“I wanted to be a superhero until I realised that hero’s don’t make enough money to pay the rent.”
Two of the young people that I work with created this brilliant monologue tonight. It was about a guy who wanted to be a superhero when he was little, but as grew up he realised this dream wasn’t possible and so he became a doctor so he could still save lives. The reality of his work, the long hours, the bad news, the fear and anguish weighed on the man so heavily that he felt like he was lost, and in the end it was he himself who needed a hero. I am always blown away by the creativity, insight and talent of the young people I work with. They really, truly buoy me with such legitimate joy, and they push me to want to show up, be authentic and ultimately be better. It’s the best kind of example of a one hundred percent reciprocal relationship.
One of the themes that is frequently raised in workshops is the pressure that they feel about their lives beyond school, about the frequent blocks that are put in their way or the frequent and ridiculous ideas that they’re fed about not being good enough, or smart enough, or that their choices for their future are somehow silly. Particularity when it comes to them owning their own creativity.
I have always loved Drama. Always. I was convinced in Grade Nine that I would be an actor and go to NIDA because that appeared to be the only obvious path for someone with passions like mine. As I got older I knew I didn’t want to be an actor, but I still loved the arts, and my options as far as university degrees kind of thinned out. Teaching was sold to me as the obvious option. You love theatre and drama, you don’t want to be an actor, what other options are there? I had zero insight into the industry or sector and the people around me had a pretty small view about what was possible. Plus, I was told if I had a teaching degree I could work any where in the world. I often wonder now what my life would be like if i’d gone into a straight theatre course, or pursued my passions for directing or writing earlier on where I’d be at now. But, alas, where i’m at now is precisely where I’m meant to be. Teaching did allow me to travel, and it allowed me to learn a whole heap about what I love before I shifted my course and changed sectors from Education to the arts. Working with teenagers has always been the common thread though. Always. This is the eleventh year as a working adult where I’ve worked with young people.
The other day my friend asked me if any of us knew what our ‘calling’ was. We all mumbled out some semblance or broad idea of it. We all felt like we were in the ball park of our ultimate calling, like, with the broad notions of ‘helping people’ or ‘being of service,’ but the specifics we couldn’t be sure of. Is your calling something evolutionary? Like life choices leading you to a place where you finally arrive with a grand sigh and the acknowledgment that this is in fact where you are meant to be. Maybe it’s different for everyone, but I feel like that’s what my life will look like. Choices, jobs, projects, people, grand influences, opportunities all pushing me to get closer to working it, my calling, out.
As I listened to my kids tonight talk about their confusion, their wishes, their anguish, their desires to be taken seriously, their longing to work it out, I had this grand sense of empathy because I don’t have the heart to tell them that feeling never changes. Or at least it hasn’t for me. But, i’m grateful that I exist somewhere in the ballpark of at least knowing with some level of certainty that part of my calling is to work with young people. But what my specific calling actually looks like, oh my, I change my mind every day about what my life will look like and who i’ll be when I grow up.
Is this the same for everyone? At least we have each other, I suppose. I think this one is for pondering.