What to choose when career and relationship goals aren’t compatible?

In the hit musical La La Land, characters navigate a decision familiar to many college students.

by Dana Tsuri-Etzioni, Contributor

Life is full of decisions. We decide what to eat, wear, who we surround ourselves with and many other simple commitments that detail our daily lives. When it comes to big decisions, however, that is when we must actually think. Recently, the hit movie “La La Land” was released to critical acclaim, winning various Golden Globe awards. Its popularity was not only due to its creativity and execution, but also how relatable it was to audiences.

The main characters, Mia and Sebastian, are faced with decisions they must make that can shape the rest of their lives. Mia wants to be a successful actress, while Sebastian wants to bring back pure and classic Jazz. The conflict in the film is the difficulty each face in achieving their dreams while staying together.

As college students, many of us had to make a similar decision when choosing which school we would attend. We may have had to leave a relationship behind in order to fulfill our goals. Even if the college decision was not difficult, students will have to make life-changing decisions in the future — and they might come with sacrifices. Whether it is studying abroad or taking a job after graduation, one might need to choose between ambition and leaving a relationship behind.

A decision must be made. Do you follow your goals and ambitions even if they take you far away, or do you stay with the person you love? There is no right answer to this question, but there is one that is probably more reasonable.

“Follow your heart,” the saying goes, not “follow your brain.” However, while love might seem like the best choice, love and commitment are not guaranteed to last. Individual achievements, on the other hand, are one’s own and are things that cannot be taken away. Focusing on one’s goals and hoping that love will work itself out, while not the most romantic option, is more predictable than people.

When faced with this dilemma myself, I realized I had to follow my own goals instead of his. A few months into my college career, I realized that I would need to live in a big city to pursue my dreams, a place he could not see himself living. Although we love each other, we broke up, and now I am following my own ambition and paving my own path.

“If you love somebody, set them free,” the cliché goes. It can be interpreted in different ways, but in this context it means setting them free to work on themselves and their dreams. So, if you love somebody, set them free — and if they love you, they will set you free as well.