I enjoy your blog but my husband and I have a practical problem and I am wondering if you can help us? My children are in high school and both will be receiving honours again this year. But my son he is wanting to work in the music field and for my daughter she wants to be writing the plays for the theatre. It is good I think that my children have these interests but they get angry with me because I am very concerned about their ability to earn a living for themselves. Do you have any advice for us?
Dear Worried Mother,
Thank you for writing. And thank you for raising such fine children. Obviously they are academically smart, but it’s impressive that they are equally interested in developing the creative aspects of themselves. Still, it’s not hard to understand and respect your concerns.
It’s only through the wisdom of time that most people realize how practical life ultimately is. The process of accepting that idea is now called ‘adulting,’ and there is considerable resistance to it. There are likely many husbands who probably look a lot less handsome now that their wives know they’re not going to chip in as much as they said they would. The future is hard to see.
Like any pursuit, there are challenges to being a professional artist. But they aren’t really worse challenges than other jobs, just different ones. While being an artist can feel foreign to the average person, the arts actually employ a massive number of people and a large percentage of them earn anywhere from a good to even a great living.
It is important to remember that we can’t only think of the dangers any career path might represent, we must also ask what rewards might be unique to any given pursuit. And we must also weigh the decision to deny the impulse of our soul –for that too carries a price.
We both know from being older than them that that the future is always uncertain but, we also shouldn’t forget that some of our most valued growth happened thanks to some of the hills we ourselves climbed, so it makes sense that your kids will do that too.
We could say we climbed our hills in life ‘in error’ or because we ‘were lost,’ but since valued growth happened due to those experiences, those were more cases of serendipity rather than errors of judgment.
The truth is, no adult should be surprised that kids don’t see ‘work life’ as being what it once was. There is now an entire generation who watched their parents come home from work exhausted, bitchy and complaining about not enough money. That doesn’t inspire a lot of mimicry.
Money and the amount of work people are doing are the two biggest problems in most houses by most kid’s accounts. So they’re open to the idea of working, but they are rightfully skeptical about work being a guaranteed route to a worthwhile life where we value ourselves. Their demands are higher for their lives and that’s not such a bad thing.
Way too many people over 40 simply aren’t very happy at all so many don’t have the ability to teach their kids how to do it, nor can they model it much in society. New hires at most companies are more likely to hear about how bad it is, rather than how good.
All of this means that, more than any other generation, kids want more control, and they want more life to be lived within the earning of their living.
One of the most inspiring parts of my work life was all of the various times I taught film to college students. It’s exhilarating to be in a classroom filled with sparkling, brilliant and unique minds. Minds like your children’s.
What an artist creates may look like one thing to their families, but those very same things can look quite different to an audience. I can say with total earnestness that I can’t think of one student I ever taught film to that didn’t have something truly valuable to offer the world that was uniquely theirs to offer. What a gift! It’s hard to do that as a banker.
I would consider thinking of your children as already being secure and successful, and then trust the idea that they shouldn’t ever seek their greatness in the eyes of others, because their greatness is not discovered by trying to satisfy you or anyone else, that only comes when they reach new heights within themselves.
In class or life children thrive when the greatness they already possess is seen like a gift to the world. Not in a lordly, superior way, but as a celebration of their ability to humbly help their fellow man have a better life in some way.
Like Michelangelo who looked at a stone and carved away everything that wasn’t an angel, each year I would meet a group of students who possessed greatness. All they needed was some encouragement from people they respected, and the life experience necessary to chisel off some of the reluctance their society impressed on them.
It is a courageous thing to venture into originality and yet, done well, their vision is the light that glints off of our consciousness and enlightens our minds.
By delving into the whys of the things they witness, and by representing those through their art-form, they help us to uncover the world around us. They help us to see. This is why radio, TV and film people are the first ones locked up by despotic leaders during a coup.
They’re followed closely by poets, singers and every other kind of artist who dares to play court jester and comment on the behaviour of those in charge. This is noble work Mom. This was what Shakespeare, Mozart and Bob Dylan all did. Do we think they wasted their lives? And at the same time, your children should know that Mozart died in poverty.
In the end we cannot predict the future and know which path would lead to a better life. How we define the good life will change and morph repeatedly during our lifetime.
We can survive all of that uncertainty by having one simple constant: the knowledge that we will be loved and supported whether we are being smart or dumb, or whether we are succeeded or failing. After all, isn’t that what we all want? Unconditional acceptance?
Despite the fact that how we feel will always make sense relative to our values, everyone’s interior life is truly too complex to explain to anyone with a different life experience. It can be exhausting to explain ourselves.
It may do your children a lot of good if their loved ones conveyed confidence by trusting them, and by focusing less attention on their own fears, and more on the children’s potential.
Unconditional love shines a light in every direction. By doing that, you can help each child more successfully illuminate their way in their own life directions. You have many reasons to be optimistic. Nice work Mom.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.