Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let's be adults about this, part two.

To elaborate on my recent short post about my expectations for someone over the age of 25, I have written a very long post. :) To begin with, I understand that extenuating circumstances happen sometimes (I’m living in some of those now so I DO know that life isn’t always how you planned it) but there are certain things that should be a priority at a certain point. Who was it who said “when I became a man I put away childish things”? It’s fine to want to play, but there should come a day in life when you make a decision between play and work, between child and adult, and between wants and needs.

I am privileged to know some wildly creative people who have degrees in wildly creative fields. I have a liberal arts degree myself, and I fully know that it’s pretty impractical to have an actual career in my field of study, as well-rounded and well-read as I am. In order to do anything related to my field, I would have to have a graduate degree and teach on a university level. That hasn’t happened for me (time and money always get in the way, right?), but I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of job experience under my belt and a quick mind that makes connections and solves problems. To be succinct, I can get a job doing just about anything, and it doesn’t necessarily have to involve my undergraduate study. I’m ok with that. I got a degree in a field I love and am very passionate about, and I had resigned myself to not getting a job in that field before I matriculated into the major. I wasn’t disappointed when I got hired where I’m working now. It’s a job. It pays the bills. It gives me enough extra money to indulge in some more or less impractical hobbies that will probably never pay for themselves. (I want to buy a spinning wheel, for instance, but I know that I will probably never make a profit selling anything I spin.)

Wanting to do creative things isn’t the problem—the problem happens when you become unqualified for every “real” job (a job with insurance and steady hours, for instance; something I am afraid to be without) because you’ve spent too much time focusing on creative pursuits. Not everyone with a creative writing degree is actually going to end up on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Not everyone with a music degree is going to be the next Irving Berlin, let alone Mozart. Not everyone with an acting degree is going to be the next Ian McKellan. I know a lot of people who are completely unprepared for the world outside their field of study and it makes me sad. If you’ve worked hard at your degree and are good at what you do inside the microcosm of your college, that’s great. Reality can hit pretty hard, however, and otherwise good and kind and spiritual men get overlooked by women because they don’t have a car and live in the suburbs in a house with four other men. This is problematic for obvious reasons.

I have little patience for people who can’t adjust to life outside college. Maybe this is because it took me so long to get my degree and I put myself through school working at jobs I didn’t always love. I don’t love my job now, but it’s what I have and I’m glad for it. I know my ideal job is out there, and I also know that I can’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen. I have to make money. I have responsibilities and obligations that can’t wait for Perfect Job With Awesome Salary to fall into my lap. I’m not saying you should compromise on a dream—I’m saying that between now and when the dream actually comes true, you should be able to pay your bills without selling your furniture. You should be able to provide your own transportation and not rely on the worn-thin kindness of your friends. You should theoretically be able to support a family, whether you’re a man or a woman. You should also be able to function with other adults in an adult world, whether or not you are married or have children.

Some examples (some details have been changed for the sake of anonymity): A guy I went to high school with was blessed with an amazing singing voice. He studied opera and was invited to audition for the Metropolitan Opera Company when he was still in college. He showed definite promise and pursued that career for a few years, wife and subsequent children in tow. At one point, he looked around at the life he was living and realized that it wasn’t the best or most stable life for his family and decided to go to dental school. You could say he gave up, but you could also say that he gave it a good shot, realized that it wasn’t quite what he wanted or what was the best for his family, and changed goals. As far as I know, he’s a successful dentist and still sings.

Another man married a wonderful woman, started a family, and moved to California to pursue an acting career. He did a few films, got a few other credits under his belt, and his family grew to four children. A few years ago he and his wife decided that he would go back to school for a graduate degree in a field that he was also good at, but that would actually be more stable and lucrative for the family. They’re currently in the Midwest while he finishes his Ph.D. Acting will likely always be one of his loves, but if it doesn’t pay the bills, it has to come second.

Jinxie is lucky, I think. She’s working in a field she liked at the first and has grown to love since. She’s shown a real aptitude for it and is constantly looking for new opportunities. She had to move across the country to find it, she had to take a risk and step WAY out of her comfort zone. She had to be an adult.

Roxie? Same thing. She took a risk and ran with it, and she’s very happy and excited about her field of study.

Women like us, who have made peace with the idea that we can’t have everything we want and don’t get to be everything we wanted to be when we were children, deserve, I think, men who have made equally mature decisions. I really want to marry someone who is musically talented, but I’m not going to insist on marrying/dating a famous composer or musician. I’d rather be married to/date someone who works hard, develops and increases his talents, has decided to stop playing LARP/MMORPG games for eight hours a day, has a steady income (whether it’s from waiting tables or business management), and owns his own car.


Gina said...

This is such an important message, one that I think is so overlooked in our world today.

Kind of a silly comparison, but did you see Eclipse? The valedictorian speech basically was encouraging people to pursue the ridiculous, the frivolous, the unstable and "to heck" with responsibility because, hey, "they're young".

Bravo for blogging about something so important and so overlooked.

BTW- I am here from MMB

Roxie said...

I have been very lucky. The risks I've taken look a lot more scary on this side of them than they did on the other. Which is probably good or else I wouldn't have made them.

But this is a huge part of why a lot of guys never got a second date with me. They had no plan. No real plan anyway. One guy had a goal to be a doctor, but no real plan on how he was going to get there.

As a woman with a plan, I needed a man with a plan.

Of course, plans also need flexibility built in. But they can't be so wishy-washy they don't stand up to anything.