Astronaut or Artist

I’m an art student who believes in the power of making your own choices about life, and carving out the path that you want to follow. This is an article about how the range of careers has changed over the years, and how to do what you love.

Welcome, welcome. Let me put my paintbrush down. There we go. When I was a young girl, I read stories about other young boys and girls deciding to be firemen, policemen, and astronauts, mothers, housewives, and all sorts of other ill-informed premature decision making. It struck me that no-one in those books wanted to be on TV, or on a beach, because (it seemed to me at the time) that those are two very good things to be on. Those books were old, from a time when boys played with trucks and girls played with barbie dolls. Those career roles have faded too. Let’s look into that change and spread some thoughts around about it.

Ever since landing on the moon, there has been a slow decline in our wonderful ability and innate drive to explore the world that we exist in. They stopped doing missions to the moon. We discovered all the countries, climbed all the mountains, and brought all the different kinds of food back to our local mall. But the mirage of little boys wanting to be an astronaut remained for some time. It clung to the children’s books, cute and ideal and bright. Perhaps it clung on, for dear life, for dear ambition, knowing that around the corner, a tall and handsome man was about to fire off his shiny, new, giant, phallic rocket into space, heralding a new era of exploration and possibility. Suddenly, little boys and girls are able to watch, eyes pressed to their screen, as that giant rocket not only flames it’s way upward into space, but back down again safely. Perhaps all of these things go up and down in cycles. In any case, I’m existentially glad for the children of today, that they’re able to resume their dreams.

School has become less rigid. While it still tries to squash the life out of you, some of the older crustier teachers have retired, and the new ones have realized that they have to change the way they’re doing things, and that it’s up to them. Children have a high bar for content now, having access to YouTube, instant answers to any numerical question on their smartphone, and all the knowledge of Wikipedia ready to rush into their hungry little minds. It’s no wonder that they’re bored of school.

Schools try to make children watch and learn in a certain way, and treat them as a way to get to those rewards. They try to motivate children by telling them they’ll get a good job when they grow up, and that their parents will be proud of them. None of which are strong (or even good) motivators for the child.

In the meantime, they’re forced to sit there and watch the teacher talk at them, and learn to read and write the way the teacher wants. What if they don’t want to learn that way? What if they want to learn another way? Well, now the opportunity for learning is available to them, when they want it. Perhaps they want to watch a video. Perhaps they want to look a word up on their phone. Perhaps they want to look it up on Wikipedia. Perhaps they want to ask their friends. Perhaps they want to ask their granddad. Perhaps they want to take a class at the local college, way ahead of their age.

In the end, the method of learning is up to them. We are going to have a lot more non-repressed people coming out of the school system as this content evolution takes place.

Art is something that you can get famous doing. Elvis Presley’s hips were art. Those hips took the world by storm. He was laying in wait, unknowingly. As soon as video (TV) emerged, and we hadn’t yet realized what to do with it, wham, Elvis took the stage and swung his hips around, making full use of the medium. Now that we have all kinds of wonderful streaming services, 3D vision, all kinds of reality other than “normal”, and all of this available on your phone, what kind of art will be made next? I’m sure I would have wanted to be the female version of Elvis (perhaps, Marilyn Monroe) famous on TV, but kids these days want to be famous on streaming TV, or TikTok. No doubt you’ll be hearing about them.

When we think about this world that we’re living in, that our children will inherit, we tend to wonder: will they be an astronaut, or an artist? Will they know how to swing their hips in dance? I think we can safely let go, acknowledging our own ignorance of what the future will hold, and let them figure it out. Whatever the art they make is, any advice we try to give them will be far from the mark. Any ambition we try to instill in them about going to the moon is likely to be misguided when they’re holidaying on mars. Let’s just be grateful for the choice they have.