Parents’ Aspirations vs. Your Aspirations

Boy, parents cannot catch a break around these parts lately, eh? Seems like every other day this past month I’m writing about unsupportive parents or parents who give bad advice or some other way that parents screw up their kids en route to college.

I passed my model inspection!

Today we’ll continue our gentle constructive criticism of misguided parents, but at the other end of the spectrum. Kelley’s parents are supportive enough, but they’re pushing her in the wrong direction.

I would love to attend a school that has an undergraduate major for broadcast journalism and communications.

Good start, because many colleges have these majors, especially communications. Broadcast journalism is a tough business these days, so if you’re going to do it, aim high. Go to Missouri, Northwestern, Syracuse, USC, Emerson, or someplace like that — it’ll give you a leg up in the business. Especially Missouri. 🙂

I have an idea of what schools I want to attend, but my parents have some different ideas. They will support me in anything I do,


but they would rather me attend a school like Berkeley or a dramatic arts school because they believe that I have a special spark in me and that I could go places.

Maybe you could, but a) do you even WANT to go to those places, and b) are you committed to working your ass off for years to get to those places? Those are the key questions.

I really do enjoy being on stage and performing and I do very well in school, but I just don’t think that there’s enough money or support when looking at the odds for acting.

OK, I believe that you enjoy being on stage and performing, but judging by your email, your parents are the only ones who are pushing that as a career option. Regardless of what career path you choose, YOU have to be the one who chooses it, not someone else (not even your parents, who probably know you better than anyone else, but still don’t know you as well as you know yourself).

Yes, the show-business odds are against you, and when that’s the case, you need TONS of desire and passion to break through and make it. More on that in a second.

If I knew that I would be some sort of star someday, by all means I would continue to do what I love and pursue it in college,

Well, sure — that’s true of all of us. If I knew I was going to be a big Hollywood star, I’d move there tomorrow.

but it’s rough competition and I just don’t want to be like the rest of the millions who want to become celebrities. I want to be more logical.

That’s a very natural and sensible risk-averse attitude to have — but I think that those who actually make it in show business are the ones who plow forth and do it anyway. Again, more on that in second.

What do you think I should do?

Well, first I’ll give you my usual disclaimer that all I know about you and your situation is contained in this email, so I’m probably lacking the complete story and I admit that up front. BUT, having said that — no, I don’t think you should pursue “show business,” for a couple of reasons.

1) In this email, you seem to allude more to a desire to be famous and a “celebrity” rather than being successful at a particular craft — you know, acting, singing, dancing, jumping over the Grand Canyon on a unicycle, etc.

If you just want to be famous (or at least infamous), you don’t have to be good at anything — you just have to be a) attractive, and b) willing to embarrass yourself with lewd behavior on television. See: the Kardashians, Montana Fishburne, the cast of Jersey Shore, and literally thousand of other people known to the world for no good reason at all except for being drunk on E! or releasing a sex tape.

You really don’t have to invest a lot of time in school for any of that. Use your school investment for a long-term career.

2) Here’s the thing about show business, and although I’m not in show business myself, I believe it to be true. I heard Blackie Lawless say it once in an interview (Blackie is the lead singer of W.A.S.P., one of my favorite bands of all time).

He said something like this (I’m paraphrasing): It’s not just enough to WANT to make it big, because everybody WANTS to be famous and successful. You have to absolutely NEED it, because unless you NEED it in your bones, then you probably will get beaten down, chewed up and spit out by Hollywood long before you make it. You’ll quit.

I believe this. It makes sense to me that there are so many people out there who are super-hungry for fame — absolutely desperate for it — that people who are just kinda half-heartedly interested in making it big don’t really stand a chance. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I bet they’re relatively few.

And so far anyway, Kelley, you definitely sound like someone whose heart is NOT totally into making it big in Hollywood. If that’s the case, I’d avoid putting all your chips on a career that you don’t seem to be that into.

However, if you like the stage and performing and singing and all that, then by all means, don’t stop. You don’t have to — you’ll have plenty of opportunity to do this stuff in college and in the communities where you live, for the rest of your life. Every town seems to have choirs and community theater groups and whatnot. Get involved in those and you won’t have to sacrifice your love of those things in order to have a stable career.

— OK, that’s all I have today. What about you all? Any advice for Kelley about the stage, the screen, Hollywood, parents who want you to do something you really aren’t into? Let us know in the comments below!

8 thoughts on “Parents’ Aspirations vs. Your Aspirations”

  1. I was extremely happy to see this post because I was in a similar situation when I was gearing up for college. I’m a complete and utter band geek, have been since I was 10, and everyone assumed I would pursue music as a career, but that’s not what I wanted. I love playing in ensembles, singing in choirs, and performing whenever I can, but I don’t want to make a career out of it. I perform because it’s fun, but I’ve always known that I do not have the drive necessary to make it in the business. I also feared that pursuing music as a career would suck my passion for the arts out of me and that’s something I never want to happen. Yet, everyone tried to convince me to change my mind. When in high school, my middle school band teacher tried to get my parents to convince me to become a music teacher and too many friends to count assumed that was my future career (some even whine to this day; upset that it is not what I chose). When I got to college I started performing in ensembles for elective credit, but all the music teachers assumed I was a music major. One of them even started talking to the Music-brass advisor about me and was confused that the advisor had no idea who I was! New college friends also tried to convince me to switch, but I wasn’t having it. I went in undeclared to make sure I was making the right choice and I believe I’ve found it with Anthropology. I seem to have a natural talent for Anthropology and the professors recognized me early as someone who would do well in the major. Even so, I didn’t declare my major until the end of my sophomore year. When I declared my major (a process which requires the department chair’s signature) the chair was confused that I wasn’t already an anthro major. The situation may seem similar to what happened with the music teachers, but there is one big difference; I chose this major because of my passion for it and because I have the drive to do well in this career path. I don’t feel that drive for music and that is what makes me believe I have made the right choice. In the end, you’ve got to do your best to tune out all the others trying to tell you what to do with your life and just take some time and figure out what it is you want.

  2. There is a very important question that needs to be asked and answered.
    Are the parents trying to live a dream for themselves through there Daughter? Kelly if you need help thinking about this and need someone to talk to I am available. I always thought I would make a good nurse; I had my real mother, 2 RNs tell me I had a special qauilty that was a gift and that I would make a very good nurse; however I found out that I really did not want to take care of people as much as I wanted to do. I found my love in bookkeeping and dealing with criminal justice and I am working towards my career as a Foresnic Accountant.
    The most important thing is to find you passion (something you want to do more than anything) in life and work your passion because it will be the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself. My email address is should you want to commuicate. Good luck to you!

  3. This is a classic case of parents trying to live out their lives through their kids. They probably always wanted a little fame, and they want that for you too.
    Broadcast journalism could be a much better and stable career… and in the end, it’s you, not them, that decides.

  4. Oh my god! Don’t do it! Your parents are crazy (no offense.) What horrible lives those stars really live, seriously. drugs, pornography, thrown away when they’re old and ugly, people looking to use you all the time, no privacy ever. look at britney spears….what kind of life is that to aspire to?

    If you have something truly special in you, do something special: go be an honest person in government, save the ocean mammals, help old people or little kids. become a lawyer and work pro bono for justice. use your dramatic flair to create documentaries. the world is yours, don’t throw it away chasing after THE single-most bizarre dream in America.

  5. I think Kelly should try for the acting and Jounalism and see which one she would prefer. She should talk to her parents and let her know what she is doing and then decide which path to follow.

  6. Kelley’s parents aren’t necessarily just looking to live vicariously through her. Maybe they see something she’s good at & want to see her do well. Of course they believe that she’s talented enough to go all the way and become a famous actress who makes a good living. I think our parents usually just want us to do well.

  7. Acting is one of those careers you shouldn’t get into unless your heart is in it all the way. It’s too hard unless you have the right motivation. Don’t do it unless you absolutely love it without reserve. It won’t be worth it otherwise.

  8. my parents are very supportive and they have told me to choose a career that suits me best. They have also given me the pros and cons of what I want to become and thus I do hope that I will be wise on my decision making.

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