“Don’t ever let anyone take your bliss away.”
This is one of the most thought-provoking sayings I’ve ever had directed in my general direction. Uttered by a well-meaning friend, I continue to let that grouping of words wash over me from time to time. It is both a good reminder of how I need to handle my own life, as well as how I should respect the choices of others.
At this moment, I find myself in this now-familiar territory. One of my children is at a serious life crossroad. To explain the entire story would give far more away than I think is prudent. However, these same words have flooded back to me at regular intervals during the past six months.
The storm’s about to blow
One of the things I learned far too late was that the only person who should have a hand in deciding what my passions should be in life, is me. When I was young (and even when I wasn’t), I allowed other people to literally change my entire direction in life. Fresh out of college, I wanted to go back for my masters – my plan being to teach. I had found a school where I could go back for the extra year (for teaching in California you need a bachelors +1 extra year for the credential), and then continue classes for my masters. I wanted to either go into administration or teach at college level – I wasn’t positive which direction I’d go in, but I knew I wanted to have a masters degree. I was sold on the program, ready to sign on the dotted line and get started.
I had two hurdles left. One was to tell my parents. My dad wasn’t as sold on the idea as I was. He wanted me to get a job and start bringing in money to help, which was hard to hear. I didn’t have the money for school on my own unless my dad was agreeable to let me continue living at home rent free and covering my car payment. He wasn’t. His feeling was that masters degrees were unnecessary. I needed to work. Then I had to tell my then-boyfriend. He told me that I needed “a taste of business” before deciding to teach.
Knowing that my both my boyfriend and father were against the idea, I quickly shelved my plan. I scoured want ads, sent out my resume to hundreds of companies – basically floundering from the moment I graduated from college in June until mid-August. My dad came into my room one morning as I was looking at the newspaper and announced I had to come up with the money for my September car payment. “By the way, you are starting at my friend’s office in downtown LA as their temporary receptionist on Monday.”
The gaping hole
The phone? I hated covering phones. I went to school…got a degree…to be a receptionist?? He kept telling me that I had to pay my dues and work my way up. It was like being sentenced right back to hell because I had been working as a receptionist most of the way through school to begin with. All I could think about (and still occasionally think about when I’m down in the dumps) is that I went to school and worked my backside off to get a degree that didn’t help me one single bit.
Over the next couple of years I bounced from job to job. I was never satisfied, and I always felt like the work was “just a job”. I don’t know what it is like to have a career, much less one I’m passionate about doing. Instead, l’m passionate when it comes to writing about Duran Duran. I am obsessed with their career, their music, this fandom.
Caught in the crossfire
Parenting is tough. When you first start out, you think having this newborn is going to be the hardest time. You’re tired, sick, frustrated, exhausted…how much worse can it really get than that? Well, I’ve done all that three times now. I have to say that at least for me, cuddling a crying newborn has nothing on parenting a young adult. NOTHING.
I’ve made serious mistakes with my kids, and sadly for my youngest – I continue to make them. My heart is always in the right place, but sometimes I just blow it. In parenting, you don’t necessarily realize the severity to which you’ve failed until years later. For me, now is that time. My comeuppance.
Too often, I turned a blind eye when I should not have done so. I ignored obsessions and interests when I should have fully encouraged them. The things I thought were just hobbies or wastes of time, were in fact road signs that I forced us to pass by, in favor of sticking to the “tried and true” way to get through life. Only now do I realize that essentially, I tried to push my kid into a mold s/he wasn’t destined to fit. I think s/he always knew, and it’s a funny thing – even a kid on the spectrum wants their parents and family to be proud of him, even if at the time they’re not fully aware of those feelings.
Take a look before you run off and hide
I spent most of Heather’s teen and college years reminding her to look for her passion, and live it fully. My husband would look at me in utter horror with a little bit of irritation mixed with good measure as I’d recite these words to her, but I meant them with every fiber of my being.
“If you love dancing so much that you’d live in your car – then damn it, that’s your passion and it is what you were put here to do. Go do it!”
The trouble is, I didn’t extend those words to anyone else in my little family. I didn’t consider other obsessions that were perhaps just as lofty as a performance art. It never occurred to me that by not saying them directly to each child – I was basically saying that their own interests weren’t worth living in a car to do. Their passions were maybe just hobbies. Stop playing video games, go to college, and get a degree, in other words.
Don’t look away
What on earth does this have to do with Duran Duran, you say? Can you imagine what would have become of them, of ALL of us, had their parents not encouraged them? What in the hell would I be listening to, writing about, or traveling to see had they just gone into trade like their parents before them?
Unconventional choices aren’t always bad. Sure, there’s risk involved, either way. Success is reached when you finding the thing you’re so passionate or obsessed with that you’ll stop at nothing to keep doing it.
I don’t really believe that Duran Duran keeps making music because they want to achieve some tangible goal or dollar amount. Chart success or critical acclaim isn’t the one thing that keeps them going. While perhaps they are underdogs to some extent, I really don’t believe they’re continuing to chase a carrot. They’ve already been the biggest band in the world. They know what it means to sell out arenas and have millions of fans. Music is a part of their soul. At one point, I think they would have lived in their car(s) to keep doing it. If nothing else, they lived in a Cheapside squat in order to be a band.
If you’re willing to live in a car to keep doing your thing – then go do it. “Don’t ever let anyone take your bliss away.”