Is it best to choose a career that feeds your passion, or should one compromise to deal with reality?

I am passionate about Astronomy, but I have heard a lot of stories about its 'lack of pay' (generally, academic courses). I do not mind working myself to the bone to obtain a PhD, but I am worried about the life after that. I come from a middle income household, and I don't really know if academia will enable me to take care of my family, or start a new one, when the time comes. I have applied for more traditional jobs with better pay (engineering, biomed Engineering, etc.) as alternatives although I don't love them as much as Astronomy. This brings me back to the question of passion and compromise.

Does anyone have any personal stories they can share about dealing with this trade off?

Honestly, I would side with the "career that feeds your passion" side, with the caveat that you would want to ensure that you at least have enough income to live comfortably, i.e. not worrying about food/rent or being in poverty. When you're passionate about something, you are also more likely to be successful because you throw yourself into it joyfully every day. Similar to some of the posts above, I agree that you can, however, be creative with your passion as well; if you care a lot about say art, that doesn't mean you have to be an artist full time. You could also go into another role (marketing, finance, technology) and work in the art industry, and do art on the side as a hobby. Just my two cents!

Its just a matter of deciding what's important to you. All you have to do is be aware of the costs, benefits, and risks of taking particular courses of action. Then, just make a decision and never look back.

Also, I feel like the origin of this 'style' of question is essentially rooted in self-validating excuses for why one is choosing to do something they dont 'want' to do. Mind you, I dont necessarily mean your question specifically, but I've heard plenty of variations on the theme in my life.

What I've found myself thinking an increasing amount about it is: I'm pretty sure that the majority of the time, people expressing this sort of question are basically looking for an excuse to fail. Maybe it's out of some bizarre romantic ideation of "realistic pessimism". Maybe it's so that they wont feel as bad for never trying in the first place, out of fear that they might "fail" at this thing they "love so much", and so they want to displace the responsibility of their own lives onto someone else. That way, they'll always be able to say 'oh, well I WOULD have been great, but I was held back by my feelings of duty to *person who will help validate this decision* '. And honestly, I think a lot of the time it's just a load of horse shit.

Think about it this way: imagine you are informed that you have one year left to live. Oh, well the rush is on now, isn't it? Now it's suddenly time to start checking boxes on your bucket list, right? Now it's suddenly time to start living your dreams, the life you REALLY wanted to live all this time, but couldn't because of *reason 1* and *reason 2*, oh and dont forget *reason 3*. But now that the reaper is on your doorstep, suddenly you realize those things dont _really_ matter anymore, so suddenly you're "free" to do what you "actually want to".

See, but here's the thing- that stupid thought-experiment might be closer to reality than you think. Unfortunately, we don't yet live in a hyper-technological society where spontaneous accidental death has become a thing of the past. People half your age are being diagnosed with terminal diseases on a daily basis. There's murder, car accidents, slick floors and hard corners. Yeah- the actual probability of you suddenly kicking it is probably pretty low. but I promise you that it will only grow higher with each passing day. So what I'm trying to get at is- you have to ask yourself: do you REALLY have time to be doing anything BUT exactly what you want to do with your life?

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that it's some horrible sin against the human spirit to reflect upon your options and decide that what you originally /thought/ was thing you ReallyWantedToDo Inc. is in fact not actually what you want to do, and to instead opt for a different path in life. That's totally fine and completely valid. I know a good number of people who have taken exactly that road in life. What I AM saying though, is that if deep in your heart, you KNOW you know that this is what you Truly, Madly, and Deeply want to do, why would you let anything get in your way? If this was exactly THE_THING that would serve to give you the most personal satisfaction in life, is there really any material fortune that could compare? Or better yet, if this really was your OneTruePassion (tm), what lengths WOULDN'T you go to in order to find a way to make it a reasonable and sustainable life choice?

All I'm saying is- if you truly NEED to pursue this passion of yours like a drowning man fights to fulfill his NEED for air to breathe, there's really nothing that can stop you. Or at least, even if there's some bizarre act of god and a meteor hits the Earth tomorrow and kills everyone, you'd at least be able to think to yourself that the only thing capable of getting in your way was literally a 500km wide hunk of rock traveling through light-years of space with pinpoint precision to put a stop to your unrelenting pursuit of your greatest dreams.

I, for one, can't think of much that would be more satisfying than that.

This isn't the best answer, but the truth is that it will depend on the extent of the compromise. Friend who works as an executive assistant to the partners of a venture capital firm. She doesn't love the job but doesn't hate it. Her passion is cooking, but she knows she doesn't want to work in restaurants because of the hours, pay, and quality of life. But, the VC job allowed her to pay for culinary school to feed her passion without sacrificing her current quality of life. She is now much happier with her culinary degree and her VC job rather than going all in on culinary arts and sacrificing her lifestyle for her passion.

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what do I gain if I settle. Can you make a lot more money and pursue your passions in your free time? Also, if you don't settle, what do you gain? Will it be super hard to pursue your other life goals (buy a house, have a healthy retirement, get married, pay for your kids to go to college)?

Ask yourself those follow up questions and you'll get closer to your truth.