Before I had heard phrases like “career prospects” and “potential earnings,” I wanted to be a fashion designer. I loved to draw, to sew, and the feelings of creating something from nothing. I imagined myself spending hours hunched over a table in a studio in New York or Milan, sketching and sewing late in to the night.
Having not come from a family well off enough to support me while I floated around pursuing these fantasies and being too pragmatic to put myself in a massive amount of debt in the process, I began to realise art school was not a realistic option. I questioned whether I was talented enough and whether I wanted it enough. When I got a scholarship to attend a top non-art school, it seemed my decision had been made for me.
Towards the end of freshman year, I began to hear talk of banking and hedge funds between classmates and professors, tales of exploits that had become murky in a large game of Chinese whispers from the former and opinions on influence and regulation from the latter. When recruiters began visiting campus, it piqued my curiosity. They were more polished than almost anyone I had ever met; they hosted dinners and networking events and gave away Frisbees. I realise how incredibly shallow all this may seem, but to a nineteen-year-old college student free food and toys seemed like perfectly good reasons to listen to someone talk about their job.
I was sucked in pretty fast. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay my rent or if I can afford to visit my family for the holidays, but it’s more than that. The hyper-competitive environment, seeing my boss on the news, getting sent to Norway or Tokyo at the last minute, and reading about a deal I worked on in the newspaper all fuel the perfectionist and eternal student in me. The world became simultaneously huge and tiny for me; opportunities seemed boundless while I sat in conferences with colleagues from five continents.
My path is not unique. Whatever the reason, classmates from both high school and college who were writers, artists, and creative minds seem to have ended up in a similar position. College seems to have been a funnel where we were all spun in different directions only to inevitably fall down the same hole. Seeing that an old friend who interned with top fashion houses and magazines had ended up at a bank upset me even though I had hardly spoken to her since high school. I wanted my peers to prove me wrong, to break the rules that I thought governed the world, I wanted to live vicariously through their endeavours, and to witness the passion of creation without having to feel the struggle myself.
Once you’ve been out of college a few years you realize that goals and priorities are fluid, some sacrifices are just not worth it. So I’m sorry if it bothers you that I have joined the army of “drones,” but I don’t regret it in the slightest. I may not be strolling the cobbled streets of Paris in search of the perfect shade of taffeta while a Peter Sarstedt song plays in my mind, but here in the real world I’m doing pretty good.