How realistic is it to mix your priorities and passion in the real world? Our generation feels the pressure of balancing multiple jobs and professional social circles all at once even before our graduation date. With everything at our fingertips, the trend of instant gratification has become synonymous with sweaty hands and rehearsed elevator pitches. On the bright side, the path to success continues to widen for our generation.
Whether you are a dancer, a visual artist, or an aspiring entrepreneur, choosing a different path to develop your career in and outside of a college education can have its ups and downs.
Originally from New Orleans, Grayling Walker started to create a name for himself after taking the leap and landing in the Atlanta dance scene. The love for the Atlanta groove and style has influenced so many iconic moments in the music industry and continues to make waves. Walker is finding his artistry in the “Peach state” by continuing to grow from his experiences as an artist, but also as a student.
Often when growing up in the dance industry there can be a push and pull between going to college and pursuing a passion like a dance career. Walker attended college before becoming a dancer and hasn’t looked back since. He credits his experience as a student to being able to how he teaches dance classes now.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved in the justice system or community,” says Walker. “A lot of the things I have learned in regard to criminal justice, and just in regard to mental health and psychology and early childhood development, all of those things I can really fuse and use in teaching.”
College is not only a stepping stone, but it can also be the first step to finding the thing that really sparks your interest. Although what you’re studying may be the complete opposite of what your true passion is, if you have the means to attend college, it can be worth taking that time to find out what you want to do with less academic responsibility.
“I really want to travel, tour, and teach abroad in another country, ” Gray says when asked about his future goals. “Listen to that thing that is constantly nagging at you about what you should be doing. It can all happen if you have a plan and follow through with it.”
Currently, Gray is launching his own merch and teaching classes at Dance 411 Studios.
On the other hand, Aquarius Harris, founder of CookItUp Foods had a different path to being a young entrepreneur. Harris is gaining traction in Atlanta for what he hopes will be a major food business by highlighting his food creations and taking delivery requests through Instagram.
With the pressure of the streets on his heels, Harris found a way out with a strong support system. Whether it’s struggling to meet financial means or just feeling a call to something different in your life, knowing how to navigate life outside of a college education demands a constant grind. With the support of family and friends, Aquarius is on the brink of what could be the next big food delivery business coming straight out of a home kitchen in Atlanta. Harris delivers each order personally. His dishes range widely from a plate of wings and fries with his own special sauce and loaded fries topped with anything ranging from shrimp and delicious melted cheese. Affectionately known as Quay, the 19-year-old chef also makes his own creations like his specialty steak and spaghetti dish that you can find on his Instagram page.
“You don’t have to go to college to be successful,” says Harris. “I figured out that in my family a lot of people hustled and when you hustle, it brings more potential and more greatness out of you because you’re like ‘I gotta grind for this I gotta keep going.’ Whatever happens, you gotta keep going.”
Mastering life after high school is about having a plan for your passion. However, when choosing a road less traveled like not going to college, the support system can mean everything.
“My advice is that if you’re not going to do school, stay on your talent. No one’s going to be your biggest support system more than you,” says Quay.
College or not, having a plan and staying on top of it is imperative. These young innovators remind us that the time is now to make dreams happen There’s no one avenue to success, but there is only one you.