Make this mistake, and your kids may wind up unhappy.
When I was eight years old, I wanted to be a singer. When I was nine years old, I wanted to be an actress. And when I was ten years old, I wanted to be a writer. As I entered my teen years, my ideas of what I wanted to be varied each year, but wanting to be a singer, actress, and writer never left my mind.
In high school my parents began making a big deal about graduation and college. For years I wanted to attend a theater school, even though I had no acting experience. My dad said, "You can major in acting, but make sure you pick another major that will earn you money." Ouch. He said the same thing when my sister wanted to go to an Art college (except she was actually good at art). Now my youngest brother has reached his senior year of high school, and he's thinking of going into game design (with every other teenage boy in America).
Unfortunately I never made it to college; I ended up pregnant at sixteen. But did my parents have anything to do with that? I believe one of the biggest contributions to becoming pregnant in high school was because I didn't have any self-worth. Even as I decided not to go into acting, but pursue an English/Writing major instead, my dad would be sure to chime in, "Get a degree that will make you money." But what he didn't understand was there weren't other money-making degrees I wanted to pursue. My passions were always discouraged, which made adulthood look grimmer with each passing day. (Note: There are many reasons for my teenage pregnancy, I'm in no way placing blame on my parents.)
My high school pregnancy aside, I look at my two children and at my younger brother and am beginning to wonder if my parents had it all wrong. Sure, my sister is thankful they talked her out of art school, but I'm sure she'd be thrilled to have an art job that made enough money to survive on. I'm very understanding that my parents just want to see their kids be successful. But having a job that makes a lot of money doesn't always equate to success.
When I worked in a bookstore, I was the supervisor of the children's department, but loathed it. I wanted to be out working the rest of the store, and not just stuck behind shelving children's books all day. After deliberating for several weeks, I decided to demote myself; I took a pay cut so I could work in all areas of the bookstore instead of being confined to a section. Even though I had to live on a tighter budget, I was definitely happier.
If my daughter came up to me and said she wanted to go to acting school, I'd tell her it'll be a tough road but she can do it. If my brother wants to go into game design, I'll buy all the video games he makes, even though I'm not a video gamer. If my son wants to play professional sports, I'll be at every game. If my children want to take on the role of a starving artist so they can eventually conquer their dreams, I'll cheer for them. Life is too short to rack up enormous debt from college to work a job you don't love.
If you knew you were going to die in ten years, would you still go to college to major in a so-so degree when you really want to play professional violin or become a backup dancer for a big-time celebrity? Maybe you want to become a professional make up artist or own your own business? Don't let anyone tell you your dreams aren't realistic—even your parents—because dreams aren't meant to be. Don't allow anyone to try to talk you out of something you really want to do. If you work hard and stay patient and consistent, you can achieve anything! You just have to believe it to achieve it.
As for me, I’m currently attending college and majoring in English (and minoring in Education, teachers have good hours). My dream of becoming a writer still endures (I'm not pretty enough for Hollywood), and I won't ever go back to college to major in something I like, but not love, ever again.
This article was originally published at BlogHer. Reprinted with permission from the author.