Students combat stigmas, pursue their passions

Cassidy Jackson, co a&e editor

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” With naivety running through your veins, as a kid, you respond to that question with artist, singer, doctor. As you get older only some career options become acceptable, according to senior Joshua Noll, GBS-TV’s photography director and aspiring filmmaker.

When it comes to careers, Noll says society tells people to pursue their dreams, but there’s a hidden asterisk. Follow your dreams IF it’s lucrative and stable.   

“People like to play it safe […],” Noll said. “People think you have to do this, and then you have to do this, procedurally, to get to a point where you are ‘successful […].’ Why do you have to follow it this way? Why can’t I do it this way?”

That’s the same question that Janie Kahan, GBS alumnus and sophomore film major at Syracuse, asked. According to Kahan, she has been infatuated with the art of filmmaking from an early age and was lucky to come from a family of filmmakers.

“I got my first professional editing software at 12 years old, [so] I found out I wanted to pursue art at a very young age,” Kahan said. “Most of my extended family are working individuals in the film industry, so I grew up thinking this dream was possible.”

Unlike Kahan, Diana Pearl, GBS alumnus and Syracuse graduate, found her passion for magazine journalism late in the game when she took Journalistic Writing at South. According to Diana, her mom, Laura Pearl, had a hint of fear watching her venture into the journalistic world, but kept her nervousness underwraps until after she secured her first job at People Magazine.   

“I definitely think my parents were a little nervous, but they didn’t tell me that at the time,” Diana said. “After I’d gotten a job in the industry and things were […] [working], they were like ‘[We were] nervous at the time, but this was a good decision.’”

Laura credits her nervousness to the complete contrast of stability between her office job and her daughter’s journalistic career. According to Laura, fear as a parent is inevitable, but what you do in response to it isn’t, as she chose to control her nerves and be a strong support system for her daughter.

“I’m a [Certfied Public Accountant],” Laura said. “I took a really well-paying, […] stable kind of job, [and] I probably wouldn’t have had the guts myself to [pursue journalism] […]. Any parent who’s kid is studying journalism or other areas where there is an employment shrinkage, [worries], but I was always trying to be supportive.”

Noll, on the other hand, has seen both worlds. Noll says he has experienced both positive and negative reactions to his artistic endeavors.

“My mom is always supportive of whatever I want to do, and I appreciate that,” Noll said. “[My dad] takes it as if I don’t know what I want yet […]. It’s sort of a passive aggressiveness rather than a direct anger. He doesn’t appreciate it as much, I don’t think, because he doesn’t understand, […] but he’s [sort of] come to accept it.”

Senior Hana Mohammed Rafee, AP art student and aspiring art teacher, relates completely to Noll’s situation. According to Mohammed Rafee, her parents don’t want her to major in art, not even art education, as they see an art career as not showcasing her past academic successes. To ease her parents’ stress and increase job security, she decided to compromise on her college pursuits by also getting certified in mathematics.

“Surprisingly, the fact that I wanted to do art education was not that comforting to my parents,” Mohammed Rafee said. “[It] had sort of a double stigma [to my parents]. [They think] ‘Why pursue art when you can pursue business or science? Why try to become a teacher when you can do something that […] is more impressive […]?’ Above all, ‘Why art teacher?’”

Originally, an acting career was what GBS alumnus and University of Illinois acting graduate, Julia Skeggs, saw herself doing. But according to Skeggs, she has realized that she craves structure in her life, contradicting the flexibility that is necessary for an acting career. Skeggs explains that realizing what she can live with and live without has lead her to change her career goal.

“In the year between my graduation from college to a year afterwards, I had moved nine times,” Skeggs said. “[…] It got to the point where I only had a suitcase of things, because it made the travel so much easier. I realized from there that I like […] having a place that I call home, but because [acting] requires flexibility, I felt like I was constantly at war with myself. I’ve become convinced that [by becoming a casting director,] I can own a home one day.”

According to Diana, creative arts students should look at the careers’ competitive nature as a motivation instead of a burden. Diana explains the pride that comes along with making a career for yourself is indescribable.

“Definitely not everyone can be a journalist, and definitely in an industry where it is competitive, you have to work hard; you have to be talented,” Diana said. “You’re not going to get hired if you’re a lackluster writer, and there are a lot of bad writers. [Just like with] any job, not everybody can do it. I can’t do a manual job because I have no upper body strength. Even though that is an unskilled job, not everyone can do it.”

Ignoring the uncertainty that comes along with a film major, Noll focuses on what he loves, and he has faith that a career will spring out of that.

“You should just love what you’re doing,” Noll said. “Somehow and some way you will build a career out of that. If you make a lot of money, you make a lot of money. That’s not what I’m interested in.”

What an aspiring filmmaker should be interested in is making an impact on people, according to Kahan. Kahan says that focusing on the feeling you get from the art is more important than the facts and figures of the career.

“[With] each stroke of your paintbrush, each shot, each line with your pencil, […] you’re putting [in] a piece of yourself,” Kahan said. “That is one of the hardest and bravest things a person can do. All I can say is get ready for rejection. Get ready for struggle, and get ready for the most rewarding thing in your life, because when you see something you made impacted a person […], you feel invincible. Get your head up, and go for it.”