My parents, and my career choices

Did we HAVE scheduled meetings with guidance counselors?

les-trudyMy good friend Carol, who I’ve only known since kindergarten, has some follow-up questions about the Lydster’s career choices, which were really about My career choices.

Two questions based on this… why did you not go into law?

Because I did very poorly in a pre-law course at New Paltz. I loved the subject, but Bill Dunn didn’t love my answers. Or maybe it was because it was an 8 a.m. course and I was late sometimes. This failure threw me into a tizzy, because that was my intended life path, and then I had NO idea what I wanted to pursue.

Do you wish your parents had made more suggestions, not along the lines of pushing as much as of possibilities?

Not really, because it just wasn’t in their skill sets. My mother was not one to push us, because that was not her nature in much of anything. She was a “go along to get along” type.

She was very good with numbers and was a bookkeeper or teller for most of her adult life. But she didn’t really think of it as a skill much as, say, her husband arranging flowers or playing guitar or painting or doing all sorts of things. I dare say that he could be a bit intimidating.

For his part, my father, according to his military record, had only three years of high school. I think that part of the friction that I had with him was that I was not very good at working with my hands, the things he excelled in. But I was book smart – would you accept that analysis, Carol? – and he was not as adept, but figured things out as he went along. He was outwardly gregarious, and that wasn’t me.

We did have some areas in common: watching sports together, especially the minor league baseball Triplets and the NY football Giants; playing cards, particularly pinochle and bid whist; and most especially, thank goodness, music.

So he was not likely to offer me career advice because, and I say this without a lot of remorse, he wasn’t always understanding me very much at that time. He certainly didn’t grok what motivated me, and this became even more acutely true in my early twenties when we didn’t talk, at all, for nearly six months, before I relented. This is odd in some ways because my antiwar, and other, activism was molded in no small part by his civil rights activism.

I said two but here’s a third – do you think as I do that our HS counselors were useless?

I actually have no recollection of ANY HS guidance counseling whatsoever, except one passing conversation with Allan Cave, who was the assistant principal at the time, and that only because I knew him from church. Did we HAVE scheduled meetings with guidance counselors, because if we did, I never received the memo?

Just as an aside you wrote about a few math/science awards Lydia received but there’s no mention of any options related to those. Is she just not interested?

Actually, it has determined what level courses she has in 7th grade, and that could lead to courses she could take in 8th grade that could get her high school credit. So it puts her on a more rigorous academic track in several subjects than she might be otherwise.


The Lydster: Her career choices

barbara-jordan_congressI saved this Ask Roger Anything question, from Chris, until now:

Do you feel like you’re pushing your daughter towards certain career choices or letting her choose, or both? Do you think you’d be supportive of a career where it would be difficult for her to make a living, e.g. actress or musician?

Oh goodness, no. That’s a function of her needing to figure out what she wants to do. And honestly, I don’t have a strong sense of something I want her to do. I suppose I don’t want her to do something that involves a lot of danger.

Thinking about some of the things she has tried out:

Ballet – did it for two or three years, decided it wasn’t for her. But the lessons she learned have been useful, and she still likes to choreograph her own moves.

Soccer – she did youth soccer for three or four seasons, decided it wasn’t for her. So I was a bit surprised that she signed up for modified youth soccer this fall. What she learned before has come in handy.

Playing clarinet – her mother played, and she seemed to enjoy it. Moreover, I thought she got to be rather good at it, but she suddenly dropped it a couple of years ago. I was surprised when she pulled it out once this past summer. Maybe she’ll go back to it, maybe she won’t.

Things she’s interested in currently:

Art – she’s quite good at it, and she received some local awards for it. She DOES agonize over her work, though.

Clothing design – She’s been taking old clothes, cutting them up, stitching them together. Well not so much in the school year, but it was a business she wanted to look into this past summer.

Law – right now, she says she wants to be a lawyer. She sees injustice on the news on TV and wants to fix it. I wanted to be a lawyer for a time, so that would be fine.

One of the things that seems constant in this narrative is that everything learned has value. Maybe it won’t be applied directly, but it won’t go to waste.

Would I discourage her from a career path that might be difficult? No, and frankly, it would not have occurred to me. Now that I think of it, neither of my late parents EVER said, “you ought to do” X for a living. My father had a varied career, and I doubt it would have occurred to HIM. My mom was easygoing about those things, as long as we were happy and not involved in some criminal activity.


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