As of late, fewer people are pursuing the arts and instead are taking part in STEM majors or concentrations. People of influence have always had a way of making their opinions heard. Whether it’s a parent under the belief that, “they’re doing it for your own good”, a teacher saying that it’s not possible to do so many things in your life, or it’s someone unknowingly making someone else feel rejected.
In each of these sources I will mention, I can relate. In the book, The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, the chapter’s title: It’s For Your Own Good, we meet Paulo Coelho. With Coelho’s story, I empathize with having parents who are incredibly apprehensive about pursuing the arts and/or the humanities. My brothers both ended up taking that path. One is a film director and the other is a musician. My parents are, well, not overly enthused. The issue for me was the fact that the smallest age difference between me and one of my siblings is by 13 years. Which is the entirety of the time it takes to go through elementary, middle, and high school. Right off the bat, I was given ideals that pursuing the arts would be unsuccessful.
Growing up around my parents meant there were many offhand comments about how music and film aren’t prosperous unless you’re fantastic or lucky led me to believe that I could not take that path. I didn’t want to say anything other than my end goal was medicine. While I knew they supported my brother’s choices, they also had few positive things to say about their chosen professions.
My brothers followed their hearts to attain happiness. My parents wanted us to be successful, and to my parents, the arts weren’t in line for success unless you were among the few that excelled. If my parents begrudgingly complied with my siblings’ choices, it meant I had to undertake a changed level of expectations while growing up, meaning, the humanities were going to be frowned upon. This fact remains unchanged. When I had completed my college’s form about my educational interests before the school year began, I selected a wide berth of classes that weren’t just science classes. From what I answered, I had a notable interest in studying philosophy. And when I told my dad about my interest, he cringed.
In the TED talk, There’s more to life than being happy, Emily says, “some groups and relationships deliver a cheap form of belonging; you’re valued for what you believe, for who you are, for who you hate, not for who you are.” It makes me wonder if I’m really pursuing medicine for myself or if I’m being influenced after many negative comments about my siblings’ choices, knowing the negativity would be directed at me if I committed to something else. Am I relying on my heart to make this decision, or am I following the influence of my family?
Whatever I’d find myself encapsulated in, I’d put my soul into it. If it was a show? I’d watch it three times back to back. If it was a novel? I put dozens of sticky notes on my wall with my favorite quotes. I wanted to wander like the characters did. With my music, I’d practice well into the night. I had even, embarra
ssingly, made a band nerd Instagram account (which I can’t disable, unfortunately). A new album to listen to on repeat? I wrote an essay about the meaning and connection between tracks, or I became one of their top 100 listeners (you’re welcome Night Riots).
Like Emilie who gave the Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling TED talk, I, too, eventually get “this sense of boredom, this feeling of… this isn’t challenging anymore.” I, too, “would have to let it go.” In my various hyperfixations, I had so much love for these characters and their stories. It inspired me to become a writer for a brief minute. I told my mother, who is gifted in writing and journalism, who said that I’d never have money. She told me that I wouldn’t have a fulfilling life that way. So that idea was exactly what it was: an idea and nothing more.
Have we been told that we couldn’t be happy if we did the things that inspired us? In the Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling TED talk, there was a mention of children’s aspirations. Some of them are silly, I agree, but I think there’s more to it. I’ve worked for four years in child care. I remember this one kid whose goal is to be an author. Her nose was always deep into a book. No matter how many times I reminded her that flashlight time was over, she needed to finish her page. I know this other kid whose dream is to work as an astronaut and to meet aliens. Her entire wardrobe is space themed. I believe both of them will do what they want; I hope that they do. They hold so much love for their passions, and I don’t want them to lose that magic. They know so deeply that this is what they want, and even if their desires change, I’m hoping that it’s always going to remain something that’s purposeful for them.
I’m hoping the generations after us won’t have anything to cloud their hearts. Even before I listened to the TED talks and read the chapter about Coehlo, I knew the difference between what makes me happy and my purpose, a topic that is mentioned in Emily’s TED talk. I have so many things that give me happiness: music, writing, reading, sewing, the list goes on, but they aren’t my purpose. No matter the situation, I’ve always wanted to understand how to help. Whether it was lending a hand in a soup kitchen or holding a door a bit too long, it’s always been my drive to help others.
I frequently joke with my siblings that I’m my parents’ last hope for a child in STEM. I know it’s what my parents inadvertently taught me to aspire to be, but it’s what I wanted to do anyway. But while I’m at it, I’m going to delve into as much philosophical knowledge as I desire, and they can’t interfere with it. My siblings’ passions in the arts and humanities fulfill them, and I’m hoping it’s going to be the same for me.