What is it with young people these days? So many seem to know what they want to do…and then they go and do it!
We have a son who has always wanted to act. Always. From the time before he could speak, he plucked pieces of grass and twigs and had them “talking” to each other. He made up stories with Playmobil people. When he was in grade school, he produced, directed, and made a program that we framed and hung in the kitchen for The Tamming of the Shrew. That’s right, “tamming.”
In high school and college, he dabbled a bit but then really got serious while he taught English in Korea for four years. Voice acting, plays, musicals, and even a film. Voice acting paid, but the rest of it didn’t. But it was enough to let him launch himself in Hollywood, where he’s learning the business and making his way, slowly and surely.
And our role as parents? We thought it was cute, then a fun activity, and as we began to see how serious he was, we’ve become impressed at his resolve. We now believe he may really have a chance in a big(ger) way someday.
Then I read a recent interview in The New York Times with two young actors who are being recognized for their good work both in film and on stage: Eddie Redmayne and Emma Stone. I felt like I was coming full circle.
Both had wanted to act since they could remember. Stone confessed she had delivered a PowerPoint presentation to her parent when she was 14 and ended with a request that she be allowed to move to Los Angeles, right then. Redmayne said his father, who was in finance, gave him the sobering statistics about actors who succeed and urged him instead to go into producing.
Neither was swayed. And they are making it.
What strikes me is that all of these young people have several characteristics that we all need in life. They had passion about something that extended beyond infatuation. It lasted far beyond their years in junior high and high school that may be common for most kids.
Second, they didn’t just talk about wanting to act. They did it. In whatever places they could. They acted and made theater, even when no one really cared or even saw much of what they did. By doing it over time, they eventually proved they were serious and talented to the people who loved them most but worried for their financial health long term.
Once it was clear they couldn’t be unconvinced, and once they began to have some success, they proved it to others, because they already knew they could “make it.” The support, which was always there from family and friends, then could become more focused, because their parents no longer felt obliged to offer “alternatives.”
I think for us the shift came when we began referring to our son as an actor, rather than as an English teacher in Korea who does some acting on the side. He still doesn’t fully pay for his life with his acting, but it’s coming.
And one of these days, we hope he’ll be in—or direct—The Tamming of the Shrew once more.
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