Passion over approval
When do you go your own way and decide to do what you want regardless of your parent’s wishes? At the point where your passion exceeds the need for their approval, that’s when.
December 20, 2005
Peacefully roaming through a variety of articles in iranian.com, something grabbed my attention. No, that’s an understatement, let me rephrase that. The article hit me hard, opened an old wound, and made my blood pressure rise to the point that I knew I either had to respond or drop dead from a heart attack.
The author, Ms. Saeideh Mohajer -- a young Iranian actress in Canada -- wonders about the Iranians’ respect for art, and her parents’ perception of it. As a writer / artist, who for decades was pushed into medical field, I may just be the perfect candidate to respond to such a question. But let’s go about it in the right order. And, with respect to the fact that literature and poetry for centuries were considered a whole different field than art, for now I will leave her reference to Hafez aside.
Let us first consider what the majority of Iranians think of art. For generations, Iranians believed art to be something that only few, extremely talented individuals, could master. In other words, you had to be born with it. This rule applied to any number of performing arts as well as a variety of visual creations. While studying could perfect what one was born with, many argued that a good artist couldn’t start from zero. Furthermore, it was a known fact that one could not make a living on art alone -- thus the expression “starving artist.” So, parents encouraged their young to study what would land them a solid job such as medicine, engineering, etc.
In most ancient societies, parent’s worth was determined by how they raised their children and Iran is no exception. If a man’s children were all doctors, lawyers or engineers it left no doubt that he had been a great father. On the other hand, a family whose boy played “santoor” with a group of “Motreb” had raised nothing but a musical bum and their society might consider them complete failures.
For as long as there have been parents, a generation gap has also existed in one form or another. Granted, there are exceptions, but those of us who have lived longer, will forever have a tendency to see matters in a different light. However, I for one have been in both positions and seen both sides. As a teenager, who achieved the highest marks in school, I had no vote when it came to choices of school and it took me decades to dare pursue my passion. A poet, not only was I deprived from support, my family forbade me to study literature. I became a successful dentist, but unfortunately my heart was never in it and I secretly continued to write. Sometimes people ask me if I still resent that. The answer is no, not really, because as I got older, I realized the loving reason behind what had seemed so cruel at the time.
One may think I learned something from my own experience, but not only did it fail to make a better parent out of me, when my turn came, I pushed my own daughter to study law.
“But I’d love to be a teacher,” she pleaded.
“Just get the darn degree, then go ahead and do what you want!” both my husband and I told her.
We should have been more explicit because that is exactly what she did! After sending us her law diploma, she chose to work with writers and pursued a profession that for the foreseeable future would keep her away from the chaos of a court room. Did our influence waste years of her life? Yes, no, maybe so. The bottom line is that she is happy and so are her parents because they are assured that if and when the need should arise, she can fall back on a “solid job!”
My second child was a born artist and wild horses couldn’t have stopped her from doing what she felt was her vocation. She enrolled in the best art school in the country and today enjoys the success that most people can only dream of. She is a true artist and has brought forth her own unique style. Whether or not we understand and respect her profession -- we do -- it seems to matter little to her.
The field of performing arts is new to Iranians, even in this day and age. Those before us looked down at actors, actresses and even dancers and considered them “indecent” professions. The issue turned even more serious when girls were involved. What respectful woman would kiss a man -- who isn’t her husband -- and let the whole world watch? Regardless of how open minded some parents are, that is still a “namoossi” issue among Iranians. My niece who is an actress in LA, tells me she does her best to avoid “bad scenes!” Yes, we still consider intimate scenes as “bad,” for that is how we were raised and, brain washed or not, that’s still how we see it.
The point I am trying to make is that a true artist can not be stopped. So, when do you go your own way and decide to do what you want regardless of your parent’s wishes? At the point where your passion exceeds the need for their approval, that’s when. Let’s face it; to have the best of both worlds is impossible unless your goals and that of your parents happen to be one and the same. Considering the generation gap and the invisible wall it creates between parents and their children, that is unlikely, unless you happen to be the lucky exception.
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance
writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is "Sharik-e
Gham" (see excerpt).
Visit her site ZoesWordGarden.com