I’ve had it.
Why are we so discouraging as a human race? If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the phrase, “That’s a hard career to get into,” I would be able to buy a couple Big Macs, with a large drink and fries on the side, from an employer which my impromptu-counselor dialoging with me is inadvertently implying I will indeed be flipping burgers at for the rest of my life should I actually do something so risky as pursue said “hard career.”
Ok…I needed to get that out. Hearing the negatively-charged phrase once again from my academic advisor (of all people) today at college apparently pushed me over the edge. But really, I am concerned, and have been, with this universal, defeatist mentality that seems to exist in the mind of anyone whom you choose to expose your personal, closely-held passions and ambitions with.
It’s as if there is a little negativity troll waiting up inside everybody else’s head. This troll has a keen nose for honesty and will wake from its slumber at the smallest whiff of it, climbing down out of its shaky treehouse made out of a misguided sense of wisdom and waiting to pounce at the first hint of someone vulnerably spilling their dreams.
A motto I have learned to adopt is this:
Never let someone who has not been through it themselves tell you what it’s really like. Never let someone who has not succeeded themselves tell you that you will likely fail as well.
Someones answers to the following questions are pertinent to establishing the validity of their assertions about the subject at hand (in order of importance): How do they know that? Have they done it themselves/been through it? Did they stop and why? Do they know someone who does/did it and have insight from them? Have they, at the very least, studied, read up on, or mulled over the fact as much as you (passionately) have?
Actual experience far outweighs perceived knowledge of a given subject. However, that experience can even be useless to someone else because experience is completely unique to the individual and shapes what we distinctly believe to be true.
As I sat there listening to my advisors interesting choice of words, I thought to myself: You’re also a teacher… I have heard it said a few times that teaching was a hard career to get into. Yet, here you are, telling me about how hard my passion is while acting as a tangible contradiction to the defeatist tone you are leveraging against my ambition.
Typically, the person supports their argument with the assumption that “everyone is trying to do that.” Well, you know what the reality is? Everybody is doing everything! If you’re going by that logic, sure, you might as well do nothing because, yes, there is nothing new under the sun, thank you for the reminder. But on the same coin, this should be an encouragement because, yes, someone has to “do it.” Someone is filling every possible role: from your favorite actor on TV to the person sitting in a tollbooth, and they got there because they wanted to or they needed to.
I am very grateful for my amazing vocal coach (Kristin Titus – the one in the middle) who has always been an encouragement, a catalyst for my passions. She put it very well in a recent convo, saying, “Yes, it might be hard. But it’s my hard.” (She recently filled the lead role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd @ the Broadway Street Theatre in Pitman, NJ).
…And this is what I feel people so often miss; what is hard for you may not be hard for me, and if it is, it’s worth it to me because it is my passion. It is my “hard” to deal with and succeed in. I honestly believe when people use this phrase, they are actually speaking out of the fear in themselves to stand out, to look different, to risk failing at their own dreams, and are projecting all of that onto whomever they are talking to.
So, my plea is this; next time you are graced to be on the receiving end of someone’s honest ambitions…Listen. Instead of telling or asking them if they know how “hard” their choice is, ask what made them pick it. Ask how they plan to accomplish it. You just might learn something new and simultaneously become a part of the group of people that have encouraged them along the way.
From one dreamer to another.