“You write for the Daily, so you want to go into journalism, right?” is a question I am often asked. And the answer is no … well … kind of. The answer is that I don’t even know. What I do know is that I enjoy the Daily, and it is something I am passionate about.

When I was little, I wanted to be an actress. Growing up, I was actively involved in theater, dance and public speaking competitions. It was my favorite thing to do. I loved having an audience and jumped at any opportunity to showcase my skills. However, my passion for performing never stopped me from pursuing other things. I played sports, danced and wrote for the school paper — shocker, I know.

The experiences I had outside of my primary passion for performing helped me to recognize how my acting abilities affected my other interests. In class, I was never afraid to be the first person to present a project, and I always raised my hand if I had a question. I did not know my willingness to perform in front of people helped me to be more comfortable and confident with myself.

When I came to college, I stopped performing. I became engaged with activities that were more specific to my academic interests, and the competitive nature of auditioning intimidated me. I am aware that even though I am not participating in theater anymore, that does not mean the skills and lessons I have learned through performing do not impact my day-to-day life.

The little girl inside of me still reminds me of the joy performing brought me. But now that I have been away from the stage, I have realized all the skills it has taught me beyond memorizing a script.

As we get older, our passions evolve and change to fit our individual goals. These goals are often focused on sustaining a lifestyle that best meets our needs. However, as our focus on these professional goals intensifies, the valuable experiences we might find outside of our vocation wane. If we only immerse ourselves in one environment, we are at risk of our passion burning out. 

As students, we often are caught up in thinking about how to get ahead of our peers by obtaining a better internship or scoring higher on a test, but we should acknowledge the fact that the experiences we enjoy outside of academics shape who we are. At this transitional period of our lives, we should be open-minded to new things and know that we aren’t wasting our time. Having and pursuing a variety of interests makes us more than our résumés. It is important to remember that being well-rounded is a valuable virtue that makes us human. Just because something isn’t directly perceived as “on the right path” doesn’t mean it’s useless.

In fact, having hobbies or interests outside our professional disciplines is beneficial to our mental health and productivity in the professional field. When we focus our attention on our hobbies, we take time to de-stress from the daily grind of the workplace. It allows us to open our minds to new experiences and gives us a different activity to put forth our energy. At college, students feel pressured to be the best at their specific major, but taking classes that don’t exactly pertain to a specific interest encourages new forms of social interaction that we might not have if not for taking a class outside our disciplines.

While we might love the professions we are getting into, if we devote all of our energies to one thing, we risk neglecting the multitude of passions and hobbies we once had growing up. Achieving mastery at a specific profession depends on how we experience our lives outside of it. At college, we feel pressure to join clubs that pertain only to our major or field of interest. Instead, we should be encouraged to explore the things we’ve always loved alongside our professional goals. We should feel empowered to immerse ourselves in the multitude of opportunities we have on this campus.

When I tell my friends what I am involved in, they assume that my primary interest is some kind of journalism. However, they do not know all that I have done in my time before I joined the paper. Similarly, I am not aware of all of the interests that shape them. If we keep these passions alive beyond our youth, we might be surprised to find people who feel the same pressures we do. We might be surprised where we find ourselves.

Michelle Phillips can be reached at mphi@umich.edu.

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