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My Kid Doesn't Have a Plan B

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Let me introduce you to my 17-year-old daughter. She’s a high school senior headed for college. She’s a straight-A student, scored high on her SATs and is busy with both on- and off-campus activities and volunteering duties. She has one goal: to be a musician. And she’s well on her way. She’s already playing gigs around town, and just finished recording an EP. Right now she’s consumed with finding a college that will help her be successful in her field.

Now let me introduce you to her friend. She’s a 17-year-old high school senior headed for college. She’s a straight-A student, scored high on her SATs and is busy with both on- and off-campus activities and volunteering duties. She has one goal: to be a lawyer. And she’s well on her way. She’s already attending college courses in pre-law and interning at a law firm. Right now she’s consumed with finding a college that will help her be successful in her field.

The difference? No one ever asks my daughter’s friend what her Plan B is, in case she doesn’t succeed as a lawyer.

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To be fair, my husband did ask my daughter—years ago—what her "Plan B" was, but he learned very quickly to never, ever ask her the question again. She gave him a steady stare, planted her hands firmly on her hips and said, “I do NOT have a Plan B. You know what having a Plan B means? That you have no faith in your Plan A.” Lesson learned, Ms. Aretha Franklin, Jr.

My daughter has wanted to be a musician since she was in the 6th grade. Since then she’s worked hard on it, auditioning for school productions and taking extracurricular music and voice lessons. She practices every single day. She composes her own music and writes her own lyrics. She is constantly looking for her next gig, uses us as roadies and has learned how to network like a boss. I’d say she’s at least halfway there.

So it’s frustrating and unfair (most likely for reasons related to people disrespecting the arts, which may be a far too lengthy topic to get into here) that whenever she, (or my husband and I) inform people that she wants to be a musician, we’re met with the same response.

There is no guarantee that your wannabe doctor or lawyer is going to end up successfully completing all of her studies, pass her necessary exams and land her dream job.

First there’s the initial excitement. We’ll get the obligatory “That’s great!” or the ambiguously enthusiastic, “Oh, wow!” but it’s almost always followed by the person dropping their voice an octave or two, giving us their best “I’m only asking because I’m worried for your future” face and whispering, “But what is your Plan B?”

We get it. Music—and entertainment in general—is a competitive industry, with many, many people clamoring for the top spots and only a small percentage making it to the big time. But the same could be said of other fields. There is no guarantee that your wannabe doctor or lawyer is going to end up successfully completing all of her studies, passing her necessary exams and landing her dream job. Just ask our former neighbor, whose Harvard-trained son decided to chuck his med studies to—gasp—become a DJ.

That's why it’s maddening—and slightly condescending—that people have need to discourage my daughter from pursuing her passion. When people imply (or in some cases just say outright) that she’s “wasting her brains and good grades by going into music,” what they’re really saying is that she should forget about music, her dreams and aspirations and instead spend all of her time pursuing that Plan B. Hey Dream Crushers, don’t let the door from your 9-to-5 office job hit you on the way out.

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This is what my husband and I have decided. We are going to support her fully in her dream to become a musician. We applaud her decision to find a music school that will not only train her in her art, but will also teach her other aspects of the business. We’re going to believe in her, even though most people won’t. And yes, we’re going to continue to drive her to gigs, carry her amps and cheer her from backstage.

And we will never, ever ask her about her Plan B.

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