“You’re the only parent of anyone I know who is pushing their art kid to art school and out of nursing.”
I was talking to my oldest kid, encouraging her to apply to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts High School, a residential performing arts school which also has a visual arts program. We live in a poorer county, and she’s never had any formal art instruction. It seemed unlikely that she could get in.
But I felt that she should make the attempt. And not go into nursing. Because she would fail and her life would be miserable.
It seems counterintuitive. Skip the field with massive openings, an incredibly large future, and go into the field that is being heavily overtaken by Artificial Intelligence.
But as Peter Jackson’s script for The Two Towers film tells us, “the closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm.”
You can’t pick your work language, the way you naturally use words to talk about work. You can try to cram yourself into a different box – it’s almost always a smaller box – but it will always feel horrible. My kid would always be seen as an interloper by the other nurses and her nursing supervisor or matron. They would be waiting for her to make an error to prove what they had always “known” about her, that she wasn’t a “real nurse”. And, from the perspective of being like what successful nurses are, she wouldn’t.
“If you can get into UNCSA High School,” I told her, “make the run for a life as an artist. You’ll probably never make a full living in it, so think about a trade like Electrician or Carpentry to get a job working in theater as stage crew.”
Even though I know that she will never be rich, never be “stable”, never be able to not think about the bills, I know that it is better for her to live as an artist. If she tried to be “normal” she would find success ever elusive, because in the end, if you don’t feel natural to others in the role, you will never be perceived as performing.
“It’s not your performance,” a manager once told me after a completely miserable performance review, “it’s the perception.” He couldn’t find anything in what I actually did to complain about, but he knew that he didn’t think I was doing the job. Even though I was.
I don’t want my kid to live like that. Saying that it sucks puts too good a face on it. It’s soul crushing, life denying. You die early from it. Your relationships suffer. You never feel alive.
So I’m sending my high schooler off to boarding school to finish high school. She will be surrounded by other “weirdos” who think a lot like she does. It may work out – if she graduates, she will at least get free tuition at any North Carolina state university – and it may simply be something that she has to work at something else to pay the bills so she can do it.
When I was a project manager and process writer, I met lots of folks who worked half the year as a tech contractor to get the money to write novels the other half. Although they were published, their genre (mysteries) wasn’t the best selling. They worked with normies so they could do their “real job” of telling stories.
My kid can do the same, as long as she starts now.
As the Good Book says, “Better a plain meal with joy, than a feast in a house full of turmoil.”
You can’t change your natural thinking style so adapt your circumstances to them and find joy.
(The professors thought she could find joy there, too. In a crowd full of kids from wealthy school districts who didn’t teach themselves from YouTube videos, she got the nod and will become a Fighting Pickle.)