When it comes to the passion of vocation, my imagination takes me to Matthew 4: “As he walked . . . Jesus saw two brothers. . . . [T]hey were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Life is a short proposition. As it was for the fishermen, the call to live out one’s dream is serious business. And a call to the stage shouldn’t be blocked by me, an amateur theatre critic whose credentials are open to question.
My sense, though, is that pursuing a calling ought to include sacrifices, and these sacrifices should be borne primarily by the one being called. I believe people should live out their dreams, but not when the only ones making the sacrifices are family, friends or taxpayers.
What I will tell my son is that I am proud he wants to take risks in order to live out his dream, and I will offer my support. However, he will need to have a plan to make this dream a reality, and that plan must include paying for his education and his bills, either by working as a musical theatre director or in another field. That might mean remaining at his insurance job, taking night classes and working nights and weekends on his new vocation. If his theatre work starts to gain renown and the compensation becomes enough to live on, he can quit the insurance job.
My own brother is an example. He lives to act and write plays. But he has been unable to live off the income generated from this passion. No matter — he works in information technology (another love of his), which subsidizes his theatre life.
But this is all by way of suggestion. My son can and will do what he wants. And I will offer my continued love and encouragement throughout.
My reaction might once have been to propel myself into a full-fledged, finger-wagging fit. Mercifully for both of us, that time has long passed.
In the Depression, keeping a job was foundational to a decent life. That generation was understandably cautious. The result? Many chained themselves to employment, casting aside dreams. That day is gone. We live and work longer and, over the course of our lives, at many jobs. There is no reward for loyalty to an employer. And increasingly, the pension ball is in our own court.
My son is capable of good decision-making. His excitement suggests his commitment to this challenge. It would be churlish to play the parental “money card.” “Just don’t come to me when you are broke and broken-hearted,” I could say. These are useless words to spit at a grown man.
As for doubting his talent, I remember how my Uncle George sniffed at my Bob Dylan album in 1968, “Mark my words: that no-talent hippie will never last.” So much for the ability of one generation to judge another’s art.
Most importantly, my son is not embarking on anything illegal, immoral or dangerous to his health. These should be the only grounds for a lecture from parents to fully-grown offspring. In fact, there is much to be said for flight testing a dream now, with no dependents in tow.
Finally, I remember my friend Danielle, who got married late, to the man of her dreams. He was charming, handsome and stable. He was also a wannabe musician who one day, at age 55, left his job and his bride to fulfil his rock-star ambitions. Better now than later, my son, when no heart is at risk but your own.
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