So, I saw a Facebook post for an art exhibit at Kettering University by Guy Adamec, who is quoted as saying: “Anything imaginable is possible.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and even though I think he was referring to art, I know so many people believe the same about life in general. “You can be anything you want!” “The sky’s the limit!” “Just do it!” But can we…really?
Call me a pessimest or a party pooper if you want, but I firmly believe we can’t be anything we want or do anything we desire. We all have ceilings and limitations like race, gender age, and social class just to name a few that we need to recognize before aspiring to things that simply won’t come to fruition (every time I use this word, I feel like I sound so smart). 🤓
For example (and son, I’m sorry but I had to use this), my sweetie son played basketball when he was in 5th and 6th grade. Now, he did well in baseball and is an amazing swimmer, but basketball was not his forte. Yes, he was tall-ish for his age, lean, and fairly coordinated (as much as a boy that age can be) but he, well, sucked at basketball. It wasn’t his thing! Please don’t think I’m being mean, because I recognize all the wonderful gifts he has; all I’m saying is b-ball wasn’t one of them. So anyhoot, we were at a game and my baby FINALLY made a basket…his first one in the 2 years he’d been playing. I was so excited I literally jumped out of my seat and screamed so loud the referee stopped the game thinking I was having either a fit or heart attack. I reassured him I wasn’t dying and yelled: “No…I’m fine…I’m just happy my boy finally made a shot!” After I sat down (and began breathing again) a couple of the other moms berated me for my comment and they said how he would be a terrific player someday. After all, he was built like one and with enough practice, why he could play for the Chicago Bulls. Hmmm. Son, I’m sorry if I deprived you of this, but I really didn’t think you were another Michael Jordan. My bad.
I don’t like it when parents over-praise their kids and make them think they are something so above and beyond when in actuality, they’re pretty darn ‘meh.’ A kid brings home an A paper in math and hears: “Oh sweetie…this is AWESOME!! You’re another Einstein!” Ummmmm…I’m sorry, but no he’s not. He’s a kid that got an A. It’s not AWESOME (a word that I believe is terribly overused…an A paper does not leave me awestruck as would Jesus walking the earth again), it’s what he should have gotten anyway. Right? And to tell him he’s another Einstein…well hells bells, I’m a decent writer so I should be up there with Stephen King. 🙄
A few years ago, I had a student I simply adored. She was a sweetie-pie and one day she told me she really wanted to be an illustrator. Her parents encouraged her to the point she believed she’d be drawing pics for the most famous of children’t writers. After one of our classes, she asked if I’d like to see her portfolio and of course I did…I couldn’t wait to see her ‘masterpieces.’ Well…come to find out, the drawings she showed me were pretty freaking bad. I’m no art critic…I’m the first to admit that. However, these were not something I’d like to open a book and see.
I told her they were very nice and was sweet about it, but truly wondered how her parents could push her towards something for which she didn’t have the talent. Now, fast forward a year when she applied to some art schools and university programs; not surprisingly, she didn’t get into any of them at all. She was devastated and I can understand why. Her parents had put her on a pedestal in terms of her ‘talent’ and the fall was brutal for her. She finally heard the truth about her work and had to restructure her college career around another field. She basically had to start over from square one with her confidence pretty much destroyed.
Why do parents do this to their kids? Why do we see all of these posters saying things like: “You can be anything you want to be with the right positive attitude.” Okey dokey. Well, I’d like to be a princess in England and use my power for charitable works like Princess Diana did. I’ve got a great attitude about it. So…should I buy a plane ticket?
Or, more realistically, I’d like to be a national motivational speaker on mental illness issues. I really would…that’s a huge dream of mine! Yes, I’ve done 2 local Tedx Talks and have made 3 graduation speeches at my college, but my town is small ‘taters compared to the entire country (I would bet that the vast majority of you couldn’t pick my town out on a map)! How many people want to be on that stage? Thousands? Maybe more? And to think that only MY positive attitude and ability will win the spot is truly unrealistic.
One of my friends and I were yacking about Simon Cowell (sigh…he’s a cutie patootie) and they said he is so cruel to contestants auditioning for ‘America’s Got Talent’ when he tells them their singing is “hideous”, “atrocious”, and the “worst he’s ever heard in his life.” OK. Those words are harsh. But c’mon…they’re true! You got this gal tottering into the audition room belting out ‘Over the Rainbow’ (which I can actually sing pretty well 😁) in a key never before heard by human ears. What’s he supposed to say? For fuck sakes, she can’t sing a freaking note! Then the parents will storm in when their little song bird doesn’t make the cut, and Simon sets them straight right away by saying it’s their fault for encouraging something that’s not there. They’re the ones who let her down…not him.
I agree! Recently I saw a ‘motivational’ poster that said this: “You can have, do, or be anything you want.” Heh? Are you joking with this? I can have a million bucks so all of my family is set for life? I can fly to the moon to experience outer space? I can be a best selling novelist known worldwide? Nope. Probably not.
Why the fuck do we set ourselves up for failure…disappointment…negative feelings of self-worth? We see sayings like that and feel guilty that we aren’t achieving anything and everything we’ve always wanted too. Look, I’ve always wanted to be in a pageant! Yes, a silly, superficial pageant where I parade around on a stage while being applauded, have a sash wrapped around my shoulders, a diamond tiara placed on my head, and roses held in my arms as I walk the runway to a sappy song waving the half-turn wrist twist. So, why am I not doing it? Well…let’s see…I’m a 3 on a scale of 1-10. Have crepey skin and wrinkles. Wear glasses and have mousy hair. And my 53 year old bod has lost some of the ‘ooomph’ it once had. No matter how much I try (contacts, dye in the hair…which I actually do but let’s not tell anyone…make-up, spray tan, tape to pull up and stretch out things that are droopy, etc.) I will not be the next Ms. America. I can guarantee it, peeps. 😐 (P.S. Hubby 3 knew how much I wanted a sash, and he bought me one that was white satin with “The Most Beautiful” written on it! Best surprise I ever got!)
Look, I’m not saying you can’t have dreams or aspirations or goals. Of course you can! I remember walking into my first college class and coming out of it saying I wanted to be a professor. People laughed and thought, “There’s goes Kristi…probably manic and delusional.” But I have a talent for learning…an affinity for school. I can read, retain, and pretty much see words on pages after I’ve shut the book. But, had I said I wanted to be President of the United States, I would have understood that my thoughts were a bit unrealistic since I understand very very little about politics, economics, and global markets and learning these is like teaching my little Dottie to take her meds without snapping at me…it ain’t gonna happen (although I must say, I think I would do a better job than some of those we’ve had). 🙄
What I’m saying is this: you can be what you want to be with the talent, intellectual capability, and resources you have. But don’t beat yourself up for not being what you dreamed of being when you were a kid (we don’t need a million more paleontologists and astronauts). Use your gifts, do the best you can, and be happy and content with who you are. And I’ll tell you what…that’s always enough.