For innumerable graduates who are ready to invade the work world, “follow your passion” would be the most commonly embraced mantra. “Do what you love” has been so frequently used that even colleges and firms started giving the same importance to passion as it did to competence. This ideal phrase is lauded by frontline media, magazines and websites as a key determinant of career success, since it stands out from the pool of already competent job-seeking candidates.
We live in a world full of passionate people. Passion is a drive or push towards being accomplished in one’s area of interest, regardless of the setbacks. This element of passion makes an individual strive to use their knowledge and skills to the maximum of their potential to go to the edge of achieving their dream. Many of us have had passions that we have chased until we have had to let go of them. This happens because of an aspect of your life you did not ask for – less privilege!
People say “love your job” while the majority are still staying in their 9-5 job just for the money. Quitting your job to follow your passion is only beneficial for privileged people but not the working class. The statement itself is a testimony of privilege because it means you had a full time job to begin with. You had enough time and resources to develop your passion. There is more to being self employed or starting something of your own other than mental determination and grit.
While graduating students are often strongly encouraged to follow what they love, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to apply or feel they are fit enough and have the skills to thrive during a job that involves passion. In a book called, “Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs” , the author traces the disadvantages of low-income students when applying for colleges and ultimately jobs. They are less likely to participate in structured extracurricular activities that their upper middle class counterparts could afford to partake in. Established universities and colleges employ a holistic approach towards applications that gives enormous importance to the extra-curricular part. Consequently, working class students’ chances of going to elite universities decrease since they are not admitted to elite universities. Hence, they end up in average institutions and ultimately in average jobs.
There are so many reasons why people from poorer households tend to get stuck in the jobs they do that pay their bills; one of these is the lack of mentorship. Their parents can’t guide them in developing a passion, as they never learned by themselves nor do they have the contacts. Their parents did not have an opportunity themselves for the same reason, as well as being limited by their financial situation. People from less affluent backgrounds commonly start working earlier. This leaves them with less leisure time which could otherwise be spent developing one’s passion.
The insurmountable financial obstacles that come in the way of a less privileged person cannot be pushed away. When this person realizes that they should work for their passion, it is also their family at stake, especially when this person is the sole breadwinner of the household. The resources with which the family survived gets cut off instantly and is pushed to an abysmal state.
In countries like India where caste system prevails, the underprivileged kids have least chances of coming to the forefront. They have less accessible resources unlike their upper class counterparts. This foreseeing of unbearable differences and stigma made Dr. Ambedkar introduce the reservation system for the social upliftment of the lower strata of the society. But even then, there is this preconceived notion that the underprivileged should remain underprivileged to the end of their life. That is why PhD scholars from the lower caste community are still expected to do the menial jobs that their older generations have been doing for the past years. This shows there is no redemption from the caste label attributed to every individual.
Next time you say “quit” to a person, be educated about the known and unknown privilege you enjoy. One’s life should not be decided by birth or the caste and class they are born into. What we could do is acknowledge the privilege that we enjoy as individuals and as social beings. Passion and privilege are inter connected by an invisible social chain. The society that supports you in building your passion stands together in destroying someone else’s. It’s only a matter of privilege.