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Art vs. STEM — Neither Wins

by Andre Weiss

Why would you ever be an artist? How would you support yourself? Study something in science! Do engineering! You’ll make so much more money and be so much happier!

Most of us aren’t strangers to those five sentences. And the sad reality is that, at the end of the day, we know they’re right. Most artists can barely make a living for themselves. Most face too much disdain from society—being people who just weren’t good at anything else.

It isn’t any better for people who do anything STEM related. Most finish their degrees jaded, unaccomplished, having to satisfy the rigidity of society, or pursuing something further that they never wanted, like medicine—you have to do something in STEM, or else you have no purpose.

I suffer from both worlds. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love taking 400 images and spending three days nonstop editing it in order to meet a deadline, and I love scribbling ten triple integrals in polar coordinates in a row…. r*dz*dr*...color? dθ... grading? What? Sighs, just jumbled thoughts.

Trying to do both is just as overwhelming as having to sit and listen to the people around you making passes at both worlds, pushing you into one or the other. Do I officially pursue mathematics and go with my original desire of medicine? Do I continue all the work I did with photography in the past year? How do I decide which ship to jump off of and let sink? What do I let go of? Who do I disappoint first? Which side do I choose?

I love taking photos, but I fucking hate it sometimes. I can’t deal with the social interactions 24/7 or figure out for the life of me how much to charge people without seeming like a scam. I love learning math—pure joy snatches my face and I’m giddy as fuck when learning a new topic, but the endlessness of it all is overwhelming. I still have to even figure out how that degree’s going to get me into medicine, if and when I decide to complete a pre-medical track. Just do neither. Give up.

I’d love to do that. But let’s stop for a second. You’ve made it this far, wondering what the absolute hell the moral of this story is. Go into STEM? Go into art? Do nothing? Do everything? Do whatever the fuck you want? Sure. The reality of the matter is, it will suck, regardless. I love but hate both worlds. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to bash someone in with a camera or bawl my eyes out because I couldn’t figure out how to find the reduced row echelon form of a matrix. Took me about one hundred practice problems to get it, and I am still deathly afraid of starting CAS MA 442 next semester as a freshie. Kinda. We’ll see.

Sometimes, you just gotta say fuck it. Suffering can bring you eventual fun. I struggled with math and now I find it fun. Maybe I can find some math research opportunities and not understand any of the infinite letters on the draft. Woo!

Despite taking years to edit my photos, they came out nicely, and they’ve brought me so many fun opportunities, such as a chance to work with Converse. Yeah.

Nothing ever comes easy. But what really fails to come easy in a world of judgment is your capacity to say, fuck you, I’ll do what I want, and succeed beyond people’s wildest dreams. You’ll break society, but society needs to be ripped apart from time to time. Kinda like what I’m going through. And if you don’t, so what? You had fun trying. But there’s still an endless world filled with possibilities. Cliché, I know. But when you’ve survived a pandemic and gone through so many crises because of random successful or failed opportunities, you learn to find that that statement holds some level of veracity. Do what makes you happy. Who cares about the other side? There is an infinite capacity for any world that can be managed within your own hands.

Ultimately, after everything, I get to shock people in the best ways. People who only know me for my photography are awestruck when I say I’m a beast at math, and the converse holds true. So yeah. Both worlds suck. Both worlds are awesome. But one isn’t better than the other. It’s just cool to say I’m a nerdy photographer. I suffer, but it’s worth it. Sometimes. I’m behind on editing 100 photos. Not looking forward to it. Then why the fuck did you write this pie—