It is every parent‘s dream that their child have a successful, fulfilling life in their career and relationships. As much as we want our children to follow their hearts, it is hard not to advise them to be “practical” so they can make a living wage and ideally not live at home any more. We want them to be happy as long as they can pay their own bills.
It was always a joy to see what our children had an interest in and we did our best to foster it. My son had an avid interest in the bones of dinosaurs and people alike. He studied ancient Egypt and loved museum visits when mummies were there to observe. He loved any toy that allowed him to painstakingly uncover a fossil or build a city out of Legos. He loved puzzles and mysteries. He loved scary books and movies. All of this convinced me that he would have a career in archeology, studying the ruins of ancient civilizations or research of some sort. And then he discovered that he had a love for music.
He started on piano at age 7 and became very proficient very quickly. When he participated in an Arts contest at his school district, the song he composed was so advanced, his music teacher had to write the actual notations because he wasn’t there yet. By 5th grade he discovered the trumpet and that became his instrument of choice for his high school years and into college. Then he taught himself the electric guitar. His love and knowledge of music grew. Jazz, reggae and alternative rock all had the same draw for him. As he grew more skillful he could easily switch from his jazz mode to his psychobilly rock mode in a matter of minutes. We loved that he had this amazing talent. But could he make a living at it?
As much as he loved music I think he had his own doubts as well. He went to college with no clear career path but continued with music there as much as he could. We realized that perhaps he wanted our blessing to say it was okay to follow what you felt in yourself no matter what. I myself had tried to follow my creative heart and went to LA to break into film and television. Although I had some success, it was not enough to sustain me and I left it for other pursuits. Yet I have never regretted that I followed my heart and spent those younger years living the dream. Could I ask anything less for them?
It’s an unfortunate truth that the creative life is not always the most sustainable one. Many of my actor and musician friends have had to work other jobs just so they can continue their creative endeavors. They have been told since youth to have a “backup” plan. Yet they continue to act, write and play music whenever they can because that’s where they are most alive.
In the end we gave our full blessing and support to our son to follow his heart. Youth is the time to stumble and fall and also the time to rise up and get to know who you are. He did finish college with a degree that included music. Since then his path has been a varied musical one. If it is not performance, it is education. He is following his heart. And guess what? He is earning a living wage, paying his own way, living the dream. He has that successful, fulfilling life that we had dreamed for him.
I have found as parents we fear for our children so much that we do everything we can to shield them from hurt or pain. We do things for them instead of teaching them to do for themselves. We inadvertently lower the bar and give them the message that they are not competent. We don’t want them to make our mistakes. We do them a great disservice without realizing the damage we are causing. Life is experiencing pain and suffering and joy and fulfillment and yes, following your own heart.
Kahlil Gibran wrote that children “come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” It was hard to let go of that little hand. But if we had not, we would have never heard the music that has come from it