You Can Be Anything You Want to Be

Mia Hayes
4 min readJun 23, 2022

If we’re being honest, no you can’t

Photo by Ekrulila: Pexels

It’s graduation season which means it’s time for Bad Advice We Give Young People! I see some version of “You have your whole life ahead of you and can be anything you want to be” and its cousin, “Do what you love,” thrown around a lot.

Not to be negative, but no.

Let me explain.

When I give interviews or visit book clubs, one of the most common question I receive is “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?”

It’s a tricky question for me because my advice isn’t what people want to hear: “Don’t quit your day job” quickly followed by, “Be prepared to never hit it big, so have a plan B.”

Depressing, right?

The problem — specifically in creative fields — is that all too often, doing what we love doesn’t pay the bills, and bills need to be paid. But somewhere over the past few decades, our collective mindset has shifted toward only doing work we love. However, what if only doing what we love isn’t sustainable?

I’m not advocating that anyone stay at a soul-crushing job, but rather, sometimes a job can just be a job while you pursue what love as a hobby or side-gig. This is common in the writing world and the harsh truth is, most novelists — even those published by giants like Harper’s and Simon & Schuster — have day jobs or a partner who pays the bulk of the bills.

Some examples of bad advice we give young people:

  • You can be whatever you want to be…there are no limits. Yes, there are. Sometimes our desire does not align with our abilities.
  • Do what you love. Nope. You don’t have to love your job, but you should have something in your life that fulfills you.
  • Live like there’s no tomorrow…because what if there is?

You Can Be Anything You Want to Be

Actually, you can’t. Sometimes our talent or skills just aren’t enough, but what can make us successful is recognizing our shortcomings and pivoting toward where our strengths lie. For example, maybe you’ve dreamed of being a second grade teacher since you were ten, but now that you have your own classroom…

Mia Hayes

40-something who 💯 doesn’t have it all figured out, but long story short, I survived. Love big. Love hard. Love you.