Everything you need to know

Dear Janet,

I have a degree in information systems and one in creative writing… and $75K in student loans. I don’t want to take a job in the IT sector, but it’s much more lucrative than publishing — which is really what I want to do. I got the IS degree because I enjoyed it once and I wanted a job that could support me, but now I’m just afraid of dying young without having been able to do something I enjoy. Advice?

Poet, Especially Non-decisive

Dear PEN,

Well, I think you’ve mostly answered your own question for me, haven’t you? You know what you really want to do, you’re just afraid of not being able to make a living doing it. And Lord knows that’s a valid concern! But, since you’re asking a writer for advice, you know I’m not going to tell you to turn tail and get a secure, well-paying job in the IT sector. There’s a balance, though, between following your dreams and paying the rent, and it’s that delicate balance that you now have to seek out. There’s a whole spectrum of “following your dreams” that lies between trying to make a living as, say, a publishing poet, and giving up and going back to information systems: See if you can find a job or subspecialty within the publishing industry that you’ll enjoy, and that will allow you to use your talents, but that will also allow you to, you know, put food in your belly and a roof over your head. As for your loans, get some books on financial planning to help you figure out the best way to manage your debt.

Look at it this way: You have your health, your youth, your future — you have everything in the world right now. Why in the world would you not go for it? Even if you find out you can’t make a living at it, you won’t have to live the rest of your life with that regret hanging over your head. And if you can get by in publishing (which I suspect you’ll be able to), you will have the rare privilege of being paid to do something you love. How many people can say that? Now is the time in your life to be daring; I wish you nothing but the best.