Striking a balance: Combining passions with careers


Nicole Christensen

Students commonly have to add another major or minor alongside their primary major. And sometimes, like in my case, those areas of interest don’t exactly overlap.

“That’s a weird combination, journalism and dance. Which one are you going to do for your career?”

I usually respond with the question: “Why not both?” Followed up with a look of disapproval from them. 

It is often assumed that a career must become our only priority but these three people have found ways to balance their hobbies with their careers.

Reporter and drummer

Josh Shortt is a reporter for WNKY, where he films and edits videos about education. He is also a member of his own alternative band that plays what he describes as a “Cage the Elephant meets the Beatles” style of music.

 “As much as I love what I do as a reporter, I feel like music holds more of my heart and soul because that’s just more of how I can express what I’m feeling,” Shortt said. 

Shortt has been interested in music since he was young. He has been playing instruments for 14 years and plays the drums, bass, guitar, piano and ukulele. He said he figured he could not make a career with only music but wanted to make sure it played a role in his life, regardless.

“Music is my way of recharging,” Shortt said. “Music is kind of what powers me to do my stuff at work and to do it so well.”

Shortt said he wakes up at 3 a.m. to find time to play his instruments among his hectic life, since finding time can be difficult, especially having a career in news.

“When I started the news, I was swamped with just my job, and I was kinda worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit music in my life,” Shortt said. “Today, I feel like I can’t do one without the other.”

Finding the right ways to balance a career and passions is hard, especially at first, Shortt said.

“You may feel like it’s better to drop one completely, but my recommendation is to keep at it as long as you possibly can,” Shortt said.

Shortt said he had to push things around in order to fit music in his life.

“If you’re passionate about it, you don’t really need a big push to go for it because you’re just drawn to it naturally, you’re hungry for it,” Shortt said.

Marketing professor and online gamer

Patricia Todd started playing World of Warcraft 15 years ago with her family. It was one way she spent her free time outside of her career.

When Todd went to a gaming convention, she saw how much the industry was growing and how much marketing was involved, which she called “a marketer’s dream.” She saw the potential to incorporate that interest into her job as a WKU marketing professor, which involves teaching and researching marketing topics.

“It’s not just playing games anymore,” Todd said. “It’s a legitimate industry now.”

Since 2015, Todd has focused her research on communication in the livestream gaming community, with an emphasis on differences between genders.

Todd said she hasn’t run into many problems as a female gamer herself but has seen issues arise with other female gamers. She said she occasionally refrains from talking on voice chats because she doesn’t want people to know she’s a woman.

“It’s tough to be taken seriously,” Todd said.

At WKU, Todd said her passion for video games often seeps into her marketing classes. It became so pronounced that, in 2016, a student approached her and asked her to be the faculty adviser for the newly- founded WKU varsity esports team. The virtual sports team competes in tournaments and meets for practice year-round.

“If you have a separate passion, you have to look for ways in which you can blend it,” Todd said. “Either that, or you can do your passion separately until you can make that your career.”

Film professor and baker

Up until three years ago, Sara Thomason worked in the film industry as an additional, a film crew member who only works when needed. She often encountered slow periods in work between November and February, which prompted her to find a hobby. After receiving a Food Network magazine from her father, she decided to try baking. 

“I sort of got obsessed with it,” Thomason said. “I loved it, and I started making cakes, pies and all kinds of stuff, so it just kinda snowballed from there.”

Thomason still made time for baking after becoming an assistant professor in WKU’s film department three years ago. 

Film is Thomason’s career and she said it’s what she thinks about all the time, but baking serves as her “hibernation mode” from the rest of her life.

“When I bake, I don’t think about anything because it’s so precise,” Thomason said.

She tries to bake three times a week. She wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to make sure she has enough time to bake and get to class on time in the morning. It can be a perk for her classes when she brings baked goods to her students.

As far as hobbies go, Thomason said baking is one of the least expensive ones, but is still more expensive than people may think. Thomason said investing in oneself to further certain interests is very important.

“I don’t think people understand how important hobbies are to your mental health and your general well-being,” Thomason said.

Some people can be consumed by one aspect of their lives, like their careers, and if something goes wrong in that area, it can feel as though their whole world is falling apart, Thomason said.

“Whereas if you have hobbies, it gives you a chance to take a break and not think about things,” she said.

Thomason sought out a job that would allow her more time to spend doing things she enjoys and being with people she cares about.

“I wanted a little bit more,” Thomason said.