My son enters high school next year so the question of the hour is, “What do you think you want to be when you grow up?” Since sometimes I’m not sure of the answer to that question at my age, I wonder how hard it must be for the youth of today with all of the choices out there. I began to do some soul searching to help my son.
It seems that I have always been a musician. It is my passion. I really wanted to be a conductor. My piano teacher, Ethelyn Stinson, saw this and took me to a rehearsal of the Philadelphia Orchestra. A woman from Russia was the conductor for a few pieces. There was an audible hush over the auditorium when she appeared, with baton in hand. As she walked to the podium, several of the musicians began to pack up their instruments and one by one they left. They refused to sit under the baton of a woman. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with disappointment. I could hardly believe it.
Those times were not welcoming to a woman in regard to certain careers. I guess I always bucked the norm and attempted to swim up stream. I became a pilot, rock climber and certified open water diver. But my career path was fairly normal for a woman.
So I studied performance in regard to my principle instrument and then acquired a degree in music education so that I could make a living. Then I became a music therapist.
But, as we all know those careers lack the profit margin necessary to exist in today’s world. So, the perpetual student went back to school for the terminal degree in psychology. When I finished that degree I had acquired a husband and a child. My husband asked me directly after the graduation ceremony, “So what did you learn?” I replied, “I learned that I like psychology and that (grinning), well, I just love music.” A fairly expensive epiphany.
But my epiphany was not as expensive as that of my best friends. We went to college together back in the day when a student teacher did not see a student nor the inside of a bona fide classroom until the first day of the student teaching experience.
I was a music education major and when I stepped into the classroom and then into the rehearsal rooms not to mention the field for the marching band insanity, I absolutely loved it. I was in my element. The cacophony of sounds, the excitement of learning, the opening night of the school play ... pure heaven.
However, my best friend did not fare so well. On the first day of student teaching as an elementary school teacher, I stopped by her dorm room and she was puzzled. The next few days she became more and more overwhelmed and just could not put her finger on the reason.
But, come Friday, she met me with a big smile and said, “I figured it out!” “Tell me”, I leaned it to be enlightened and she said, “I don’t like kids! They are nosey, ignorant, smelly, loud and awful!” Now that was an expensive lesson. Today she is a social worker in New York. But, she had to go back to school.
Our public schools are good at directing our children in regard to preparing for college. But, the real work must belong to us parents. So, for the next few months to a year, I have enlisted the services of professional I know and like in various fields.
I have asked a friend who is an engineer, an acquaintance who is a district judge, the ophalmologist who just removed my father’s cataract, a lawyer I met at a party, among others to help my son decide on a career. I have watched these professionals do their job and have been impressed. There are more to come and I am on the look out each day for someone else to share their career with my son. He will shadow these individuals during a work day to see the inner workings of their profession, the good and the not-so-good aspects.
In this day and age when everything is virtual, I am hoping these concrete experiences will mean more than a trip on the Internet. After all, some of us have to interact with real people, in real places and do real jobs. Wrap your reality around that!