Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Parents wish; children are

They wanted me to be a dentist.

When I graduated college with a major in English Lit, I returned home for a weekend, and my parents looked concerned. English Lit? How would I make my way through this all-too real and sometimes cruel world, knowing nothing but the difference between a metaphor and a simile, an aphorism and an axiom, an allegory and a parable.

Where are the bicuspids? they asked. Show us the teeth in this plan.

"Oh, don't worry," I said, and patted their furrowed, worried brows. "Yes, yes, it's only an English Lit degree, but I've backed it up with a minor in Italian Cinema.

"And if that's not enough to impress you, next year, I'll go for my Masters in Philosophy -- emphasis on French Structuralism. I'll be studying whether Foucault, a known positivist, may not be an ordinary positivist at all. I know! You look amazed! We are all amazed! Because, paradoxically, he uses the tools of science to criticize science.

"Of course, structuralism is less popular today than other approaches, such as post-structuralism and deconstruction, and the emphasis on ambiguity, i.e., the ethics of ambiguity. If I can recall the words of Cornelius Castoriadis, when he criticized the practice of symbiotic meditation, and yes, it is at the tip of my tongue... "

My dad dropped off first, my mom followed soon after. We all slept well that night.

27 comments:

  1. My Dad wanted me to be a dentist too. "No way", I told him. I will be a journalist ( and I had my Mom's encouragement) and I just did! I was very glad with my decision and career.

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  2. Too funny.

    I actually was a dentist, for a few years--almost as long as it took to train to be one--before I moved on to other things.

    Seemed practical on paper. In practice, not a good career for me.

    But I don't regret the years of training. I learned a lot that I still use in other contexts.

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  3. Too funny...in a slightly painful way. I recall the discussion, if you can call it that, that I had with my parents when I told them I wanted to go to an art college. Anger was the prevailing emotion. I wasn't even asking them to pay for my tuition. The tide finally turned in my favour when I pointed out to my dad that I didn't want to look back years from now and wonder, what if?, like he did by never pursuing his dream of becoming a rancher.

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  5. My husband majored in English and took every lit course... My oldest took a Beatles class.. yep, and loved and learned about the Beatles.. she changed her major 3 times in 3 years... she wanted to be a pediatrician from the time she could pronounce it.. she learned that whatever math class she took in college she wasn't cut out for... So she opted for Human Development and loves it despite the low pay.. One thing my husband told me was " college is to round you out, NOT just to get a degree.. college helps you realize what your purpose is'.... My kids have done just that...
    btw, you would fit in w/my family.
    we wouldn't have questioned a thing.. just sit back and ask about the authors you read... :-)

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  6. btw, I love how u come up w/titles to your post as well as the content... Publish something so I can buy it!...

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  7. Comparative Religions here. What can I say, it was UC Santa Cruz.

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  8. "... but I've backed it up with a minor in Italian Cinema."

    Ouch - that is so funny, it hurts.

    And I agree with KBF, this deserves a wider audience.

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  9. My parents were severely pissed off when I dropped out of college for one semester so I could save money to pay for more college without getting up to my eyeballs in debt. They were giving me $20 per month, after all, to help me out. Actually, my mother was giving me $12 to pay for the phone in my room, which I would not otherwise have had, and the extra $8 was to pay for my meals on the weekend, since my dorm didn't have food service on weekends. I enjoyed engineering, although I confess to enjoying English and Sociology, too.

    My dentist, Kevin, was told by his father (a doctor) to NOT become a doctor because dealing with insurance companies was onerous. So Kevin became a dentist. Bonus: he can close for a week 3 or 4 times a year to go hunting. Who knew that dentisting was a great profession for a hunter?

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  10. I'm with Kevin, so funny it hurts.

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  11. I'm glad you took Eng. Lit so we can read wonderful pieces like this. Having you fill our cavities wouldn't be anywhere near as delightful.

    But but but.. as parents you want your children to have financial security. I suggested mine should become accountants or lawyers, portable skills that are always in demand. Naturally, they ignored me.

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  12. @Bellis: my husband was an Eng. major.. he wanted to be a famous writer... he ended up doing accounting for a plumbing wholesale company and was scooped up by a commercial plumbing firm..they made him a partner.. they saw his potential.. granted, he didn't end up doing what he loved, he realized the writing would be a hobby ... he ended up making a lot of money for the company and was life long friends w/the owner who treated him like a son... I am sure my inlaws had more doubts about him becoming a writer since we all know that occupation is held by many...they however had the same idea he had as far as what college is suppose to do and to me its the most logical and doesn't put such pressure on on kids.

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  13. From an ROI perspective, I suppose Eng Lit isn't the way to go. But those classes are some of the best hours of life. I remember the prof who taught us the inner workings of the English satirists, and my Shakespeare class, where the prof would get so involved he'd rock the lectern back and forth.

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  14. My parents may not have been perfect, but they encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do. I'm grateful for that, and I blame them for the fact that I don't make any money.

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  15. My favorite quote, by anthropologist Ruth Benedict, "Go! Live the life you covet for your child."

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  16. See, who says we have to live in boxes, like the one labeled "Dentist"? How confining. ROI? Damned good writing.

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  17. That was funny! The only discussion I had with my mom about the future, kind of went like this. "You have one week to move out of the house after you turn 18. Try to stay out of jail." I managed the first part okay...

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  18. Hi Margaret, great quote of Ruth Benedict!

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  19. I told my kids the same thing Bellis did. As a result, I have a college professor, a lawyer, a nurse, 2 accountants, a carpenter, a bum, and 2 still in high school. Yes, a bum. But a good-looking, charming and smart bum. There's one in every crowd.

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  20. Oh, so well planned, Marjie. Almost all needs accounted for -- medical, financial, legal, home-improvement, and sparkling conversation.

    Jean, I never would have guessed that. You're a constant amazement.

    Pat, I left at 16, but then I'm an impatient sort.

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  21. You followed your passion. Who knows, you might have been a good dentist ~ and your patients would have loved your stories. It's a good thing that your parents cared enough to have an opinion and wonderful that they then let you go your own way. I can't imagine you not writing regardless of what you chose for a profession:)

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  22. There were 3 things I wanted to be as a child. A vet, a rock star and a nun. None of my dreams came true and I ended up in advertising which, as hellish as it was, was still better than being a stockbroker (my father's plan).

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  23. I thought every kid wanted to be a dentist. What the hell's wrong with you?

    I don't even know enough philosophy to mock it. I'm assuming you've nailed it. Big burden. Are you tilting?

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  24. I remember standing in front of the Industrial Arts building at San Diego State wishing I had the money to buy a camera and the background to take college level classes in photography... I love retirement!!!

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  25. "Is this all there is to this?'" - Greg Moore

    If only you were a dentist (sigh). I could get my teeth fixed and get the good stories plus laughing gas.

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