Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Opportunity I Didn't Have

What was life like for you when you graduated from college? Did you float effortlessly into the job of your dreams? Really? Then here, for you, are my friends Milk and Cheese, to act upon my jealousy.


I had to go right to work in a job I hated, because the economy sucked, I majored in creative writing, and going home to my bipolar mother was not an option.

It's not that I have had a bad life, but sometimes I can't help but wonder about the roads not taken. I was not adventurous. I'm neither an astronaut or a Type A. So I settled. Moved with caution.

This spring my daughter The Heir graduated from college with a double major in media and fine arts. Talk about employment potential! She's a painter, for the love of fruit flies! Where can a person like that get work in this economy?

Back in June, The Heir met a lady who said there are full-time jobs at the IRS Call Center in Philly. Heir looked me in the eye and said, "Mom, I just can't do that. It will ruin me."

I agreed.

Heir embarked upon a quest to live out her dream. Within a few weeks she had helped two artists with major projects, and then she got an internship with a married couple who are highly sought after sculptors in these parts. The internship started out free, but when they saw Heir's bustle and her ability to organize (unparalleled in people her age), they hired her part time, minimum wage.

Heir has also rented a studio in a large arts collective, where she has resumed painting. She says she is learning a great deal about sculpture (and home renovation, another useful skill) by working with the sculptors. In fact, she tells me she has learned more in three months than she did in four years of expensive college. She is in the early stages of living her dream.

But dreams do not come to us in real life without dangers. Do they?

The sculpture studio is in Germantown. I took Heir there the other day in the car. (She otherwise rides mass transportation.) The neighborhood is just the next tick up from a slum. The sculptors bought an old silver polishing factory for a song and are fixing it up. My heart almost stood still when I saw the area outside ... and then the cavernous interior of the building, which ... kid you not ... reminded me of Frankenstein's experiment room. But there were beautiful sculptures everywhere, in various stages of completion. Heir showed me the ones she helped with. She showed me the tool room that she had completely organized. She showed me the places where her advice had been taken. She was so proud.

Heir is actively discouraging any parental visits to her painting studio. It is in Kensington, a neighborhood that is beginning to gentrify but still has a large and active criminal element. The studio is in a huge factory that has been slightly renovated to give artists spaces where they can work. Heir is happy that her space has a ... ready? A space heater.

When I drove Heir to Germantown, she brought her bike in the back seat, so she can avoid the mass transportation that is scary and costly. But the street she's on in Germantown consists of trolley tracks and cobblestone. Little tiny patch of pavement between the two.

What, me worry? Can you hear my teeth gnashing from where you're reading this?

Here's the bottom line, friends. And I may very well have to re-visit this post from time to time, or even in a dire emergency.

I would rather my beautiful young daughter be taking risks in marginal neighborhoods, biking badly-paved streets, making little or no money, than to see her slip into a 9-to-5 that she hates. I'd rather her take chances than sit in her room here at Chateau Johnson, fearing the outside world.

Go forth boldly, Heir. Seize the opportunity I never had. I'm not bipolar. I love you. Bunk here as long as you wish. Better sorry than safe.


BellaDonna said...

I am SO with you on this. Parental love doesn't get any better than that. Right on!!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

The time to seize your dreams is when you're young. Go for it, Heir!

Lavanah said...

What you are doing is pure, unadulterated love.

Maebius said...

And this is why you, Anne, Rock.
Thank you for this post. You are doing awesome, and I agree. Having lived in downtown Philly where one afternoon my now-wife and I heard a drive-by shooting at the corner park... I cna say that those times were Trying, but totally worth it to me as Life.
I'm sure the Heir will do amazing things if she stays true to herself, and doubly-so with you being so gosh darn supportive!
Go You! <3


she's smarter and has it together more than I did at that age...

Anonymous said...

I had a similar situation to yours when young. Worked a lot of jobs I hated and watched my 20s slip by, lost in crappy jobs and television watching without going for my dreams. I have suffered from low self esteem and unfulfilled dreams for all of my life. It's a miserable way to live.

You are a great parent, because you understand that a person's soul is worth more than their title or "place" in society.

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