Gifted people often take a life path that doesn’t fulfill theirpotential. Our world isn’t always a supportive place for them. Lack of social skills can take away your opportunities. Displaying your brilliance can make you unpopular. Expecting too much of yourself or others can lead to rejection. Boredom and lack of opportunity can shut you down. Feeling like an imposter can immobilize you. Uncertainty and fear can be paralyzing.
Discussions about helping their sons or daughters reach their full potential is a painful conversation for many parents. They recognize in themselves the lost possibilities. Along the way, something severed them from their true passion. They tell me their stories and I understand how they feel. Even though I hold an advanced degree and work in a respected professional field, I feel like I missed my calling.
A few years ago I was talking to my niece, who had just graduated from high school. She was considering going to college for a degree in fine art and asked me if I thought she could make a living as an artist. I looked at this girl, so full of raw talent and promise, and implored her to pursue her art, even if she had to be a starving artist. As I talked to her, I got very emotional. I realized that I had been standing at her same crossroads many years ago and hadn’t followed through with my dream.
Since then, I have thought a lot about why I didn’t pursue that passion for art. It certainly burned as brightly in me as it does in my niece. On the surface I had lots of reasons: I didn’t have money, didn’t know how to get into college, and didn’t have support at home; but I think the real reason was fear of failure. I was a perfectionist. I could never produce art work that I felt was good enough. Despite plenty of outside validation that my work was excellent, I never saw myself as a talented artist.
I still dream of being an artist, but I always make choices that push it to the back burner. Some of them are legitimate. I am homeschooling my kids, taking care of my home and family, and running my own business. Some of them are deliberate. I just started working towards my doctorate in education. Yet no matter how busy I get (or make myself) the little art spark never dies. Maybe I will eventually be brave enough to fan the flames. I mourn the loss of that life and wish I had mustered the courage back when I was eighteen to push through the perfectionism and pursue the artist’s life.
I think that is what drives me to support my children as they explore their passions. I try to be their guide and show them all the ways they can accomplish their goals. I try to be their cheerleader and tell them they can do anything they want to in life. I try to be their taskmaster and teach them to work hard for what they want. I try to be the lens through which they see their true abilities. I try to be their fairy godmother and provide them with opportunities to practice their craft. I hope my efforts make a difference. I want them to feel like they are living their dreams every day of their lives.