Why telling your kids to follow their dreams is stupid

So I watched the new episode of Glee the other night.

Warning: spoiler alert. Oh, and a little explicit language.

If you haven’t seen it, it features an intervention on behalf of Finn, Mercedes and Santana on the part of Will and Sue. Why? because the end of their senior year is approaching and they have no idea what they want to do with their life yet.

I know. Shocking.

The intervention comes in the form of a Saturday Night Fever sing off, where each of these characters miraculously find their dream in the inane lyrics of the Beegees.

Stupid plot notwithstanding, do you know what most of them want to do? They want to be famous. Mercedes wants to be the next Mariah. Santana just wants to be famous (ok, she sees the light about being famous at any cost, but still. She never lets go of the desire just to be famous.) Finn decides he wants to go to New York and be an actor.

What advice does Will and Sue give them? Follow your dreams!

What kind of stupid-ass shit is that?

The more I think of it, the more I really hate the show. Because in this case- follow your dreams is not only bad advice, it is harmful advice.

First of all, not everyone knows what they want. In fact, I would venture to say that most people don’t.  Oh some do, yes. Some have a passion from a young age and have no choice to pursue that passion. My father was like that. He knew from an early age that he needed to fly planes. My youngest sister was also that kind of kid- she wanted to be a veterinarian before she could spell it.

But most people I know? We flail around for a while, trying out different things, having several different careers in life. Or, our passion is not one that pays the bills ( I imagine I am one of the thousands who is trying to be a writer).

As for knowing exactly what you want to do after high school? You are 18 at the time. What the hell do you know? And why is so all-encompassing to have this dream?

These are not dreams. These are day dreams. 

Follow your dream has become one of those meaningless cultural platitudes. Especially since the dream, as exemplified in the last Glee, focuses on the end result and not the process. Mercedes wants to be the next Mariah. But she does nothing outside of Glee. She isn’t even in a band. She doesn’t study music. She most certainly doesn’t try writing it, or understanding it. She doesn’t go out and sing because that is all that she can do. She is focused on the end result- fame, glory, bad sequined nightmare of dresses instead of the process. Of the love of singing.

Follow your dreams first of all supposes that every kid has a dream, and that dream is worth supporting, which as the last Glee episode indicated, is patently untrue. Not every dream is valid. Wanting to be the next Mariah is not a valid dream. Studying music, becoming a better singer, finding something in the musical arts that will pay the bills however, is.

I hereby submit a replacement of the stupid and inane advice of follow your dreams.

Take this for example. My daughter has started a new unit in her grade seven science class on astronomy. That is all she can talk about. She is captivated by the idea of supernovas, black holes, and weirdly enough, dwarf planets. In the first flush of excitement, she said, “maybe I can be an astronomer when I grow up!”

Do I really think she will be? Probably not. I am sure she will change her mind a dozen times before she even starts college. So what will I tell her?

 How about this? By all means, my dear, you should pursue your interests.

Simple, elegant and focused on what matters, don’t you think?

Oh, it might not have that bumper sticker quality as follow your dreams but, in my opinion, that is a good thing.

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One Response to Why telling your kids to follow their dreams is stupid

  1. Angela M says:

    Well said Lina! I teach high school. I can tell you, you are right. Most kids have NO CLUE what they want to do. I try to open their minds to different things hoping to interest them in at least one!

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