From Our Readers
October 28, 2014 3:09 pm

I was sixteen years old when I first decided I wanted to be a television writer. Prior to making that decision, I despised high school, and dreaded the four years of college that loomed ahead like a dark cloud; slowly growing as it prepared for the day that it could dump a deluge of impossible math formulas, advanced biology courses, and daunting multiple choice tests on my already anxiety-ridden psyche. While I was smart enough to succeed at the lowest common denominator in my AP and honors classes, I lacked the ambition that was essential to reaching my full potential.

That was before I set my sights on a career in television.

Having a goal to work towards made my struggle with AP Economics bearable, and sitting through several film adaptations of Hamlet in AP Lit became a perfect opportunity to learn about filmmaking. I saw every assignment that I completed in a new light, as it was a means to an end that I couldn’t wait for. The problem was, the more excited I got for my future plans, the more negativity I was hit with from people who learned of my ambitions.

Everyone from my dermatologist to my extended family members had something to say about my choice. Most of the time their comments alluded to the fact that I might not have “the right personality” to be successful in such a cutthroat industry. Strangers, meeting me for the first time, asked about my backup plan only seconds after I informed them of my intended career path. People harped endlessly on the likelihood that I would fail, rather than the possibility that I would succeed. It got to a point where I was hesitant to give an answer to the one question that I’d been asked my entire life: What do you want to be when you grow up?

My younger sister is currently in her first year of law school, and plans to be a lawyer. She has never been asked about her backup plan, even though the job pool for new lawyers is much smaller than it once was. In fact, I have only ever heard people congratulate her for pursuing a career in law. Unlike me, she made the “appropriate” choice in the eyes of those strangers she meets for the first time.  I’ve found that this discrepancy is the result of a large stigma that’s attached to careers based in the creative arts. It’s a bowling ball of shame that drags behind an aspiring creative, and gains weight for each person that doubts their potential to be successful.

I’m twenty-three now, and I’ve started to become immune to the negativity. Instead, I choose to focus on the positive: the college professor who believed in me, and upon graduation, assured me that I would succeed in the real world; my mom, who listens to me rant endlessly about television, and always confirms that I’m on the right path when I begin to doubt myself; and my own ambition, that forces me to put words on the page, even when I’m suffering from the most pathetic case of writer’s block.

What I mean to say is, positive encouragement seems menial when you’re the one giving it, but it can mean the world to someone who’s struggling to confirm that they’re making the right choices.

So, I challenge you to express how impressed you are by your friend’s artwork, short story, or styled outfit. Let them know how proud you are that they’re pursuing their dreams. Change the conversation, and focus on potential successes rather than failures. You should tell them. Remember to tell them, that their art matters. And then, maybe, they wont let the negative feedback get them down.

Hayley Goldstein lives in Los Angeles and spends most of her life drinking too much caffeine, obsessing over TV shows that have already been cancelled, and following the lives of wacky celebrities like Bill Murray on the Internet. You can keep up with her rants about television, coffee, and her own awful driving on Twitter at @whatabouthayley or discover new shows to binge watch on her blog caffeinatedtv.com.

(Image via.)

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