I had a conversation the other day on twitter with one of my followers (Hi, Banky). I asked which one was better between passion and calculation. She quipped that they’re both great but if forced to choose, she’d choose calculation. Being the hopeless romantic I am (in my head), I thought she was making the wrong choice. But then when I looked at my own life, and my choices, I realized that I actually do the same thing. I’m very idealist in theory, but when it comes to my actual choices, pragmatism rules the day.
For instance, I wrote my first published story in Primary 4. It was featured in ‘The Eagle & Falcon’ my school magazine at the time, and the principal of the secondary section made a big affair of calling me to their assembly and basically telling the older students to get like me. Yeah. In high school, I won a few writing competitions, went as far as Enugu for one of the Nigerian Breweries organized ones. And my literature teacher told me if I gave it my all, I might make a name as a writer. He even made some comments about Nobel, but that was him being extra and I disregarded that right off the bat. But real talk, under the right circumstance, I could’ve made a living as a writer.
Coming here, though, I made a quick summation. I was super interested in writing, but I was also pretty good at debate/political stuff and I had a good aptitude for business and numbers. It’s mad number of writers, many of them way better than I could ever hope to be. Business I felt could be done whether one went to school for it or not. So I picked Political Science as a kind of middle road between pragmatism and idealism (wanted to go to law school) but soon found out that unless I was at a top echelon school, my earnings won’t cut it even as a lawyer. So I left Pol Science, to go to do Accounting/Finance. I followed my skills, and the money before my dream. Now, am I going to be an accountant/analyst forever? No. But I’m going to be doing a lot of business related things, and my aptitude for that has grown since. And pound for pound, I’m really really good at it which means there are lots of people better but I can hold my own in a way I might not be when I look at some people’s writing (Hi, Wale Lawal, Z Emezi). Will I go back and maybe work on my writing? Of course. William Golding was an old fart by the time he wrote Lord of the Flies, and he still won a Nobel. But let me get this money first.
Even now, with a lot of things I want to do, I choose pragmatism over idealism. Given the choice of French and Mandarin (and realizing I couldn’t fit both into my schedule), I chose Mandarin. I love French more. But Mandarin has a higher chance of paying.
There’s a million little things like that I can mention.
Which isn’t to say I’m some kind of money focused Shylock. Not even. Idealism appeals to me in theory, and I definitely want to choose my dreams over everything else. But I won’t. Because it’s better to dream after you hammered, than to have all the dreams but be nailed by life.
I’ll end with this note: if you wanted to be an artist and you’re passionate about it. I still think it’s better to do stuff like Chemistry, or Business, or Engineering and get a solid income first. Aggressively invest that income in your art then. You’ll come out okay.
But for some, the idealism, and attraction of the starving artist is strong. If you’re one of those, I’m not knocking your hustle. Go out there and do your thing. For me, sha. It won’t cut it. Might be my inner Igbo man, but if I can’t dream with sense, I’d rather not dream at all.