For the second time in the last year, Mike and I had the opportunity to do a tag team guest lecture at Western Michigan University on entrepreneurship in the arts today. It’s such a fun thing to do, as we often get so consumed with the day-to-day drone of our jobs that we forget, until we say it out loud to other people, that we are living pretty super cool lives.
Both times we’ve gone in prepared to give students a glimpse of the daily grind that goes into making a living in a creative career, and both times, I’ve been so surprised by the reactions of the students, which are, overwhelmingly, variations on how we inspired them to follow their dreams. Oh. Okay.
The first time, I figured this was a mix of politeness and the students having the general impression that this was how they were supposed to respond, and thusly, they did. But today, Mike told an anecdote about a former student of his who was talked out her dream career – IN HIGH SCHOOL – by another teacher who pointed at her grades and deemed it impossible. He then asked the WMU students if they were wavering between a major they wanted to follow and one people were telling them they should, and the response was….ugh. It made my heart sink. So many of them raised their hands. One wanted to be a photographer. Another a marine biologist. Another a fine artist. And none of them were going to do those things, because they didn’t think they could.
As someone (at age 32) who still operates on the (possibly dwindling) assumption that I can, at any moment, switch to whatever career I want, this was horrifying to hear. Who are all of these people running around telling people to not chase their dreams? That is like, Disney villain bullshit. It really impressed upon me just how true those reactions from students were. If you’ve been told you can’t do what you want with your life, seeing evidence to the contrary would be very powerful.
So that’s what I’ve done today. I’ve had the privilege of pointing at my life and saying, “This is possible! It’s messy, but doable” to a bunch of young adults on the verge of making their first round of big life decisions. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to do so, and even luckier that I get to have a life like this in the first place. Because, you know, sometimes the messy gets in the way of the awesome. It was a much needed reminder.