Sunday, September 19, 2021
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Don’t Discriminate Arts Students

Whenever a person asks me what I’m studying nowadays, I always hesitate. Mainly because I usually get that typical smug, condescending nod accompanied with brief, awkward answers. Some people have even tried to deter me away from my choice, because your opinion of what I should study is the right and only way to success.

What’s worse is that after I do tell them, I’m always having to validate myself by saying that I scored straight A’s in SPM (and yes, I was a science student).

  1. It undermines the rest of my brilliant college mates who aren’t on scholarship and are so amazing at what they do.
  2. I feel like a horrible human being.
  3. I shouldn’t feel the need to justify my choice of field in the first place.

I hate hate the fact that those people have the power to make me feel like that.

The status quo
I don’t blame people for being this way; society has engrained that idea into us at a very young age. Remember how your grandma used to tell you, even when you were in Huggies diapers, to study hard and become a doctor? Or how we wrongly perceive that arts stream is inferior to science (which is a completely different argument, don’t even get me started). Or that a professional STEM course is the ONLY way to get you a job that pays.

I get it we’re all pre-programmed to be douchebags to a certain degree. It’s human nature after all.

  1. However, I do not agree with the idea that some jobs are better than others. It is so unfair that there’s this gross misconception that other industries outside of STEM fields aren’t considered to be respectable professions. To this I ask, why the obsession with prestige? It’s total bullshit. This is not to say that it’s okay to slack off in class and fail every exam possible. You should always strive to do better and constantly improve and evaluate yourself, but the fact remains that there is no guaranteed road to success.

There are truths, but then again…
Yes, I admit that there are hard truths like mediocre salaries, the struggle, poor job prospects etc. Believe me, I have heard them all. And yes, I concede that it is true: arts isn’t an easy field. But then again, neither is sciences. We’ve long established that nothing is ever easy, so why don’t we start acting that way?

When you use a camera, you have to worry about lighting, aperture, white balance, shutter speed, composition. When you want to market a campaign, you have to worry about the target audience, idea conceptualization, research, media, audience response and even then you run the risk of it failing. Even when you write, you need to worry about sentence structure, grammar, proper referencing if you’re citing someone else’s work.  And that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Everything is a skill. It takes a long time before a surgeon is allowed to operate, because there are a lot of risks involved. However, it also takes a long time to perfect any skill. You don’t paint like Da Vinci overnight.

I think the key to success is to pursue whatever you’re passionate about and work hard at it. Have a plan. Know where you’re going to go and know how you’re going to get there. That’s how you succeed, not through going into a certain type of career.

What about passion?
I have a friend who is currently studying mechanical engineering. When I asked him why, he simply replied, “So that I can earn shit tons of money and retire by 30.”

Okay. it is very unlikely that he will retire at 30. But he isn’t wrong. A starting salary for an engineer in oil (which is what my friend intends to venture into) is around 4k. I asked him again, if he had a choice to be anything were money not a factor, what would he had pursued?

His answer? Music.

And to be honest, I believe him. When he talks about music and performing, he gets all excited and animated. He can go on for hours about genres of music, what kind he enjoys and what kind he doesn’t enjoy and why.  With engineering, he doesn’t light up the same way.

Now I’m not saying that sciences are evil; I have friends that come from all walks of life, with varied interests. I have a friend who is pursuing mathematics. Another intends to go into Biology. And another one wants to do anthropology.

If you’re passionate about physics and oil and living organisms and truly pursue it because you have a genuine love for that kind of intellectual stimulation, I have so much respect for you. What I am saying is that, if you’re choosing to do those fields simply because you’ll get the approval of your uncle/aunty/nenek/atuk or simply because of the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

This is why I chose arts.
Quite frankly, I chose it because I love it. Yes, roll your eyes at me, but it is true.

I get that it is a pretty romanticized notion, but I chose it because I love the idea of telling stories, the idea of communicating different ideas without even saying a word. I do it because I get to experience life differently. I do it because I’m being inspired every single day. I do it because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

Yes, I know that I will probably struggle at the beginning. However, it doesn’t matter. Because what field you’re in is irrelevant doctors do fellowships, lawyers take bar exams; we all have to go through some process or period of struggle. But I’m good at what I do and I like what I do and I shouldn’t feel ashamed of my choice, because I do enjoy it tremendously, I love it wholeheartedly.

No one should ever have the power to make me feel otherwise. No one.
I shall leave you with this quote:

(And yes, I designed that myself. #graphicdesignftw)


Written by: Peh Xin Ying

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