Shah: Make a life, not a living

April 24, 2019

After graduating from high school, I dreamed of saving the world. So, I enrolled into college with a major in pre-law. Three real estate exams and seven law papers later, I realized how lost I was.


Although I found my classes enjoyable, I knew I shared a passion for something else. The writer in me fought every single day to convince myself to think about a field that challenged me to be more creative.


My goal changed, but my mission remained the same: to change the world. So, I embarked on a journey of finding a career that was gratifying. I didn’t have to travel too far before I realized my only option was journalism.


However, it became very clear to me that if I wanted to make a career out of something that was “dying,” I needed to be exceptional.


Unfortunately, one of the very first barriers I encountered was the absence of a journalism program at UT. Even then, I wasn’t deterred from pursuing the one thing that brought my life purpose.


Upon joining the Independent Collegian as a staff writer and after writing my first story, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.


Every week, I obsessed over each story I was writing. I consistently planned, practiced and envisioned the process of interviewing my sources. Meeting new people, connecting with them and sharing their stories with the world excited me.


Journalism ignited a flame inside of me that felt missing from my life. From writing stories on puppy mills to the injustices individuals from impoverished communities faced, to addressing issues of race, class and gender, I fell deeply in love with journalism.


There was something powerful about immersing myself in conversation with strangers and expanding my mind with new thoughts and ideas. Curiosity grew inside of me with every new person I encountered and through every story I wrote.


I could never stop asking questions. I was fascinated with every aspect of life and found solitude in writing. My work mattered even when it didn’t make the front page.  


My hunger for journalism grew and my drive pushed me to want more. I reached for more opportunities to grow as a journalist, most of which only resulted in rejections, bringing me closer to realizing that fulfillment was key in making a career out of something.


And it’s because of this fulfillment that I only continue to strive for more opportunities. Today, I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done to make a life out of journalism, not just a living.


My experiences at the newspaper entirely contribute to my creativity as a writer, my determination as a reporter and my overall growth as a person.


It’s through the work I’ve done at the IC that I’ve secured acceptances to Northwestern, Columbia, Syracuse, City University of New York, American University and Emerson College.


Choosing a career that allows me to connect with people and share their stories has brought my life more satisfaction than any paycheck ever will.


It took me a semester full of law classes to realize that law was never my dream.


While college counselors, advisers and success coaches offer notable resources to help students make informed decisions, their roles only extend so far in assisting students with deciding which career path is suitable for them.


The real problem is the way in which society shapes the idea of success—centered upon happiness and security—detached from the essence of fulfillment.


In conversations about choosing a career that is right for someone, we often miss the importance of discussing how necessary gratification is. We make the mistake of replacing it with happiness.


While happiness should be taken into account, it shouldn’t be the end goal. Instead, fulfillment should be at the heart of these conversations.


To think that happiness is the most important factor in determining which career is right for you is doing yourself a disservice. To settle for a job that only pays the bills and brings security to your life is depriving yourself of the opportunity to do something exceptional with your life.


The reality is that your job won’t always bring you happiness, but if your career brings you fulfillment, then you’re going to show up every day regardless of how hard it gets and do the work.


At a time when newspapers are struggling to remain relevant, an increased hostility toward reporters is becoming our reality, and, as most people claim that the field of journalism is dying, I chose to pursue journalism. Not because it brought me happiness, but because it brought my life purpose and fulfillment.


Had I not followed my instincts, impulsively changed my major to encounter disappointment at the lack of journalism opportunities offered at UT and then joined the Independent Collegian—I would’ve missed out on the opportunity of pursuing my dream.


Maybe five years from now, I’ll still be paying off my student loan debt or making the bare minimum to cover my bills, but at least I won’t look back at my life with regret.


In her poem, “The Summer Day,” Mary Elliot asks the question, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I choose to be wildly curious, deeply passionate and unapologetically myself, but more importantly, I choose to pursue the one thing that brings me closer to the heart of the world.


What is it that you plan to do?


Areeba Shah is a fourth-year communication major.


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