My mom (God bless her soul) had done what many parents from her generation and racial background have and will continue to do: she’d instilled — OK, pounded, if you will — into her children’s heads the virtues of going to school, working hard, not leaving your drink at a party unattended, being responsible and above all… take no other job but that of a doctor or a lawyer.
“It would be good to have a doctor or lawyer in the family,” she could be found saying, regardless of the day, time, or month (though I found certain times of the month she cried while saying it; no further comment necessary). She’d often say it not to anyone in particular, staring at some far off place in a corner of a room, I could tell hoping and praying that by “accident” one of her kids would trip, fall and ingest what she said as their life’s dream/motto. (It would be years and a few cocktails later before I could tell Mom after one of these bouts that the closest she was going to ever get to a lawyer in the family was the one my infidel older YOU KNOW WHO hired to deal with those unpaid parking tickets… yeah… parkings tickets… that’s it… parking tickets! I will NOT be supeanaed! I will NOT be supeanaed! I will NOT be supeanaed!)
As I sit in my office, where I am an Assoc Director of Development for a nonprofit (that doesn’t mean no revenue or no salary, MOM!), I think about my trajectory here and how in many ways I am happy I didn’t bend to the fold. I remember after graduating from PENN, calling a mentor of mine (this guy at MTV) who told me that I had to do what made me happy. He said that many people he went to school with went for the big bucks (i.e., for PENN, that being investment banking and consulting) but he didn’t feel a love for that stuff and knew he wanted a career in entertainment. He told stories of long drawn out internships, eating Raymon Noodles (universal sign of poor-dom) and the years of moving up the ladder while his friends were making double, triple, if not more of what he was making. Then, when we began talking, he was in his early thirties and a VP of SOMETHING (I don’t recall) at MTV, not only making a sizable fortune but doing something that made him want to come in everyday! His friends? He said many of them were completely and utterly unhappy! Rich but unhappy. And, yes, I think you can be both at the same time! Yeah, yeah, I know poor and unhappy is worse!
Though I had been sure then — that I too wanted to do what I loved and not be so consumed with making hoards of money — I remember a time believing my mom and thinking I wasn’t worth much unless I was a doctor or a lawyer. (I guess her incessant pleas stuck… if even for a little bit.) So I was on one of those courses (mostly law) — prodded on by my mom’s oooohs, ahhhhs, niiiiiiiiice and if-you-do-I-will-buy-you-a-car — since elementary school if you can believe. Before I could even walk myself home from school I was touting the virtues of a law degree and could tell you why Roe vs Wade “was like soooooo historic and stuff like that… like totally!” (Yes, that last bit was a direct quote from my own personal vault!)
Of course, I blame Alex P. Keaton more than I do my mom though — for this crazy desire to be successful. You know? Alex P. Keaton! From Family Ties! As a kid, I remember watching that show and thinking I want to be smart too! Looking back now I think I just had a crush on him! Today, I would have just masturbated to his likeness, gotten it over with and went back to playing Nintendo or something. But, yeah, Michael J. Fox was a dreamboat and I felt I had to be just as smart as he was… well, in the show! Do you remember by the end of the run of the show, they wanted us to believe that Jennifer Keaton (played so eloquently by Academy Award winning Tina Yothers…ha…ha…) was the smartest of the two and worse yet that Mallory was actually smart. Oh please! Wait. Though there was that time he took speed to stay up for a test! Guess that was kinda dumb! (I would later see that firsthand at YOU KNOW WHERE! Not me! My very privileged cohorts; I preferred a more psychedelic fare.) But, wait, Jennifer wore her hair crimped and, wait, wait, she also played in a band on the show! See, told you Alex had her beat!
Yeah, well, if it weren’t for Alex, I wouldn’t want to be smart and wouldn’t have had the inclination to study my bum off so that I could pull off what I thought it took to get into a good law school (even if, at the time, the likelihood of which was about 15 years away). That I would get accepted to UPENN for premed and then drop the major a week later for economics is another story — one that involves cytoplasm and some know-it-all ivy-leaguers. Suffice it to say, I am glad that I decided to go that route and to then go the journalism route and then to go the nonprofit route and then to go the public relations route and then to go the nonprofit route again — or some weird permutation thereof.
So… gist? Make your kids watch TV or at least reruns of “Family Ties” (think it airs on TV Land or some crap like that). Maybe they will end up just like me… a confused mess but one that can say he is happy and paid — more or less — with what he is doing with his life!!!