This is a piece I’ve felt like I needed to write for a while now. It’s something I’ve needed to do, as a way of expressing myself and exploring or analyzing my struggles with growing up in my teenage years. I’ve been reminiscing about my high school years, and also wondering about how I got to where I am now, maturity-wise. Recognizing that it takes years and years to mature (and we never stop maturing as people) I decided to really look into my past on a deeper level.
This is a story about a road to self-discovery.
Guess I should start briefly with my childhood years. As a kid you never really think about the future. Sure, you think about maybe having your own family, and having your own kids (because that’s what your life revolves around, a family unit) but you never really think about what you will actually be doing for a living. At least, that was me when I was a kid. I never thought about my future career, I just played pretend and make-belief with my friends everyday, all day. Life was blissful.
The stress came after, as you’ll see if you keep reading.
There was a point in my life where I really started taking an interest in movies. I think it came around at about the age of ten. I wanted to become an actress. See, back then I wasn’t shy as a kid… at least that’s how I remember it and that’s what my mom says. Looking back on it, that was the first “career” choice that I actively started making decisions on how I was going to achieve it. I started planning my future in a sense, saying that I would take part in acting classes, find an acting agent, and start doing commercials when I was in high school. That clearly didn’t work out as my mother tried knocking some sense into me, as most parents would in similar situations, and told me I should think more practically. Acting was a dream, and ‘dreams don’t come true’ is the motto I was taught early on in life.
So in high school I started planning my future more practically. I liked learning and school in general so I thought maybe a career in teaching was something I would be good at. At first I said I wanted to become a high school teacher. But I’m an extremist, and always want to reach for the highest possible position in a certain area so I eventually changed my mind and said I wanted to become an English Lit. Professor. It was the most peculiar thing I had ever decided on. Sometimes I was forced into teaching my little sister and helping her with her homework and I’d grow so impatient. I hated teaching. But I said I wanted to become a teacher? I hated rituals or set schedules, and even in high school I would hate how every single day was the same shit over and over again, starting at the same time and ending at the same time. But I said I wanted to go into a career with the exact same set schedule? And there were plenty of times where I would imagine myself as a professor, envision myself doing research and going to lecture classes for three hours straight… and I would cringe at the thought of it. I detested the idea. Yet, I was pursuing a career path that would lead me to something I would eventually hate for the rest of my life??? I kept all this to myself because I thought something was wrong with me.
Even though I was thinking practically about my future, that did not stop me from being engrossed or completely immersed in the culture of film. I loved watching movies. I looked forward to movie night on Fridays with my family. I watched movies over and over again in an attempt to analyze them or look deeper into their message/theme. I had this thing where I would watch movies over and over again because I loved analyzing different actors, or just simply loved watching them act (esp. Johnny Depp). And I loved going to movie theatres – everyone in high school knew I went like twice a week if I could manage it. I loved and appreciated the art of film. Simple. But it never really dawned on me that I could pursue some sort of career in the film industry. I was forced at a very young age to believe that it was impossible and I needed to be “practical” about my future.
So this is how it all started. The stress I mean. I kept going back and forth from my “practical” career choice to my love of movies. This will all make sense soon, just bear with me here. (I know this is a really long passage, but trust, it’s taking longer for me to write this then it is for you to read this.)
In grade 11 and 12 I had insomnia. And I’m not referring to the typical “teenage insomnia”. All teenagers stay up late and have to wake up early for school. It happens. It’s normal. But when I mean insomnia, I mean it was the most frustrating thing in the world. I never slept. I would try so hard to go to sleep, I tried every trick in the book but I couldn’t. I would most times fall asleep around 5am and have to wake up at 7:30. Most times I was late for my first period classes ‘cause I would sleep in. I’m sure there are other teenagers who have had serious cases of insomnia. But for me, I just didn’t know what was really bothering me. I went to the doctor and she had asked me to think hard on what was going on inside of my head, what was troubling me. I didn’t know. She suggested maybe I had lost a childhood friend. And that was true. So I thought maybe that was what was subconsciously nagging at me. The fact that I had drifted apart from my childhood best friend of 13 years did hurt me, so for the next couple of years I thought that that was the reason I couldn’t sleep.
Looking back on it now, as a second year university student, I see it differently.
I used to have mental, emotional, and physical breakdowns in grades 11 and 12. They would come right out of left field. And when they came, they controlled me. I remember vividly the day I came home from school and literally just started crying out of nowhere. There was no particular event that caused me to cry. No particular emotion I was feeling that had initiated my act of crying. And I couldn’t stop crying. It sounds really weird, I know. I would think about why I was crying, didn’t know why, would stop for a couple of moments, but then start to cry again. Sounds pathetic. But I couldn’t help it. My mom thought I was depressed. She called my work for me and told them I was sick so I couldn’t come in that day. That’s how serious it was.
From my point of view, looking back on it almost two years later, I can definitely say that it wasn’t just the fact that I lost my childhood best friend. It may have been an accumulation of that, and maybe even the confusion of losing my faith in religion. But now I can say that the main reason for my random breakdowns was the stress, frustration, and confusion of being lost. Being lost about who I was, and who I was to become.
I never felt like I was in my skin. I was insecure in high school, and crazy shy (hence why I stopped taking drama classes after grade 9 even though I secretly loved it). I kept going back and forth in choosing the kinds of courses I would take, kept going back and forth from taking creative courses to math courses and science courses, etc. I never felt like I could truly be myself in high school.
Now that I can see all of this in a new light, I can see what was inside my head that caused my insomnia. It was the fact that I was being forced into something I wasn’t. It’s weird as fuck. As a kid, all the grown ups are telling you “Dream big! You can do anything you set your mind to!” and then when you start going through the toughest years of your life as a teenager (in terms of figuring out what you’re going to do in life) they turn around on you and do a complete 180 and say “Sorry, no. You’re dreaming too big, come back to reality and think more “practical.” Excuse me, WHAT!? I hate that with a passion, because it caused me a lot of havoc growing up.
I don’t get it. People praise the kids who take the “practical” approach on education. You know what I mean. You know a kid who says he/she wants to become a psychologist, a doctor, a surgeon, an accountant, a mathematician, a lawyer, or who wants to take marketing or business or advertising or architecture in school. They’re all praised for it, they’re all thinking ‘practically.’ Hell, let’s all give them a cookie for being such good boys and girls. Realistically, half of them haven’t even done their research in their field of career choice. In Canada, I read somewhere that to become a psychologist is the hardest thing to do because there aren’t a lot of jobs in Canada for psychologists, it’s like you’re falling into the statistics of the highest unemployment rate in Canada but these kids are thinking “practically???” And just in general, the list of career choices I’ve listed here are really hard to obtain. It’s not easy, and not everyone can be a surgeon or a lawyer or a successful architect. It takes just as much of luck for these “practical” careers as any other creative careers.
So why do adults give such a hard time to the creative kids out there who say they want to go to school for film studies, for dramatic arts, for fashion, for music, etc.? I’m pretty sure other creative people have gone through similar experiences like mine. For example, I’m sure we know at least one person who took school for something that we immediately thought, “Really? THAT? You’re going to school for that? It just doesn’t seem like you’d be into that.” And then when we finally see them change their major into something that is TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY who they are and what they are interested in albeit being super creative and risk-taking, you see many adults question if they’re doing the right and “practical” thing.
The greatest example I can think of is my cousin Kayla. She’s a true inspiration. At one point she was going to school for funeral services and I remember when some people were like “But Kayla is such a fun personality, so lively and outgoing… why is she going to school for that?” But she finally found the courage to do what she truly loves and that is fashion. And now she’s the happiest person I know. She has big dreams and huge plans for her life, and she’s not afraid to do a little risk-taking in order to obtain it all. I enjoy watching her talk about her education in fashion and about her future plans, and her shutting down anyone who tells her she can’t make it. She’s my hero, and it’s a huge comfort knowing I’m not alone in this.
I’m not hating on people who take programs in school that are considered practical, nor am I belittling them or promoting the idea that they don’t have big dreams. Because they most definitely do, and you have to admire the hustle of a college kid. What I’m trying to say is that some people don’t realize the amount of hard work, effort, strategic planning, and luck needed in succeeding in this world, no matter what career path you take. YOU CAN HAVE JUST AS PRACTICAL AN APPROACH to a creative career path as any other medicinal, political, or business career path. I’m hating on the adults who praise certain career or educational paths and demote others.
Actually no, scratch that.
I don’t hate my mom for shooting down the very first dream I had about becoming an actress. She raised me the only way she knew how, and I’m sure that’s just how she was raised – to think practically. Society has had some contribution in telling her how to raise her kids, I’m sure. But I’m proud of her. Because although she started out as someone who was telling me to think “realistically” about my future, and she was the person who’s opinions I valued the most and ultimately and consequently caused my stress, frustration and confusion over finding myself, her mind was open and she learned quickly. Now she is my biggest supporter, and encourages me to follow my dreams no matter what.
I’m extremely lucky to have her as my mother and biggest supporter. It gives me great comfort in knowing that if I ever decide to take a risk and move to LA and everything turns to shot and I fail miserably, I can come back to my parents and they’ll accept me back with open arms. That is what you call a true support system. I can fail, but they will continue to support me even when everything goes wrong. And in this way, I know no matter what happens I will be able to pick myself back up. And try again. It’s a whole trial and error process until you get your major breakthrough.
My final words on this topic… guess I’m just trying to say it’s not easy. Nothing is. This life is one big struggle. I think more parents need to sit back and watch their kids grow, let them do their own thing. Trust that they will find their paths in life on their own. If you start controlling them too much, it can only cause destruction and it slows down their development as young adults.
Some food for thought: Why should some kids have to go through what I had to go through and be told that their chosen path isn’t realistic enough while other kids are praised for choosing theirs?