Pursuing a Dream Vs. Paying the Bills

Q: A wife and mother of two, I immigrated to the United States from Portugal at a young age. Our culture didn't encourage women's education, and I easily used that excuse not to attend college. I did well in the workplace and was always liked by my employers. However, at 44 years of age, I've never earned more than $20,000 a year. I've since enrolled in college and am a semester away from earning an associate's degree in executive administration. This semester has proven very difficult, as I feel so displaced and unsure about my goals, needs and dreams. Initially, I wanted to earn more money, but now I just want a good job and normalcy. I go back and forth about this, money or predictability or an energetic career I'm good at? I am anxious and disappointed in where I am in my life and am waiting to be miraculously enlightened. What should I be doing to move forward?

— Teresa, age 44

A: Teresa, aside from the obvious fact that we all need enough money to live, the choice between money and passion should be an obvious one: go where your passion leads you. The simple truth, as trite as it may sound, is that all the money in the world won't make you happy if, every day of your life, you have to spend most of your time doing something you hate.
It would be nice if miraculous enlightenment showed us all a brightly illuminated path to our best futures, but unfortunately things aren't quite that simple. Like everything worth having, illumination requires hard work. In this case, the work you have to do is to examine your life and pay attention to what you really love. You imply that you were drawn to studying executive administration as a means to earning a higher salary, but what drew you to that particular field as opposed to any other? Are there administrative tasks and activities that you enjoy doing? Or are there activities from your past jobs that left you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction? What kinds of things have you looked forward to doing in the past? As you complete your studies, are there particular areas that get you more jazzed than others? Take the time to really pay attention to how you feel as you're engaged in your daily activities, and make sure to note those times when you particularly love or hate what you're doing. Examining how you feel about what you're doing is the key to knowing what you will love. Once you know what you love to do, be honest with yourself about what it will take to orient your life toward doing it, and commit to taking specific, concrete actions that will lead to the life you want to live.

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