I’ve become aware, lately, of a strange paradox that exists in our society.
We idolize creative people and forward thinkers. We put artists on a pedestal and become so fascinated by them that we begin dissecting every aspect of their lives. Whether it’s JK Rowling, Angelina Jolie or Lady Gaga we become completely enthralled. We have created a system in which those creative people who are leaders in their field become wealthy beyond the comprehension of the “average” person.
We are cutting the arts from schools at an alarming rate. We tell children to stop being silly. Sit still. Listen to the lesson.
Those children get older and they are told, “It’s lovely that you truly enjoy creating pottery, but you need to go to college to be an accountant so you can get a real job and pay the bills.”
The children, of course, take this advice to heart. Pottery, then, becomes a little sideline hobby at best and they spend the entire prime of their lives waking up each morning to face a job they despise doing something they’re only ever going to be mediocre at, and praying for Friday to come so they can have 48 hours of sweet relief from the drudgery.
I wrote all the time when I was in high school. I wrote during classes and during lunch. I wrote at home and in the car and during church. I filled notebooks and scraps of paper and napkins with short stories and poems and ideas. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I took every language arts class, including, of course, creative writing. No one ever even once said to me, “Do you think you might like to be a writer when you grow up?”
Honestly – it never even occurred to me that there are REAL people who make a living with words until, 20 years after graduation, I stumbled into this thing called “blogging.”
Think about it. Imagine 2 boys, both 15-years-old. Isn’t this an entirely plausible conversation?
Adult: “What would you like to do after High School?”
Boy #1: “I would like to be an engineer.”
Adult: “That’s wonderful! There’s a world of opportunity waiting for young engineers!”
Boy #2: “I would like to be a musician.”
Adult: “Haha! Well, it’s great to learn music but you need a fall-back, you know? You can’t count on music as a career.”
Yet who would that same adult be more excited to meet? The lead engineer from the factory down the road, or Mick Jagger?
Why do we force people into a certain mold?
I’m not totally naive. I do understand that, of all the talented performers in the world, the Mick Jaggers of the bunch are exceedingly few and far between. But being the famous guy on stage isn’t the only way to earn a living playing music. I have a friend who loves music and walked away from corporate America to sing at children’s festivals. He’s happier now than I ever saw him when he was working at “a real job.” There are music therapists and music store owners, music teachers, studio musicians, and so many more options for a person with a passion for music. If a kid loves music why should he have to give up his dream and spend his life in a cubicle?
I have four friends who are in agony right now. Each of these clever, vibrant, creative people are being crushed under the weight of their anxieties. Each of them feels they must “hold down a real job” while every aspect of their being is screaming for them to do something else.
I get it. Really, I do. Once you are an adult with a family and bills and all the responsibilities that come with being grown up you really can’t just tell your boss to kiss it and step into a new life. That’s why my husband and I both work outside the home in jobs that give us a steady paycheck. We are working toward creating the life we dream of and we’re beginning to see some real progress in reaching our goals but it’s been a long road and there’s still quite a way to go.
And I’m not putting down the world of cubicles. I’ve known some “left-brainers” who have been perfectly, delightfully content living in their predictable 9-5 world. They are orderly, linear people who thrive in an orderly, linear environment. We need those people! We need ALL people to be the wonderful, unique, individuals they were created to be! Anything else is akin to a prison sentence.
It makes me feel sad. How many extraordinary ideas are we missing out on because we’ve sold the lie that only those who polish their shoes and work Monday-Friday from 9-5 are contributing members of society? I truly believe we would all benefit by giving one another permission to unleash the passions within (well… maybe not ALL the passions. But you know… the vocational passions.). What are we so afraid of?
It’s “What Do You Think? Wednesday” and I would love to hear your thoughts about all of this. Please join the discussion by leaving a comment! I really am curious to know how others feel about all of this.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!