[Ugh, how shameful is the “I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m totally gonna start again” post? I got WordPress’s year-in-review email a few weeks back, which is always slick and informative–just not so impressive when I hadn’t posted anything last year. Seriously, nothing. So here I am.]
I’ve been thinking about passions lately. Not the soap opera. Real passions, and which ones are worthwhile, which ones might be (objectively?) less worthwhile.
Our yearbook this year (which might be the best book our school’s ever had, if we actually finish it) is profiling every single senior. Naturally, theses small paragraphs usually focus on the students’ passions, which mostly fall neatly into a few categories: sports, art, music, and religion. A few kids talked about their future career plans, too, but it all made me wonder just how ardently these passions were being pursued. If a kid says art is her life, that it defines her, what does that look like? 8 hours a week of drawing? 20 hours? Is it even fair to ask your average 17 year-old what he’s passionate about?
And what’s my role as a teacher to help students find and pursue their talents? A few of them mentioned how my journalism courses helped shape who they are, giving them a sense of belonging or a career to go after. But what about the kids who love riding horses? Am I doing them a disservice by ignoring that passion in the classroom? Should my projects allow for raps, dances, hunting, Bible study, cosmetology, creating anime characters? OR am I expected to just lay some basic reading/writing groundwork for their futures? Certainly, my students need better-than-basic literacy skills, no matter what they do in the future. Can I be expected to provide much more?
And another thing. And this is where I’m happy to get some feedback, because I’m mostly playing devil’s advocate, but maybe it’s also how I really feel, but…
aren’t some passions kind of stupid?
Last night, I watched Bronies, the documentary on grown men with a fervor for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The doc is heavy on the tolerance, just daring the viewer to disapprove of these guys who just want to socialize with like-minded people, who strive to live their lives in accordance to the virtues promoted on the show.
I had mixed feelings. I loved the creativity in the community–they create their own music, lazer shows, art. I have a hard time hating on anyone who creates anything for the sheer joy of it.
But My Little Pony is for children. Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think that most of these guys are kidding themselves, fixing on something that they’re too old to enjoy. It’s OK to visit Disney World at 40; it’s made for that. It’s OK for a grown man to buy himself a Lego set (guilty). It’s quite another thing to embrace a Peter Pan-ish lifestyle of clinging on to a kids show–not just to enjoy it in the margins of an otherwise adult life–but to take it on as your greatest passion. I never once thought these Bronies seemed overly-feminine or homosexual (the accusation they seem to hear most), but I did want to scream “Grow up, already!”
The movie certainly makes a strong case for these guys being completely nice well-adjusted human beings. They bring on some social scientists to defend them and–more convincing–highlight a group of active military Bronies. But that makes me even more worried. Showing me that our nation’s military or even our well-educated 20-somethings are in this state of arrested development, where they’ve decided it’s totally fine to obsess over a children’s show instead of deal with some real adult challenges: that’s not just weird; it’s scary.
So back to my students (a few of whom love My Little Pony, which I completely accept, as they’re young and, therefore, excused). Are some of their passions ultimately a bad idea, not worth pursuing? At what point should we as a society expect people to “grow up”?
Does growing up mean abandoning your passions? I don’t think so, but there’s a sad ounce of truth to that, isn’t there? Growing up, I very much wanted to be a cartoonist. At some point, I gave that up, and now I teach English and blog once a year. Was that a naturally diminishing interest, a sad abandonment of my dreams, or a mature transition into adulthood? What’s the difference, and how do I help my students along that tricky path?