I’m making decisions lately! It’s kind of stressful but kind of feels good.
I’m in the process of applying for a non-degree teacher certification program at TCNJ, The College of New Jersey – BUT – get this – at their location in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
I’ve been wondering for awhile how I’d manage to go back to school or further my career or if I wanted to further this career or if I should change careers and just be an instantly famous actress / comedian with boats of money (and BOATS!) after all.
I am about to give a little anti-follow-your-dreams spiel. If you’re, like, fourteen, you should probably stop reading now, because that’s a good age to still believe in your ability to be an instantly famous actress / comedian with boats of money and boats. However, f you are, say, a college undergrad, READ THIS RIGHT NOW. I wish I’d read something like it as a sophomore saying, “What could I possibly major in other than theatre?” (ANYTHING. LITERALLY ANYTHING.)
I think Americans are fed far too much of the, “YOU’RE SPECIAL AND YOU CAN DO ANYTHING” drivel. Maybe it’s the Asia in me, but THAT level of individualism is absurd. You’re not special. You’re special to some people, and that’s important – probably better. You can’t do anything, though, and that’s just a fact. Logically, it doesn’t make sense. But rather than focusing on how you might not be flexible enough to be a dancer or might not have the eye for painting, I think we should also focus on what we actually want to do.
Or rather, what we don’t want to do.
Basically, the “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING” bullshit is always paired with something fun and not in demand. At least, that’s what I’ve found over the years. There are thousands of cool jobs that never get a touch of the YOU CAN DO ANYTHING limelight. No one once said to me, “You’re smart! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. Think about trying out ocean biology!” or, “I know math wasn’t your forte in school, but YOU CAN DO ANYTHING and wouldn’t it be so satisfying to come full circle and someday teach math-dumb kids like you in more creative ways than your teachers ever did?!” or, “Isn’t it great to make a difference in the world? YOU CAN DO ANYTHING; work for a nonprofit!”
Nope. We all want to be famous, so it’s, “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING; you go to Hollywood, girl!” “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING; I think your garage band is…. good.” “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING; once you buy a more expensive camera you’ll be making real money for your pictures!”
And at the same time, we give no indication to kids and young people that hobbies are great. It’s great to be a person who acts in regional or community theatres, because without those people, regional and community theatres would not put on shows. It’s great to have a garage band, maybe. And it’s great to go make an ass of yourself auditioning at Juilliard and then laugh it off and get yourself a big condolence ice cream (but that’s a story for a different day). It’s good to get out there and try things. It’s great. But we set everyone up to feel like a failure when they’re not famous at 22 – and that’s probably not what a lot of people even want.
This YOU CAN DO ANYTHING SO DO WHAT YOU LOVE has a sub-textual message that what you really want is something impractical and glamorous. “Sure it’d be smart to do this practical thing blah but you should do what you want [which is as different as possible from those practical things your loser square parents and teachers ended up doing].”
And I fell for this for awhile. I did the whole theatre and dance thing, and don’t get me wrong – I loved it and still do. I take dance classes when I can, and I do a little stand-up comedy to scratch that performance itch. But the same impatience and self-doubt I get teaching, (Is this what I love to do more than anything else in the world or should I be trying to act????), I honestly remember feeling in college, when I had to spend late nights rehearsing for this or that play, (Is this what I love to do more than anything else in the world or should I be doing something more important? This feels like such a waste of time).
Here’s my big secret: what I love to do more than anything in the world are things like watching a perfect Netflix show, playing board games with friends, listening to ocean waves, and getting wine-drunk. I have not found anyone to pay me for any combination of those things, and that’s okay, because life is more than work. That’s a lesson that the states and Asia probably has to learn. And not everyone is special and deserves to be famous (- that’s more a lesson just for the states).
I like teaching, and I think it’s important. In my mind, it’s a clear way to change the world – albeit without much instant gratification. Teaching children is a straightforward (if slow) way to turn those children into smarter, better people, and a strong education makes people more powerful. If there are more smart, good, powerful people in the world, the world will be better.
And so I’ve decided that, at least for this chapter of my life, I am and will be a teacher. And it’s not the one thing I love more than anything else in the world. But I don’t know any one thing I love more than everything else, and that’s okay. You don’t have to figure it out – but you also don’t have to be frozen in a state of fear and self-doubt because you can’t figure it out. You still get to choose to do things, to move forward.
And man, it feels good to have made a decision.