Should a young person pursue wild dreams or follow a practical path?

Lil Chen asks: We only live once and I don’t want to live my life knowing that I wasn’t able to pursue my goals. Recently, I went to the guidance counselor today and teared up thinking how much I wasted my years. I had this principle or value that I should focus more on the present but now that I think about it, the present is like only for fun, or something like that. It’s important but the future also matters. It’s what sets you for life. I don’t know what course to take in college and when they (guidance counselor) asked me what my interests were, all I could think of was KPOP/Entertainer/Singer/Comedian/Artist. But to be honest, that’s what I want. I didn’t want to share it in fear that they will mock me or something. I asked them though that if I wanted to pursue my interest but lack in talent, was it ok or reachable, and they said yes which gave me hope and some motivation. I was an honor student in Grade 11 but now I lost my motivation to study or do things, which is why I failed to reach the cut off for my STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses, some of them (nursing, engineering, etc.) I slept in the exam and I totally regret it. I think my self-esteem was more wounded when I shared my interest to my friends and they just laughed it off and gave me a lecture about the impossibility of that happening. I don’t know if there are times when they thought I was serious. There are times where they tell me if I become one, I should still remember them but then there are times when they say that it’s impossible. I’m confused whether they support me or not. Face Reality is what they call it, but I believe that if I do try hard enough, I can actually try and do it. That could also be the meaning of Face Reality. As long as I am motivated and really want to do it then I can achieve it. Before I used to be really quiet, as in winning the “My Lips Are Sealed Award” in 6th grade for being silent since 3rd grade, and my silence continued till 2nd year or 8th grade. I decided that I wanted to change, so I did and became this talkative and somewhat class clown (girl ver.) in class. Due to that, a lot of people don’t take me seriously and since I want to make friends and don’t really wanna hurt our relationship, I contain my anger and I don’t usually have that kind of emotional or dramatic kind of life anymore. Laugh and smile! So I don’t know how to console people who have problems anymore. I don’t know what to say or if what I’m saying is right. But lately, I keep weeping to myself about life and just about everything. Life is hard but I keep holding on to the saying that if I try hard enough, I can do anything in life. For now, I plan to retake the test so I can have more options (nursing, engineering, etc.) or take exams from different schools (though I don’t want to transfer schools). My backup course is either nursing, architect or International Languages. I tried to repeat it to my friends and family about planning to save up money to go to Korea next year and join voice lessons this summer and keep practicing and also learning Korean on my own. That way I will be able to audition for agencies next year. I don’t think they took me seriously, and I’m not much of a serious talker, so I guess thanks to that I get hurt when they say bad things and encouraged when they say good stuff. Another problem is the age requirement to become an ‘idol.’ They take teens mostly and I’m already 18. If I go to Korea, I’ll be 21. They do still accept early 20’s but its kind of risky especially since I’m a foreigner. Which is why I wished to go back 5 years more so I can actually be more prepared, but I realized what I wanted too late. When I was a quiet person, I was more of “This is impossible” and stuff like that but I changed and I like this change (a little too much). So it will be a slim chance that they accept me as a trainee with my age and all the more I only went back to voice lessons this year while learning Korean all by myself. Another requirement is dancing, and since I want to save money, I want to teach myself, but I also want to get a teacher. Life is hard I know, but I also know that if I have faith and hope, we can achieve what we want in life. I’m also scared to talk to my parents about it cuz last time I told my dad I wanted to be a singer, he laughed at me and asked how can I become one if I don’t practice. I wanted to pursue voice lessons back then again (I took voice lessons before) but I was sad that he didn’t really encourage me to go on. I asked my mom about what I should do with my life and she told me that it’s up to me. I don’t know what’d she do if I tell her I wanna be an artist, and I’m scared of her response. I rely too much on my external motivation and our teacher told us that our internal motivations are more powerful so I want to change that. Am I making the right decision? Or are there more ways to help me fuel my motivation?

Hi Lil Chen –



When you wrote me a couple of years ago, you talked about having a bunch of goals, and struggling to figure out which to pursue.  And what saddens me in your letter is that it sounds to me like you didn’t really pursue the one you wanted the most, but instead absorbed a lot of negativity from people around you.


Here’s the truth: making it as a performer is hard, and rare.  It takes real commitment.  Talent’s great, but commitment is more important.  And you need to loooooooove what you do.


So, right now, I know that you would love to be a KPOP star, but I don’t know how much you love singing or dancing.  And I don’t know because you don’t.  I promise you, Adele was told for years that she didn’t have the looks to be a singing star, Taylor Swift was told she was too young and should focus on her schoolwork… and Psy was told he didn’t look anything like a dancer!


So I’m going to agree with you.  That it would have been better for you to try these things when you were younger, but it’s not too late.  But my friend, this is the time to jump in.  Sure, pass those exams (it’s always great to have a fallback, and even big stars like Emma Watson and Natalie Portman took time off their careers to get university degrees).  But most importantly, START SINGING!  Sing every day.  Take lessons if you can, but sing LOTS. And start dancing.  Imitate the dancers you like best and try to match their moves.  Then, if you can get lessons, all the better.


And if you do this, one of two things will happen.  Either doing this singing and dancing will fill your heart with joy and excitement, and you’ll be ready to devote yourself to them… or it won’t.  And either way, you’ll have learned what you truly feel.


When I wrote you before, I told you I loved chasing squirrels, whether I caught them or not.  The world is full of people who love to sing and dance but didn’t become stars.  Find out if you’re one of them, first.  And if you are, THEN devote yourself to trying for stardom.  And you’ll have no bigger supporter than this pup!


And if you find you don’t love doing those things… oh, you’ll just have to suffer with being (from what I can see) quite brilliant and becoming a great success who might change the world!




All my best,



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