Monday, March 5, 2012

Thank You Mom and Dad

I was watching this television show and the episode was about a woman who was in her early thirties and still didn't quite know what she wanted to do with her life.  Much of the episode involved flashbacks of her parents and their none-too-subtle comments about what she should be and what she should do with her life.  They expected her to be a lawyer, have two kids by the time she was thirty, and no other path was acceptable or even conceivable to them.

They thought this is what would make their daughter happy because it's what would make THEM happy.

This obviously leads the character to make a series of horrible mistakes in her life because most of her decisions are made under pressure out of the desire to please her parents.  A direct quote from the show is "I am suffocating under your collective disappointment."

Most times I like to watch such realistic fiction because I can relate to the character.  I like leaving a show feeling a connection with what I've just seen; having been somehow affirmed or vindicated.  But as I clicked my laptop closed I realized that...this is one problem I never had.

My parents never made me feel like I HAD to do or be anything but happy.  I was never pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer (not that there is anything wrong with either profession - they just aren't me).  No matter what I wanted to be at the time, they supported me and allowed me to make the decision myself. 

When I was just an 8th grader and decided that I wanted to be a marine biologist (because I really wanted to be a vet but I'm allergic to animals), they allowed me to do research on the Marine Academy of Science and Technology - a special magnet high school for those seeking careers in the ocean sciences.  I have no idea if they were just placating me, but it sure felt like they were ready to let me move to Cape May to follow that dream, if that's what I wanted.

When I decided to be a computer animator in high school, they drove me all the way to the Rochester Institute of Technology to let me see for myself if this was something I wanted to do.  But RIT didn't have a band, they didn't sing musicals, and they expected me to draw....on be a computer animator.  Definitely not the place for me.

But again, they let me make my own decision.  They didn't dismiss my ideas.

When I eventually decided on a college that was "just a liberal arts school" they fully supported me.  There were many reasons I fell in love with TCNJ, but I'll be honest.  The brand-spanking-new acoustic music hall is what really had me weak in the knees for the place.  I need music in my life to learn well and be happy.  I knew that about myself back then, even if I wasn't aware of it nor was I able to articulate it. 

I'm not sure they understood it either, but they supported me.

After TCNJ I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I had an English degree but had no desire to teach English.  I played around with being a Science Fiction editor for a real long time.  I even worked at Realms of Fantasy, the largest magazine in the world devoted to fantasy, for 4 years as their slush editor - FOR FREE - because I thought it would lead to a career in publishing.  It didn't.  And they probably knew that it never would because most publishing houses are in cities and I HATE cities.  But they just let me do my thing anyway, rolled their eyes, shrugged, and smiled.

I lived in different places with different roommates.  Bought a house when I was only 21.  Hopped from clerical job to clerical job, sang my operas...and just...lived.  My parents never once made me feel like I wasn't the most incredible, most accomplished person on the planet.  They had complete faith in me.  Or at least they had me happily fooled.  They always made me feel competent and like I was "going places."

Like the character in the television show I was watching, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life either.  At least in regards to a career.  I didn't figure that out either until I'd turned about 30 too.  Once I figured it out, I went back to school, got my masters, and now I'm finally doing something that is truly fulfilling.  Sure, I complain about my job like everybody else, but it really is finally a good fit for me.  I get to learn about everything and anything every day, while making a difference, and still singing on the side.  My cup of tea.

Yet my parents remained unsurprised.  It's like they'd already been here and had already seen what I would accomplish before I could.  They taught me to always follow my gut and to have the confidence to go for it; that I can do anything.  I know far too many people, and have far too many friends, whose parents did not give them that same level of respect and trust when they were young, and it's now that they're really suffering for it.  They're paralyzed; incapable of moving forward because they are stuck in their own past.  But thanks to my parents, that's not me. 

I can do anything.

Thanks Mom and Dad.

Your daughter,
The Librarian

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