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Doing what you love or loving what you do? | A Room With a View

I started cooking about a year and a half ago, mostly out of necessity. Not only was I in search of an activity to take up my time, but I also realized that I lacked the basic skill of preparing food for myself.

Inadvertently, I began pursuing cooking more seriously and in a short period of time I went from measuring teaspoons of salt for every recipe to experimenting with new flavors and ingredients. Now I have a food account on Instagram and spend most of my free time either educating myself about food or testing new dishes. 

After countless years spent failing to find a fulfilling passion outside of academics, being in the kitchen taught me a new way to nurture my soul and revived my more humane side. It allowed me to discover an innate creative instinct I had always neglected as well as build a profound connection with the universal need for nutrition, one of the few commonalities that the entirety of mankind shares. 

I found myself daydreaming about escaping the predestined path I had always seen myself walk on — pursuing a Master’s degree in Economics and thereafter landing in the corporate world — and instead following this newfound passion. As this almost puerile thought translated itself into researching information about culinary schools and potential pathways in the industry, I felt compelled to confess this internal dilemma to the people in my life. 

While the majority of the advice I heard was strongly encouraging me to take this gamble so as not to live with the regret of missing out on my passion, a friend warned me against the dangers of equating extracurricular interests with job opportunities. 

When weighing career paths one can’t help but hear Confucius’s aphorism echo in their brain: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Graphic Artist

Even though most people begin cultivating their passions in an attempt to take a breath from constant productivity, it would make logical sense to make profit out of something that is first and foremost gratifying to them as human beings. After all, most questions around life paths are usually answered with “what are you passionate about?”

And yet, there seem to be enough convincing counterarguments to turning passions into paychecks. 

A Forbes article from May 2021 resolutely rebuffs this harmful advice by focusing on its narrowmindedness. As most people possess multiple life interests, focusing on one would overshadow the rest as well as preclude the discovery of new passions, sentencing people to being perilously one-dimensional. 

Moreover, combining passion and profit means giving up a valuable breather from the workplace, which is likely to cause the passion to be stripped away from its nurturing and cathartic properties. 

There’s also the underlying problem of an opportunity cost between a position that might not offer particular affluence while compensating in other areas — like flexibility or contentment — or an unrewarding profession with a salary that aligns with a person’s other life goals — such as desire to have a family, residence, etc. 

The common denominator of the aforementioned problems is the fact that we are not asking ourselves the right questions — instead of wondering which hobby could become most profitable, we should inquire into how a career can be a gateway to a passion. 

Professor and author Cal Newport defined it the Passion Trap — people seek out work they love hoping in the end everything will fall into place. Newport argues, however, that this has contributed to diminishing workplace satisfaction and urges to acknowledge that “passion is not a starting point. It’s a side effect.”

The latter idea, which to me appears least biased and narrow, does not necessarily negate the possibility of successfully entering the job market through an interest, but encourages individuals to assess their own prospects and aspirations.

Before running away to chase a dream, one must have a clear understanding of the available industries and career opportunities and whether they would encounter constraints that could hinder their other lifestyle choices. Most importantly, they would have to ponder whether not monetizing from their interests could remain gratifying in the long-run, and would not represent a lifelong regret. 

While continuing my daydreams about working as a private chef or recipe developer, I will have to start facing these heavy questions. Soon I’ll either find myself applying to Master’s programs or choosing to take professional cooking courses. In the meantime, I will keep using my breaks from studying to post photos of the meals I cook in my college apartment. 

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