When I was young, my parents wanted me to be a doctor. It was more or less set out — my older sister was to be the lawyer of the family, I was going to be the doctor, and my little sister could be whatever she wanted to be, since the latter were already fulfilled (thus, for a very long time, her career aspirations were to either be a princess or Nancy Kerrigan).
So I went through life, through the motions, headed in that direction. I applied for college as a pre-med Biology major. I continued to run through the motions, and as a result, continued to struggle.
My parents’ motives for these career selections were very clear. Money. Security. Stability. And it makes sense. Who wouldn’t want these things for their children? And though I may have resented them in the past for pushing us towards these professions, I don’t now.
I mean, for one, I changed my mind (more like realized that I was not in my element), and they let me. A lot of people would consider my parents too demanding, but those people don’t really realize that my parents actually listen and care about what my sisters and I want. They just have high expectations of us, and it has been nothing but beneficial in regards to my own life and who I have become.
Anyway, I changed my major. And here’s where I am now: I’m have my bachelor’s degree, I have two master’s degrees. I have journalism, advertising, business management, biology (yeah, I actually still wanted to finish that part), business marketing, and integrated marketing communications to boast as my academic credentials.
But now as I go to apply for jobs, I am lost. I’m not sure what I want sometimes. I studied what I wanted to, I did what I wanted to do. But now I’m at a new set of crossroads.
I recently read the article “I dared criticize Taylor Swift,” by Rick Moody. You know, that one “mean” critic who famously inspired her song off her last album called, “Mean.”
When Taylor performed that song as the opening of last year’s Grammy Awards and everyone gave her a standing O at the end, I was doing the same in my own living room. I thought, whoever wrote those mean words about her is a douche. I mean look at her! She’s this 20-something year old who chased her dreams and made it. And she is still making it. Year after year, she has remained relevant. She is making music, selling out concerts, coming out with her own perfumes and sh*t. Who wouldn’t be jealous of that kind of success? Bunch of haters.
But Moody’s follow-up article actually makes a lot of sense to me. And this is what I’m getting at. This is how it intersects with that of my own internal conflicts as of late.
Moody describes many celebrities of today — Taylor, P. Diddy, the Beibs — as careerists. Celebrities who utilize any and every opportunity to monetize every aspect of their fame. In an article written earlier last month for The Rumpus, he breaks it down:
When [in the future] we are forced to listen to two or three more of these albums, we will, as people do with relentlessness generally, begin to form a hard impenetrable exoskeleton to the work of Taylor Swift, and we will begin to hate it, and we will say horrible things about it and about her. This will not matter, because her parents work in finance, and she has good manners, and she’s going to marry up, and she’s going to get into the movies (not just guest appearances in “CSI”), and she’s going to launch some clothing lines at Target (no, wait, I think she already did that), and a personal fragrance (I think she did that too), and parlay all her bad press into some self-serious complaints, making good on every opportunity to monetize her career at the expense of making actual art.
I am conflicted to admit that I agree with this. Then this is pretty much everyone right now, right? Jessica Alba. J.LO. Kanye. The Kardashians. BEYONCÉ. Shit, Olympians are trying to get in on this now. Hi, Ryan Lochte.
But it’s absolutely true. And I could see how this, from the standpoint of a genuine enthusiast and someone who lives for the art of music, can be frustrating. True art is being sacrificed for the sake of making millions. And in terms of music, it’s dumbing down the industry. It’s dumbing down our taste as consumers.
And for me in a lot of ways, it is annoying. For example, I love the Kardashians. I admit it. Their reality shows are my guilty pleasure. But at the same time Kim drive me absolutely crazy, I can’t stand her. What has she done, really? The whole reality show premise is a serious indication of how pathetic we really are as a society. These people are so attention-hungry that they will do anything to garner it. And hope to make good ($$$) on their fame achieved from their meaningless, everyday life shenanigans in front of a camera crew.
And honestly, can we please talk about how the HELL the Kardashian women are more well-known than Bruce Jenner?? He was the decathlon Olympic CHAMPION. That’s ridiculous to me. He’s pretty much one of the greatest athletes America has ever seen, but he’s better known these days as Kris Jenner’s husband. Plain ludicrous.
But I digress…
Another perspective of these careerist individuals is that they are simply just business men/women. Kim is a self-proclaimed brilliant business woman. I mean, she is, isn’t she? She turned a sex tape scandal into the almost-billion dollar Kardashian empire that it is today.
I absolutely admire the ambitions and character of say, Kelly Cutrone and Rachel Zoe, who have both marketed themselves in order to build their empires. But how are they so different from Kim? Is it maybe because I feel that they are much more genuine and upfront? Yes. Is it because I feel that their endeavors are actually in areas that they are passionate about and that they have been chasing their entire lives? Absolutely. And don’t get me wrong: I don’t dislike a workaholic. I would classify my mother as one, and she is the woman I look up to more than anyone else. But she does it for me, for my sisters. She is not trying to build an empire for her own glory and fame. And more importantly, she doesn’t step on others to get there.
But where do you draw that line? Is capitalizing on your talents/expertise (then entering arenas far outside your talents/expertise) to get rich constitute being a good business woman? Or does that exactly define what it is to be a ruthless, shameless careerist as illustrated by Moody?
I know I’m making grand generalizations, and comparing myself to famous music artists and reality TV stars is a bit on the extreme side. But this is where I am at this point in my life:
Entering into the workforce, I am taking a path that will set the tone for the rest of my career. I want to be successful, yes. I’m a young woman with a lot of ambition and a lot of big dreams. But I want all my decisions to be dignified.
I guess what I’m saying is as I set out on my career path, would I rather live my life as a Lauryn Hill or a Beyoncé? A Hillary Clinton or Martha Stewart? A Michelle Obama? A Kim K???
Or do I want to live my life as a Georgia O’Keefe, a Louisa May Alcott, a Jane Gooddall.
These are the type of women who are role models to me. They are who I want my kids to look up to one day. How they live/have lived their lives inspire what I want my own life to look like. I still have the utmost respect for women like Beyonce and Martha Stewart, don’t get me wrong. Even successful some women of the The Real Housewives franchise. I think their drive, ambition, and (in some cases) rags to riches stories most definitely serve as a source of inspiration. But for me, it’s got to be more than that.
Who knows what path I will end up taking. I want to live well, I do. But above all else, I want to live well doing what it is I’m passionate about, my art or interests being the focal point. The money should be merely a perk of the equation, not the motivator. And if I can live by what I’m passionate about in a way that will contribute to a greater good, that would be the ultimate. To inspire people, that would be amazing. But in ways that go beyond what I did to make my millions.
And even despite all this, I will continue to worship Beyoncé (absolutely no shame there, she’s a goddess), listen to the Biebs, and support the Kardashians by tuning into their show every week.
It might be a quarter-life crisis. Or just the stirring in my soul. Going to listen to Why Georgia on repeat and read Franny and Zooey until I fall asleep.