Recently, as I was decluttering my room, I came across my page in my fifth grade yearbook. Aside from the large red rings around my lips in my photo — a result of licking them too much in the wintertime — what stood out to me most was my answer to the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? A writer, I had said.

Today, if someone asked me the same question, I would still give the same answer. As I went through high school, I had numerous friends and family members  tell me how impractical my career ambitions were. They told me I’d make no money, that I’d starve, that I shouldn’t let my intelligence go to waste and that I should be a dentist instead. For a while, I didn’t really care and just brushed it off as people being closed-minded corporate tools.

According to a recent Gallup report, 50 percent of Americans don’t use their strengths throughout the day. This, to me, is an indicator that much like the voices that discouraged me from pursuing writing, the American workforce’s main objective is to make money. However, although unconventional, it may pay to pursue a career path that aligns most with one’s passions. This allows for more personal professional growth compared to the path that most Americans currently undertake. 

As I came to the end of my time in high school, I realized two things: 1) I didn’t have a concrete plan to ensure my success as a writer, and 2) I was itching to have a corporate job of some sort. I am a competitive person, partially because I care a lot about what other people think. And since the image of me going to work at an office everyday would impress others, that’s precisely what I wanted to do.

So after a lot of job searching, I finally found an internship in marketing at an advertising software company. I thought that marketing might be the perfect marriage of writing and business. The truth is, I still don’t know, because I spent most of my time in the office plugging away at Excel spreadsheets, and checking my bank account to see if my paycheck came in.

I enjoyed the pay and telling people that I had an office job, but I despised a lot of the work I did, and the work of my superiors didn’t interest me much either. What would have been most beneficial to me would be a job that catered to my strengths and allowed me to improve upon my existing skill set.

Of course, not everyone can afford to try out having a career that they're passionate about. Most have to settle for practical jobs to support their families. Making money is important. However, when employees aren’t utilizing their strengths, there is little  room for upward mobility within a job.

For example, if I really put my mind to it, I believe I could become an investment banker, a job that requires strengths that are foreign to me. Yes, I can do math, analyze data and think critically, but I will never excel doing those things. So it would be very difficult for me to move up the chain of command at an investment banking firm.

However, if I were a journalist, my skills would be in play throughout the workday. I would be writing, researching and communicating with others. I could do an excellent job and I’d have a much greater opportunity for growth within my career than in investment banking.

Sure, journalism is a changing field that is difficult to go into, but even if it doesn’t work out for me, there’s still the possibility that I could transition into copywriting or public relations, jobs that require those same skill sets. It seems that the initial risk of going into a field that doesn’t hold the highest average salary is worth the potential to be truly good at one’s job, because of the massive growth opportunities.

When I tell people that I am starting college soon, they often ask what I want to study. Usually, I say I don’t know, because I am embarrassed to admit that I’m interested in pursuing creative writing and journalism. However, I now believe a better answer would be: “I’m planning on studying English. I would love to send you some of my writing to read if you’re interested.”

ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College freshman from New York. Her email address is isim@sas.upenn.edu. “Simonetti Says So” usually appears every other Tuesday.

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