I'm not following my dream

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    Hi all,

    It’s taken me a while to post here, but I think it would do me some good to lift this off my chest. I’m a graduate student in science. I went to grad school straight out of undergrad. I’m a hardworking, overachieving, successful student. I had this grand plan of pursuing academia, becoming the principle investigator of a research lab, and making a ‘difference’ in the biological community. About a year ago, however, I’ve been slowly slipping into work-related depression, I think. I hate grad school now. I don’t find any purpose or joy in what I’m doing at all. It makes me upset when I have to spend hours doing my research. I’ve wanted to give up so badly so many times. But my stubborn self won’t let me, I keep telling myself to “just finish” or “it’s only another couple of months and then you’ll have a Master’s degree and then you can do whatever you want!” The thing is, what I want to do next seems near impossible. I want to become an artist. Art is a passion of mine. I spend a lot of time doing it and want it to be more than a hobby. I’ve told my family and close friends, and they’re supportive. I just don’t know what to do next. And yet I think that’s okay, I’m only in my 20’s. Have any of you ever thought you weren’t on the right path? I’m sharing this because I’m scared of letting go of this straightforward path of academia. I’m scared of admitting to people that I feel so burnt out. I feel like I’m wearing a mask, but underneath it all I just want to pursue something so different from what I’m currently doing.

    • This topic was modified 8 years, 10 months ago by C.

    It looks like my passion today is responding to Tiny Buddha Forum posts…and I’m at work…pretending to submit payroll. Whoops.

    But honestly, I feel that my day as a whole in this infinite Universe is more fulfilled because I am connecting with people who are facing many of the same issues that I am. It makes me feel useful and peaceful. I think that’s what we’re supposed to be searching for and when we find it, we shouldn’t dismiss it. (Maybe I should save it for the end of the day though)

    I recently graduated as well and let me tell you, my senioritis made the last couple semesters very difficult. I am proud of graduating though. I don’t feel like my diploma did much for me but it is an accomplishment either way. That’s me. No one really knows your passion like you do. It’s so annoying to ask the world what your purpose is and it just shoot the question back in your face. At the same time though, it’s this amazing opportunity to discover yourself and take all the credit. You’re the only one who gets to live your life so no one else matters but you. I think we’re all trying on other people’s goals and ideas to see what fits us and that method could take a long time.

    It was only when I got dumped and he won the friend group that I started doing things for myself. I have no one to hang out with so what do I want to do? I want to volunteer, master yoga, and love myself. These are all independent goals of what my career will be but I think they are more important. Coincidentally, I’ve decided I want to work for a non-profit so everything is linking up. Recognizing the pieces of your life that bring you joy will lead you in the right direction. If you love painting, paint. Don’t worry if it will bring you money. Just do what you love doing and it will make you happy.

    We’ve been conditioned to put a successful career on top of everything else. Know that you are more important than what you do and even with the job of your dreams you can be unhappy if you aren’t connected to yourself. Keep reading these articles and searching for your inner spark. Give it time and give it effort. It’s not easy but when you give yourself the attention you deserve, good things will come from it.


    Hi C,

    I think you could do a lot worse than consider Kim’s words.
    Additionally, I would add that happiness comes from the process of working towards a goal. If your Masters isn’t really a life goal, then you probably won’t find a lot of happiness there. On the other hand, if Art is a life goal, then you’ll probably be drowned in happiness as you work towards it…irrespective of whether you finally become a Leonardo Da Vinci !
    Finally…there is no RIGHT PATH…only THE PATH…
    Happy days…


    It’s amazing that I’m in almost the exact same situation as you. I too am pursuing a masters degree (civil engineering instead of biology) right out of undergrad and am having grief with it. It is a kind of dispair coming from a mixture of pressure from my supervisors to meet deadlines and the tedium of doing the same thing every day in which I have no passion. There have been many times that I considered quitting, but my ego just won’t let me.

    Instead of art I have a passion for writing (fiction) and have this dream of becoming an author. I find the despair of my studies is lightened by me working towards my dream as a writer. Maybe it would help if you worked towards art right now, giving you something positive in your day. I wake up an hour early every day and do my writing while I am still fresh. It makes me much more happier when I start my day because my creativity is flowing and I’m satisfied with some progress.

    As far as studies I’m not sure what to do. It’s slowly moving along so I think I’ll just tough it out. My plan is to find a 9-5 job that will allow me maximum time to write. Maybe after 10 years or so I may be able to quit my day job, but I think it’s important to keep a job while you pursue art. My advice- keep pursuing your passion, but also try to find a low-stress job that gives you money and free time to pursue your dream. Best of luck


    Hi C,

    If you want to change your path, you should consider also your other goals at stake. Kim mentioned love, Steve mentioned happiness, Jordan mentioned independence, you mentioned self-efficacy and self-reliability, I’d like to mention balance and harmony. Reflect on the many things that are important to you, write them on a paper and see how many you’ll need to give up for a career change.

    Anyway, my personal advice is to not change your path. You had a dream to make a difference in the research community, you did not tell us why that dream died out. While you study, don’t you envision yourself making a great research project? Maybe other things around you caught your attention, they may look better because you are not into them, they may look more funny, more engaging, more stimulating, that may be just because they are new. Recall your dream, didn’t you have the same feelings back then? Every path has its obstacles, the people that do not support you, the moments when you think that what you are doing is meaningless. Then reinvent or recall your meaning, support yourself, persist and be proud. Don’t you want to be an artist? Create your meaning, write the novel of your life.

    A scientist is also an artist. He has to compose the different pieces of reality into the coherent unity of a theory that can explain things and help people predict outcomes. You’ve got many thoughts, many notes, many colors in your head, envision that music, envision that paint, craft your theory. That’s art, the production of a coherent whole that resonates with the soul of the people who assist to it. Maybe your audience of other researchers does not seem so fascinating, but other audiences may have their own quirks as well. Even as an artist you may be recruited to do repetitive and meaningless minor steps at first.

    If you are burnt out, take some time for yourself to relax. Do what you like: painting, writing, playing for some time to recover. Then, like Jordan said, keep doing it to relax from time to time. Find a balance between the many things you need in life. If you are not so sure about changing your path, there is something really big you do not want to give up. Let it be only the self-respect for a job well done. Really, if you persist now, that a plus you’ll carry with you in future jobs. You’ll show people you are reliable and complete the things you start.

    Maybe you’d like to talk with a career counselor as well.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 10 months ago by Vhanon.
    • This reply was modified 8 years, 10 months ago by Vhanon.

    career changes aren’t as crazy as they sound these days and they are very common. That being said, what ever you decide to do, I am certain that your science background will come into play at some point, you may not see it now, but it sure will. Heres my brief story on this whole change in passion thing: I graduated in my BSc, jumped right into a year long Accounting program to become a CPA, and am now pursuing my dream of becoming a police officer, which I know I will get. That being said, I am certainly going to finish what is left of my accounting diploma because it will be valuable to me when I am being considered for promotion in my police career. Finish your masters, whilst finding what makes you happy and pursuing it.

    Your science expertise going into arts will show that you are very educated and thus reputable, and also very well rounded, no, I am not calling you fat! I mean well rounded in terms of experience in different fields of study.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 10 months ago by SIngh.

    Hey C, like the others, I can also relate very well to your situation. I was in a very similar spot about a year ago. I was nearly done with my Masters and I had always loved being a student. I had contemplated becoming a researcher and loved university. But by that time, I was burned out, no longer enjoyed school and couldn’t get myself to do even simple tasks. At the same time I felt I had this passion for living a healthy and happy life and I felt I wanted to work with this.
    What happened is I ended up completing my Master’s degree and taking some time off afterwards to reflect and discover my inner purpose. Going through the last months of my degree was painful and hard but looking back on it, I am very happy that I decided to finish it. Like SIngh said, the degree gives you a great foundation for whatever you decide to do and you had a passion for it. Once I graduated and I took some time to look after myself, my passion for my field returned and I actually ended up pursueing a path that combines both my field of study and my other passion of promoting a healthy, happy life.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that the love you have for biology and/or science may be temporarily overshadowed by the stress you’re currently experiencing. If you think that, deep inside you, you still value this field, I’d suggest you finish your degree and give yourself some space afterwards to gain clarity what you truly want to do. And allow yourself to abandon the path of research if it no longer feels right to you. Just listen to what you truly want. And it may just be a combination of art and biology. Like you say, you’re young, so give yourself time and allow yourself the confusion about what you want to do with your life. It’s hard to figure out and it takes time :). But you can’t end up in a dead-end, because you can always turn around.
    All the best to you.

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