Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jiminy Cricket is a Liar

When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are...
When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true!
Shut up, Jiminy! 
You know that ain't true. You're a BUG. You couldn't be a lawyer or a banker or a doctor if you wished on every star in the galaxy! 
Cool hat, though.

I'm sorry. I don't mean to pick on a cricket. It's just that I'm frustrated. Have you noticed how many teens live in Jiminy's dream world when it comes to their future careers? They have no idea what they are good at, are motivated only by money, and haven't the slightest interest in doing the HARD WORK it takes to be successful? And yet they fully expect to be. Think they have it coming.
We can't blame this all on Jiminy. We might be part of the problem. We told them" "You can do anything you set your mind to. "You can be anything you want to be." If they just "believe it" they can "achieve it." Right?
Nope. It doesn't work that way. And we know it.

1) Wish upon a star
2) Believe in yourself
3) Ignore the "haters" i.e. those who tell you otherwise
4) Fall in love - this fixes everything and launches your career as a prince or princess

1) Make good choices
2) Work hard
3) Know somebody (or somebody who knows somebody)
4) Fall in love with someone who makes good choices, works hard and if possible, knows somebody

I throw in that last one, because let's face it, some people just get lucky. They get their foot in the door because of "so and so." They get the internship because their uncle works there. They marry someone connected and rich who says, "Sure, honey, I'll help you open that bookstore slash coffee shop you always wanted." So sure, who you know CAN give you a leg up in the working world, but more than anything--
Dreams come true when you wake up and work hard to make them happen.
They can't be just wished for. And we are not helping kids when we fill them full of Disney fluff and false praise. We create little monsters. You know the eighteen year old, fresh out of high school who thinks that a great job is going to fall in his lap because his Mommy told him he was special? The kid who has no idea what his strengths are, only that his Dad told him "he could be anything he wanted to be." Never mind that he sleeps until 1pm in his parent's basement, his only job experience is flipping burgers at Pappy's Patties last summer and his biggest decision this month was where to get his medical marijuana card.
Reality check, please. STAT.
I'm not saying we dash their hopes, but we need to help them be realistic, get their head out of the stars (and somewhere else dark) and back to earth, and encourage them to ask themselves these questions:

What skills/talents do I have? How can I make a living using them?
What education and experience is necessary to break into my field of interest?
Do I really want to be a _____or do I just want to be rich? What is really motivating me to choose this job or career? 
Where can I volunteer to get some experience in this area?
What is important to me? How do I want to spend my life?
Who do I know that can help guide/mentor/teach me?
What choices do I need to make RIGHT NOW to help me achieve my goal?
What choices could I make that would send my dream up in a ball of smoke?
If I have an idea for an invention, website or business, what does it take to bring it to life? Am I willing to spend the time and energy it takes to make it happen? 
What are the benefits of working for myself? What are the benefits of working for a company or organization?
Is what I want to do in demand or is it hard to "break into"? If the latter, what will I do to set myself apart?

These are just a few. I am sure you can think of more...

I used to run a support group for teen girls. One of my favorite activities was "Dream Killers."  We would write down each girl's dreams:
I want to be a doctor.
I want to graduate from college.
I want to have a good boyfriend/husband.

Then we would talk about what could kill these dreams:
Picking bad friends
Doing drugs or drinking
Getting arrested
Choosing the wrong boyfriend / staying with a bad one

These were some of the typical answers.They knew what could kill their dreams. But did they know the choice was theirs? I would often jokingly tell them, "You are not going to wake up one day in bed, look down and say, 'Oh my gosh! I'm pregnant! How did this happen?" They would giggle. We all knew that pregnancy (with rare and terrible exceptions) is a choice. So is doing drugs. Drinking. Oh, and a career. You may not know what you want to do, but every choice you make either leads you away or toward success. Sometimes it's a short journey; sometimes long. Sometimes you have to "make a left at Albuquerque" (as Bugs Bunny used to say) and take a new path when something unexpected or tragic happens to you or a family member. Sometimes dreams can be dashed by unforeseen circumstances, but what I wanted the girls to learn is - When it comes to me and the choices I make, I will make choices that keep my dream alive. I will choose wisely.

If I were leading the group today, I would add a few other things to the list of Dream Killers:
Unrealistic Expectations
Sense of Entitlement

I meet kids who can barely do long division who think they are going to be accountants. Kids who think they are going to sing for a living because their mom gets verklempt when they belt out a decent karaoke version of a ten year old Brittany Spears song. Others who want to be lawyers, doctors or psychologists (i.e. rich), but who say, "I don't want to go to college for too long." At least a few are honest and will admit, "I want to be rich without having to work too hard. Like invent something cool or start my own website or something."
I know I sound like Debbie Downer here, but a lot of teens need a reality check. I think we need to tell them, for example, that it is a LOT of work to be a doctor--there is A LOT of schooling, reading, studying, test taking and THEN--residency, long hours, late night shifts, etc. It can be a very rewarding and lucrative career, but it's not an automatic, just because you have an MD next to your name. I had a Kaiser doctor tell me once that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't. As he checked in my ears and throat, he complained that he was in debt up to his eyeballs with school loans, making a little over 100k and working hours that made in nearly impossible for him to have a social life. And the kicker? He didn't even enjoy his work. I switched doctors.

So let's be real with kids. It's OK to ruin every Disney movie in your collection by pointing out to your kids as the credits roll (and the popcorn sneaks farther into the couch cushions) that lions, mice, princesses, penguins and yes, even crickets LIE. You can wish upon a star all you want, but when it comes right down to it, you have to "whistle while you WORK."
OK, so Snow White can stay. For now.

-Hope A. Horner, 2014
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