartment. he had to default on loans.

my cousin has a disease that affects his appearance.

the employers could've discriminated against him. yes, that does violate Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. but as long as the employers do not tell him about the discrimination, he has no grounds for taking out a civil lawsuit for employment discrimination.

someone told me that he got a MS in Math from UC riverside. after that he worked at Oracle as a Software Engineer. seventeen years. then he said his entire division got laid off. he had to work at Trader Joe's stocking shelves. for one year. after that he went to Sylvan Learning Center. precalculus tutor. 15 bucks an hour.

so. the "safe" career path might not be so "safe" after all.

when i graduated ucsd, with a BA in cognitive science, it was 2007. economy better back then

especially after the 2008 recession, some jobs that were stable back then, stopped being stable.

the other thing i wonder, though. is that. what if i were to have graduated from ucsd with a BS in structural engineering, which i desparately tried. til burnout. workaholic. failure. slacker. too far gone. beyond repair. lost cause. to do.

then what? because even then, whatever jobs i could apply for, would have plenty of cisgender neurotypical applicants with fewer than five personality disorders.

while i am autistic. Gender Identity disorder. clinically diagnosed

Dept of Rehab diagnosed six out of ten personality disorders

plenty of precious lil "people" told me that Accounting was a "safe" field. every industry needs accountants. and accounting does not involve too much math. (counterintuitive, i know. but only until algebra 2/trigonometry, at the BS level).

but whatever

then i went back and got an AA in community college. Accounting

seriously i do not know what, if anything i am doing

except being a public nuisance

and wasting away my "life".

STEM majors are pretty "safe"


so, i would say, if you are good at a "safe" career, or if you can passive aggressively tolerate a "safe" career, do that.

otherwise, follow your dreams.

because even the "safe" career is not guaranteed to be "safe".


looking back though i seriously wish that when i was 18, instead of UCSD, i just enlisted in the Air Force. E1. Active Duty. Finance Technician


Air Force recruiter

Basic Training

Advanced Individual Training

the fleet

the garrison

mess hall




the rack

the head



24 hour duty

enlistment contract

enlistment bonus

The Crucible




b/c my precious lil "parents" wasted way too much cash sending my worthless corpse to school. but they thought college was the only option.

so i feel guilty

@ least if i were to have joined the military, i could've belonged somewhere




Closet Genious

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23 Sep 2017, 6:32 am

My story is oppostite of OP.

I started out following my dreams, and now I am changing course for something "safe".

My dream was also music, specifically audio engineering. What I realized was that even the thing you are passionate about will start feeling like a job. Only with much longer hours, worse pay and worse security.
The audio industry is absolutely BRUTAL, and only the best 5-10% will earn any real freedom or money.

In the end I would rather have a job that pays well, giving me freedom to travel, build my own studio, or whatever else I want to do in my free time.

Tufted Titmouse
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23 Sep 2017, 7:52 am

Do you have the will and interest to practice 10,000 hours to master the craft?
-That is a lot of time doing something.

Do you have enough support or resources to chase this dream?
-While chasing the reward will you have food, clothing, shelter, and adequate safety?
-Living under the overpass eating dog food, I bet, sucks.

What is the opportunity cost?
-Would you miss out on enough income to buy a house or set yourself up for retirement?
-Would you miss out on dating someone special that could be the one?
-Would you miss out on raising a family?
-When you are old, would you regret not taking the chance more than some other option?

Sea Gull
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23 Sep 2017, 5:47 pm

I've never had any career dreams & feel lucky to not be homeless anymore. That was a big worry for me growing up is that I would end up homeless & maybe starve to death. Have never been very good with interacting & have a difficult time sustaining friendly acquaintance level relationships. People want more from me than I can give them, & when they feel rejected, they begin to work against me. Since I don't have any friends or family that could help mitigate arguments, I'm alone in defending myself. Loners don't do well against a group of people who grow to hate (for no good reason other than I don't want to hang out with them & be bff's).

I like studying subjects of interest, but never could figure out how to make that into a job where I could earn a living wage. For example, one of my majors was biology & did a full concentration (majored & minored in the subject). I could never be a doctor or work in a lab, because am a terrible communicator. I can learn a lot about anything I like (biology, computers, anthropology ... ) but jobs require good communication skills. I've never been able to figure out how to translate my interests into a paying career.

Tufted Titmouse
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27 Sep 2017, 7:23 am

First let me re-iterate that there's no such thing as a safe path.
Every job is at risk of getting laid off, fired, terminated, etc.

My hearts go to all of you whose been there.
I started working at 16, it was around the time when I was a junior in HS.
I was supposed to graduate originally at 17 but got held back a few times.

Anyway, once I got to college
Around the time that I was close to graduation, I started struggling in Algebra III and felt like a failure.
I took a job I didn't really care for over education and almost dropped out..

But then a man who worked at a grocery store said not to be like him or any of the other folks working there and that I have much more of life to enjoy. I was working at a retail store across from the grocery store and would come in to get stuff.

After that, I quit my job and continued my education and got my degree.
Throughout my time working on my B.S in CS, I did do a lot of government jobs.
I took the money that I earned from all of those jobs and put it towards investments.

They paid off, at 27 years old I retired.
It was right after my teaching and management post at a community college.

Wanna know the best part?
This happened only last semester, I only retired 3 months ago.

Got my own house, my own car, and I still go to school. I take classes and when I don't, I go to the movies, to the museum, go fly somewhere. Whatever I want. Thinking of even majoring in Physics after I get my Masters in CS just because i can.

Of course the problem I have now is boredom, so I started looking for a job just to do something but I may decide ultimately to start my own company. Right now my priority is to save in case anything happens.

My point is, never give up on your dreams and that there is no "safe" path in life.


Joined: 4 Mar 2017
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27 Sep 2017, 8:23 am

The following describes my demeanor and situation:











No job

No job skills



California is an "at will" employer



Got fired numerous times

And ain't got no job skills. At least, none above minimum wage

And that is not a :skull: living wage :mrgreen: :|


So why bother :?:

Thus I feel guilty, useless, afraid, angry and hateful

And I am so lazy



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27 Sep 2017, 11:30 am

Depends on how much you want to keep a stable roof over your head, warm, dry and able to eat.

I've known even the most talented, skilled or qualified people in the arts NEVER achieve their dream of making their talent and skill their living. I've known brilliant musicians and composers who are career waiters in restaurants.

Sorry but just getting "qualified" or even honing your craft or skill or talent does not ever guarantee anyone will pay you for it.

If you wanna live hand to mouth at a shitty job, follow your dreams.


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27 Sep 2017, 12:21 pm

My path has come full circle: art school after high school in 1995, dropped out 1996, wage slave for several years, found decent-ish job in health care through temp agency in 2000, decent-ish job eliminated 2014, wage slave to burnout in 2017. Now I'm coming back to possibly doing something artistic like illustration so I won't have as much human contact, but my skills need a lot of work. In the meantime I'm living with my parents again so I'm not homeless or hungry.

There is no job security, so you may have multiple opportunities to work "safe" jobs &/or follow your dreams.


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27 Sep 2017, 1:41 pm

Bird in flight

There is no objective absolute method to determine which artists are the most "talented, skilled and qualified".

That is one of many problems that I have with liberal arts and social sciences.

In STEM fields things are right or wrong. There is a distinct beginning point and a clear end point. And a method of getting between them

Besides, an STEM degree does not "guarantee" that the student does not have to live "hand to mouth". For example, someone claimed to have gotten a BS in Computer Science, and was, still homeless. That instance was a person diagnosed with Bipolar and Gender Identity Disorder. But whatever. :arrow: someone said he got a Master's Science in Computer science. And he ate from a soup kitchen. He told me he was :jester: autistic :P . But whatever


The thing is, 12 years after flunking out of Structural Engineering, 500 miles away. It is still a 8O lifetime emotional disturbance :evil: . :cry: and I obsess over it, as much as I obsess over :twisted: rape :roll: . And that is :!: A lot :?: .

But recently I realized that even if i were to have gotten the degree I wanted, all the jobs that I could have applied for would have had plenty of NT, cisgender applicants. Those applicants have fewer than five personality disorder. While I have six personality disorders


So, there is something wrong with everything



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27 Sep 2017, 2:02 pm

Shortfat -- well, precisely.

Your statement of how there is no absolute method to determine talent, while in STEM something either "is" or is not, is precisely why in the ARTS there is NO guarantee that anyone is even going to value just how skilled or talented you are.

And that's precisely because it IS indeed not even an objective concept. People with no measurable "skill" are making hits and live in mansions. People with classical training are working office jobs.

By the way, when I spoke of the people I knew as "the most" I did not mean the most of anyone in the world, I meant it COLLOQUIALLY, the same way as one can say "Ben & Jerry's is the most delicious thing ever." It can be considered delicious by probably almost everyone's standards but everyone knows you don't mean LITERALLY it's the "Most" delicious food item bar none....


NOTHING about "the arts" is ever a guarantee, even if someone obtains every formal "qualification" -- in fact that stuff means diddly-squat in the arts unless you're a violinist applying to be just part of a working orchestra.

If you want to be the next Nirvana, the next Adele, or even the next celebrated movie scorer none of that even matters.

In the arts sadly it's all about who you know rather than what you know or even if you're any good.


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28 Sep 2017, 5:38 pm

I always think there must be a way to balance things. I hear people say they work to fund their real passions, but spending the majority of your time on something meaningless seems just as depressing as stressing about money all the time.


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28 Sep 2017, 8:31 pm

Bird in Flight

even in STEM subjects, the most qualified applicant to a job, does not have a legal right to get the job.

even in STEM subjects, employers still do job interviews. during the job interviews, employers sometimes could pick up autism symptoms.

although, all else being equal, it appears that STEM jobs are better suited for autistics.

and STEM jobs offer less interpersonal interaction, overall, than liberal arts and social sciences jobs. but, that is a vague, broad statement. and just the opinion of someone that has only ever worked minimum wage jobs.

so whatever.

what i have noticed, is that it seems like a disproportionate number of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science majors have a lot of autism symptoms.

autism used to be called :D "engineer's disease" :twisted:



a large part of why i tried to major in Structural Engineering was b/c (at that time, i thought that), it would better suit my (then undiagnosed) autism symptoms, than liberal arts or social sciences.

that assumption could have been fully or partially correct.

but how much better?

not much better.

but hey whatever



the world needs people working at a wide range of jobs, not just "safe" career paths.

some people are good at STEM subjects. some people are good at other subjects. some people are good at neither.

some people like STEM subjects. some people like other subjects. some people like neither.

some people would rather pursue a "safe" career they are bad at and hate, and be financially decent.

some people would rather follow their dreams, despite knowing the low chances of becoming financially decent.

some people pursued allegedly "safe" careers, then it turns out the 2008 recession occurred.

some people, from all academic majors, get discriminated against because of racism, sexism, homophobia, sizeism, and et cetera.

a former roommate. 24 year old. phd. electrical engineering. got a stroke. so, what is so great about that degree, if his health was so bad?

my sister's friend's brother was 33 when he died. masters in electrical engineering. worked as an electrical engineer. Air Force. 6 years. enlisted. :jester: he went to community college. after that Air Force. after that, BS and MS.

everyone's situation is different

values, priorities




you don't know what to plan for, b/c you are not psychic

you can't predict which industries will get less business

you can't guarantee which industries will get outsourced by employees from other countries

you do not know which jobs will get taken over by robots

you do not know how your physical health will be the following day

you do not know what kind of catastrophes will occur later

Blue Jay
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03 Oct 2017, 5:48 pm

I'm in a slightly odd position, I suppose. I want to work as an aeronautical engineer and chemist. I am currently studying chemistry and engineering, and I apply for a job at NASA in a few days.
That's both a safe option (employees at NASA have assured me that everyone there is on the spectrum), and my dream (admittedly, my full dream is to be an astronaut, but engineering is more than enough to satisfy me).

Granted, I have some fall backs- if worse comes to worse, I could be a carpenter, or mechanic, or dockworker. There are positives to all of those positions. I like carpentry and I like studying engines. Dockwork means I get to live near an ocean, and the control over shipping crate arrangement on ships leaves some room for creativity. It's one of the few careers that is both widely needed and less competitive today than it was 20 years ago. Not to mention, exercise.
They wouldn't necessarily be dream jobs, but I could still be happy in them.

So I've never been especially anxious about career prospects.

I also suppose that if worse really came to worse, I could always join a monastery.