There’s a balance to doing what you love. In economics, it’s called compensating differentials. The more you love your job, the less they have to pay you to get you to do it.
I’m not sure that the recommendation to do what you love is necessarily a myth, but that maybe it should be “do what you love up to some extent so long as you’re willing to make the sacrifices entailed … you could also do what you like if it helps you get a lifestyle you prefer, or even what you hate if it’s for a short enough time and allows to to become financially independent so you can eventually do what you love”. That’s a mouthful, though.
You can be an artist if you are talented and willing to make other sacrifices or have other support — if your view of “enough” is small, if you have family support, if you have a lot of money in the bank creating its own income, if you don’t mind working in whatever situation you can, if you’ve got a different day job. And if you’re from a working class background and deciding between being an artist or working minimum wage jobs… well, might as well do what you love. Not everybody is willing to be a nurse or an accountant, even for more money. You can do what you love, but maybe not as a full-time day job and generally not for a lot of money since a lot of talented people seem to love the same things.
I do come from the middle class and do have a very different idea of the value of education than my husband’s working class family. For me, college was always about the consumption value, the coming of age experience, becoming a more cultured person. I went to a small liberal arts college. My major didn’t matter– I would gain critical thinking skills in whatever discipline I enjoyed and quite possibly do something entirely different once I graduated. Turns out I enjoyed some pretty marketable stuff, but it could have easily gone a different path had I chosen linguistics instead of my field as my second major.
When it came to graduate school, I did look at what was marketable– my field made a lot more sense than math in terms of opportunity costs of time, and future employment and salary, given my interests in the intersection between the two, it was an obvious choice which to pursue (not math).
My husband took a different path. His parents decided he was good at math and science and should become an engineer if he didn’t want to be a doctor. He started with an engineering major right away at a big university. In the end, both paths seemed to work for us, and if they haven’t there’s still plenty of time to change.
I’ve never really thought of my future career as being defined by what I majored in in college. And really, even in my PhD program there were plenty of people who had majored in things other than my field, but chose to get their training in graduate school instead after working in the real world and developing new interests. It is never too late to switch.
#2 chimes in: I, too, come from privilege. My father has a PhD. When I was in high school, he actively discouraged the view of university-as-trade-school, and encouraged the liberal arts. I went to grad school for what I love, only because I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.
What do you think the purpose of higher education is? How does your family background affect that view?