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Two degrees to career happiness

Meld Magazine

Mon Nov 12 2012

journal writing

CHOOSING the right degree is one of the hardest decision you’ll make, but as Joanne Koh found out, the right decision is to follow your passion.  

When I was young, I read a lot. I read Enid Blyton mystery novels, the Goosebumps series, the Full House series and perhaps, my proudest achievement of all, the Nancy Drew series (I’ve read all 40-something books).

Whenever I read, I felt like I was a character in the story, tagging along behind the others, watching things unfold. I was 11 when I read Nancy Drew and my imagination was wild.  I was often caught daydreaming, whether or not I had a book in my hand.

I often imagined myself as a novelist, writing stories so magical they drew the reader in, allowing him or her to revel in the enchantment of being on another plane of existence that is mysterious, yet delightful. Do I sound crazy? It’s just, this is the feeling I had when I was 11. The feeling I want others to experience.

Unfortunately growing up, I lost my way. The teenage years came and went and although my love for reading was still strong, I had become sidetracked and enrolled into an architecture course at university because “parents know best”.

Suffice to say, architecture was two years of hell for me. Of course, getting into architecture was not purely my parents’ decision. I did have an interest in design. I still do. But for some reason I was never as creative in design as I was in writing.  Couple that with the fact I did not have any prior education in design and I’m somewhat technologically challenged, I found it incredibly hard to keep up with the rest of the class. I took longer to learn the design programs and longer to come up with creative ideas. At one point I stopped sleeping, instead taking three to four hour naps between assignments. Looking back, I realised my interest in architectural design was superficial. It most definitely wasn’t a burning passion, like it was for everyone else in my course.

I foolishly stayed on for two years, thinking I could somehow catch up and the penny would drop eventually. My parents even said, “Just stay on to get the degree”. Eventually it came to a point where I could not stand a life of not sleeping well or eating well. I couldn’t handle the constant stress and, most of all, I was unhappy. That’s when I made the switch to journalism.

Changing to journalism was as easy as transferring courses within the same university. What I had to adjust to was the feeling of being older than my classmates. I felt like I was somewhat “behind in life” because of the mistake I made doing architecture. It’s not a good feeling when you see your friends around you completing their studies in the time they set out and actually following their life plans. I felt very discouraged and upset I had to take a “detour”. I will never stop thinking I have wasted two years of my life.

I’ve since made some peace with all that’s transpired, although it is still a long process.

Now that I am almost done with the journalism course at RMIT, I’m happy. I’m closer to where I truly want to be in life. Journalism is a fun course. I enjoy doing the assignments and I have learnt a lot.

One of the things I learnt was I don’t want to chase down hard news stories, as those are often scandalous and full of sorrow. I’d rather be delivering creative and fun stories where I can bring some form of joy to my readers. Ultimately, my dream job is to write for a women’s lifestyle and fashion magazine, where these topics are closer to my interests.

If you’re in a position where you’re uncertain of the choices you’ve made, think about what makes you happy. It is pointless to soldier on for something you have no passion for and to live a life where you are always dreaming of something else.

The most important thing I learnt from all of this is that parents don’t always know what’s best. What they know is how they would deal with the circumstances if it happened to them, but a generation gap exists between us. In this constantly evolving environment, you will have a better idea of what is best for you.