Thursday, October 11, 2007

You can be whatever you want to be

"Follow your dream and the money will follow"

"You can be whatever you want to be"

You could call me a glass half empty type of person. Okay, so all the 20, 30 something readers of this blog, have you heard these statements before (by show of hands)? Are you really following your passion and making a living at it? If so, will you be able to support yourself for the rest of your life with that passion?

I believe that we do a disservice to children and teenagers by telling them empty maxims like these.

Sometimes an individual possesses an amazing combination of intelligence, skills, upbringing/luck/education and passion. They are able to actually earn a living through what they love to do. OR, they're fortunate enough (either independently wealthy or self-sufficient) to not have to earn a living.

Yet I strongly suspect the vast majority of people are not following their passion. They're doing what they have to do to survive, to pay the bills (if they are even able to survive and keep/hold a job). Sometimes, they're fortunate enough to like what they do for a living and survive.

But by telling someone that they can do whatever they want to do, that's just not really fair.

Because the truth is, for most of us, we can't earn a living by doing what we want to do. I've spoken to many people who would just like to sit around all day - watching tv, playing video games or surfing the internet. And yes, I believe I have heard of jobs that will pay you to do just that.

But for our society to survive, we can't all watch tv all day. Or write poetry, or paint. Someone's got to repair the cars. Someone's got to grow the food or deliver/ship that food. Someone's got to collect the garbage. It seems like it's a dirty little secret that only adults know.

Then, there are those of us who would like to earn a living by, say, writing, acting, or playing football, but maybe we really don't have that talent.

Telling every child/teen that they can be whatever they want to be is just not true.

I think we can all identify people in our own lives who are great artists, musicians, actors, athletes - but they can't support themselves with that for a living. Or, on the flip side, people who aren't talented but are making a living through the arts or sports.

Life sometimes is just not fair.

I don't mean this to sound depressing or bleak. It's not meant to be. I only mean to be realistic.

I think the important goal is to find a career for yourself that you can stand and support yourself at the same time. Where you don't dread going to work in the morning. Maybe where you are doing good for other people or the environment at the same time - maybe not. And you can still do that other stuff, where possible, on the side. Because a person typically spends a great deal of time at their job, so you might as well like what you do. And be good at what you do.

But don't expect that you can do whatever you set your mind to doing. Because for the majority of us, that's not the case.

I understand wanting to inspire, and I'm all for inspiration. But inspiration does have to be tenured (at times) with reality.

I believe it's simply unrealistic for everyone to expect to be the next Albert Einstein, Oprah or Bill Gates. Because everyone doesn't have the same talents or intelligence as they did. Even if we did, when you get down to it, what did those people have to sacrifice in their personal lives to meet their goals? And a person has to ask themselves, seriously, if they really want to sacrifice those things.


JohnR said...

Aerin, I can't tell you how much suffering I've caused myself (and probably my spouse) because I can't be satisfied in my current work. I'm an IT worker in a university; I work with good, bright people, I have a boss who cares about her staff, and my job is both challenging without being too stressful and ultimately helps students.

But I convinced myself long ago that I need to be a writer and a scholar, and I won't relent. I wonder if I'm damaged beyond repair?

JohnR said...

Sorry, that was a bit heavy for my first comment here, but your post touched on what is probably my biggest life-challenge for the past few years. Thank you for your insight.

Aerin said...

Hey John - thanks for commenting. At first I thought you were being sarcastic. I don't feel like anyone has to be completely satisfied with what they do - it may actually be healthy to not be satisfied (challenging you to continue growing and learning). I think it's great to continue to be a writer and scholar. It just might not pay the bills (it may for you, just saying in general).

What bothers me is this notion that everyone can do whatever they want to do - I think if they did, our society would fall apart. I don't think we should give children/teenagers false expectations.

Freckle Face Girl said...

I completely agree & feel that this is a big problem with my all of my siblings. My mom was great at pushing us to try different things and believing in us. My dad also thought the next best thing would make our lives perfect. Unfortunately, my siblings have all tried to go that route in their careers and it just doesn't work. Can you say starving artist, handyman, & English major (brothers)? My sister is currently dreaming of being a writer too, no matter how much I tell her that is a great hobbie. So far, they just struggle from check to check.

Life should have joy, but you are right about finding something that pays & can make you satisfied. I doubt I will ever be the kind of person that LOVES a job, but that doesn't mean I can't be happy.