“Didn’t you ever ask your kids to take classes in something they can actually make money at?” one wedding guest asked my parents at a recent reception. (Keep in mind, I graduated from college with a degree in music theatre over three years ago.)
“No,” my mother replied, “We told them to follow their hearts.”
Ten points for my supportive parents! Zero for the ignorant wench who sneered at them in response.
I haven’t figured out which saddens me more: the fact that this person is still asking the same judgmental question year after year, or that she hasn’t yet grasped the concept of a degree in the arts being legitimate.
Complete strangers have expressed their judgments too: “It’s very competitive. Why don’t you quit while you’re ahead?” “Isn’t that a waste of time and money?” “But what are you going to do with that degree?”
Ladies and gentlemen, I have questions too: Do you watch television? Read books? Attend the theater? Take family trips to the museum? Laugh at Sunday morning comics?
If so, let me share a secret with you: Any art and entertainment medium you consume on a given day has been created by artists. In some cases, those artists attended college to become even better artists.
It gets juicier: Some of them are even paid to do what they do.
Do you read the newspaper? Those writers make a living off of their written work. The actors you see touring the country in plays and musicals? They probably majored in some form of theatre. And get this: They’re not doing it for free. (WHAT?)
Painters featured in art museums and galleries have spent years honing their crafts. The singers you hear on the radio singing for a living probably worked their tails off to get where they are today.
There is even an art to writing political speeches and church sermons. Who knew?
So I guess I’m confused. What part of “an artistic calling” do you not understand? The lack of job security? People get fired from “regular” jobs all the time. The competition? I’m fairly certain there are a ton of doctors, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, advertisers and salesmen in the world.
And they’re not always chums.
The “starving artist” stigma? I have friends on Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway and all over the place. The size of the theater doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re all still living in New York because we’ve been able to feed ourselves. Huzzah!
You may not know this, but artists don’t sit back, relax and throw glitter in the air hoping money will rain down on them. They have worked just as hard as people with “regular jobs” (if not 50 times harder) to become masters of their crafts.
Artists love the work they do. That tends to be why they do it. And, yet, the very people who consume their art every day are the ones mistreating them for following their dreams.
I’m no math major, but something isn’t adding up here.
We sing, dance and act to make the audience feel good. We write things for you to read on sunny days at the beach. We play music for your enjoyment at social gatherings.
We animate incredible films that entertain you and teach you important lessons about life. We create video games to keep your children occupied. We design clothes to make sure you don't look homeless.
Generally speaking, we make life a better and more enjoyable experience for you and everyone around you. In return, you choose to question us, judge us, demean us and try to make us feel bad for wanting an artistic career? That is just so... What’s the word? Basic. Immature.
It’s one thing for you to sit at home and judge people from afar, but to personally demean another human (or his or her parents) for following a dream? Pursuing a passion?
Well, that’s just not very American, now is it? Or Christian. Or morally correct. Or kind. Or acceptable.
Maybe ignorant people don’t mean anything by it. Maybe they genuinely want to ascertain why someone would be crazy enough to make his passion his career.
But I suspect it is the mere act of witnessing the miserable masses judge and attack artists for forging their own paths, which steers us away from following traditional and “socially acceptable” ways of living to begin with.
After all, why would we want to be like the very people who shoot us down for following our dreams?
Artists are smarter and more creative than that, and also much more likely to make magic happen in the world than those who savor the fruits of our labors only to knock us down for our efforts.
So, unless you don’t watch Netflix, go to the cinema, read novels, flip through newspapers, listen to the radio, go to outdoor concerts or engage in any form of entertainment whatsoever because you live under a rock, you are now aware that artists are real humans who can make real money doing what they really love to do.
It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. But, then again, neither is listening to your condescending, uninformed, ridiculous questions year after year. Like anything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth, enough is enough already.
My recommendation to all human beings is that respect should be exercised whenever an artist reveals his or her calling to you. You may very well turn on the television one day and see his face lighting up your screen, or attend her first violin concert at Carnegie Hall.
You might read an article he wrote about you on a website with millions of readers, most of whom have already learned this valuable lesson and are half your age.
Moral of the story? My parents are amazing. And anyone who still has questions... shouldn’t.