When I was in junior high I was really into drawing. I've always enjoyed drawing but that was the period in which I considered pursuing art as a career. I filled notebooks with pictures of the things I thought I could draw well and studiously avoided drawing anything that challenged me. To this day when I sit down in front of a piece of blank paper the same things I've been drawing for most of my life come out: rib cages, animals with haunches, wall-eyed people with lolling tongues; in essence, the things that a slightly more creative than average junior high boy would draw. nonetheless, I was under the impression that I had a talent that could somehow support me financially and make the world a better place.
Somewhere along the line I stopped drawing and focused on academics. When I was in junior high and drawing my father would peek over the tops of my notebooks and check out what I was doing, maybe throw in a little gentle ribbing. Over the years since, my father would occasionally bring up drawing out of the blue. "You remember you wanted to be an artist, whatever happened with that? You still drawing?" and other similar comments, which I typically answered by promising him that, no I have no interest in becoming an artist, so don't worry about my future.
But about two weeks ago I was riding on the bus doodling when I had a revelation. My father wasn't teasing me about wanting to be an artist. Having developed a little perspective on the matter, I've discovered that he was perhaps trying to foster my interest in art again, or at least gauge whether it's there. I can imagine having a son of my own who has some artistic dream, and it would do my heart good to come home and see him busy practicing it, whether he had any talent or not.
Having gone to high school in New York state, most of my classmates who thought about going to college naturally gravitated towards New York schools. A lot of my fellow Rocky Point high grads wanted to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. My sister also considered going there for a time. Because she liked fashion. That's a good reason to pursue a career, perhaps. Just do whatever you like and you'll eventually become good at it, that is true if you have a steely-eyed determination and the keenly honed mind of a scholar, but do you think most of these fashion-loving middle class public school students had the eye of the tiger?
The unfortunate thing about it all is that nobody stopped these kids from pursuing the dream. In fact, many people down the line encouraged their dreams, no matter how poorly founded. If you dream big, you'll change the world, and everything will turn out well if you follow those dreams.
So now it's quite a few years since my classmates made their decisions to pursue their taffeta dreams, and I would reckon that a good number of them dropped out (as did a fair percentage of all my graduating class), and that those that eventually did go into the fashion business created a fairly wide distribution on the scale of success and failure.
Now what if someone, maybe a guidance counsellor or even a parent, had sat down with those kids and said "What are you good at? Maybe fashion isn't your thing, what kind of career would be right for you?"
Well, it probably would've been too late. After 17 years in a permissive culture such as ours, any rationalism of that caliber is simply unheard, invisible to normals.