This post covers:
Influencers in life
Being told not to follow your passion
Our future: for kids today
When you think about your biggest influencers in your life, who are they? Of course there’s the usual: mom, dad, sibling, teacher… but really, who had the biggest impact on you?
For me, it really depends on the aspect of life. My mom taught me everything I know about having confidence and letting the little things go, my dad taught me everything about perseverance, my grandparents taught me everything about love and being kind, being your best self. My sister taught me that no matter how far you may wander, there’s always someone to come home to. And, interestingly enough, it is both because of and in spite of my schoolteachers throughout the years, that I am the person I am today in terms of career goals and having the will to follow my passions.
Being Told “No.”
As many can probably relate, I can’t even begin to count how many times I was told I should only follow my dreams under certain conditions. It wasn’t “What makes you happy?” or “What are you most passionate about?” It was “What do you want to do that will make you feel secure and accepted later in life?”
Whether it was the thinly-veiled critical looks when I answered “Writing,” or the outright, “You know there’s no money in that, right?” — they were always there. Or, I’ll never forget, “Very few people make it as a writer. Why don’t you just go out for acting?”
And people wonder why kids have such a hard time figuring out what they want to do.
I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of those kids used to have an easy answer that had since been buried by scrutiny and discouragement.
For me, writing has been an important constant in my life. When people asked what I wanted to be, once I got past the “Little Mermaid” phase, I always wanted to say “a writer.” And for a while, I did. But as school progressed and the looming decision of a college major drew closer, I found that passion had become so buried that I could hardly narrow down and choose from the slight interests I seemed to have in everything else.
In spite of teachers who scoffed, and because of teachers who believed in me (the wonderful Mrs. Kearney at William S. Hart High, your AP class has taught me everything), I kept writing. When I applied to Cal Poly (where you must declare your major before you start your first year), I found myself staring blankly at those check boxes, clicking between architectural engineering, English, physics, journalism, and criminal justice.
And this was because, though all I wanted was to click English and unleash some awesome, struggle-filled 4 years of discovering how defeating writing is, I couldn’t. I imagined the raised eyebrows from my parents’ friends. I imagined the “job market” for 2017. I imagined my salary 20 years from now. Every day, I still experience the scoffs from people my age (and older) because I am not an aerospace engineer.
But, I believe, they simply don’t understand this profession. They don’t understand that I don’t follow a laid-out path that so many majors promise. Because they’re not interested in it, they don’t realize just how many opportunities there are in the field of writing and communication. It’s a shame that this misunderstanding so often leads to insults and attempts at shaming an entire field.
Now, for me, this story has a happy ending. I chose journalism, loved it, and I am following interests in all kinds of writing (aside: tech writing is kinda cool). I am in a profession where my college major really just proved that I know how to communicate, and communicate well, in many forms to many different types of people. Everything, every accomplishment, award, acknowledgment past that is a matter of experience and will.
Maybe I’ll go into coding. Maybe public relations. Maybe publishing, or graphic design, and maybe, 10 years from now, I’ll quit everything and start that book I’ve been putting off. The grand conclusion is, I can.
For Kids Today
Stop telling kids that they can’t, or shouldn’t. Some people have no idea the influence a single look can have over a dreaming 9-year-old, a confused 13-year-old, or a scared 17-year-old.
Instead, help them realize that what they should be doing in life is what makes them happy. Anything less isn’t worth it.
In the words of illustrator and type designer Jessica Hische,
The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.