“Ollin, I love my family, but they just don’t seem to respect/understand/support my passion. Can you help?”
“Ollin, I love my family, but they just don’t seem to respect/understand/support my writing schedule. Help, please!”
After I graduated from college, I wanted to celebrate. So, I decided to go traveling. Now, I had never been outside of the country before (other than Mexico—but as a certified Chicano I’m not allowed to count that). I also knew that, very soon, most of my time would be dedicated to establishing my career, and I had no idea when I would have another unique opportunity, like this one, to travel.
So, I told my family that I would be traveling to Japan–a country I’d never been to before, where I knew only one friend, and where I didn’t even know the language. (FYI: Japan isn’t as accessible to non-native speakers as the United States is, and if all you know are Latin-based languages, you’re pretty much screwed in Japan if you don’t know Japanese and don’t have anyone to translate.)
It was a pretty crazy idea at the time, I’d have to admit, but my family let me go on the trip anyway.
It’s simple. My family let me go because I was 21 at the time, I was an adult, and I could do whatever I wanted to do without their approval.
So, for those of you who are struggling to get your family on board with your passion, please remember that whatever hair-brained idea you wish to pursue—I don’t care if it’s sky-diving, or painting murals on the beach boardwalk—you don’t need “parental approval.”
If you want to write, then write. If you want to set aside 4 hours each week to write your novel, then make it happen. Who’s stopping you?
Nope, they can’t stop you. Why? Because… er… you’re an adult and you can do whatever the heck you damn well please. Need I remind you?
So, if you’re struggling to get your family on board with your passion, then your first strategy is to put on your big boy (or big girl) pants and…
1. Practice making adult, matter-of-fact statements.
When I told my family I would be traveling halfway across the world–by myself, to a foreign country, where I didn’t know the language–I didn’t ask them what they thought about it. I simply said:
“Hey family, I’m going to Japan.”
I made an adult, matter-of-fact statement. I didn’t leave it open to debate, or questioning. I just made a decision and I followed through on it. I also made it clear in my tone of voice that I was going to go to Japan no matter what they said.
So, please refrain from making half-hearted statements to your family like these:
“Hey family, I think, maybe, that I sorta-kinda-wanna to be a writer.”
“Hey family, do you think I should be a writer?”
“Hey family, I need more time to work on my novel, can you help by giving me some space?”
No, instead, make adult, matter-of-fact statements like:
“Hey family, I’m a writer now. And you know that thing I did before? Yeah, I’m not doing that anymore.”
“Hey family, I’m spending the next four hours writing my novel. Stay out of my space and don’t bug me for the next four hours. Thank you.”
You see the difference? Remember: you’re an adult and whether it’s your parents, or your visiting relatives, or even your kids—you make the rules in your own life. If you really want to do something, then do it.
Don’t ever put your passion up for debate if it isn’t up for debate.
2. Let your family know about your passion and tell them why you’ve chosen to pursue it at this particular time.
When I chose to write my novel I sent an e-mail to all my friends and family explaining the decision and why I was making it at this time in my life. When I started the blog I did the same. I thought they were going to think I was crazy. They didn’t. They all responded with their love and support.
Sometimes we assume that no one in our family will support our passion even before we’ve told them about it. But how can we know for sure until we tell them?
So tell them. Do it today. “Come out” to your family about your passion through an e-mail. You may find that your family is more on board with your passion than you thought they would be—plus, it saves you the time and energy of having to keep explaining your passion over and over again to each new relative who doesn’t know about it yet.
3. If you want to be polite about your passion, that’s okay. As long as you are equally polite to yourself.
The great thing about family is that we love them; the not-so-great-thing about family is that we love them. When you love someone, you really don’t want to hurt their feelings, and you don’t want to lose them because they mean so much to you.
But being polite to our family all of the time can backfire on us. We can lose track of what its is really want, and who it is we really are, if we keep trying to please others but never ourselves.
For instance, let’s say your relatives are visiting and you tell them you have to work on your novel for the next four hours. You assure them that you’ll get back to hosting them as soon as you’ve finished writing. But instead of honoring your request, your visiting relatives keep bugging you, requesting that you drop your novel and spend time with them instead. So, you ignore your writing schedule for the day because you want to be more “polite” to your relatives. But now that you’ve ditched your passion—that thing that makes you light up more than anything else in this world—you’ve become grumpy and resentful. You end up being a big grouch with your relatives for the rest of the day.
In this example, the desire to be “polite” led to you losing your writing time and it led to your relatives losing a more jovial host. Nobody won.
However, if you were polite to yourself, as well as your relatives, then you might have insisted on those four hours of writing time for yourself. Then, when you were done writing, you would’ve been much more eager about spending the rest of the time left over in the day with your relatives.
In the above scenario, being polite to both your relatives and yourself results in a happy conclusion. Everybody wins.
Let me be clear: if you’re not respecting your passion (or the schedule you’ve set aside for your passion) then you’re not being very polite to yourself.
And you’re no longer allowed to be polite to others unless you are also, equally, polite to yourself.
4. Try to make your family understand the urgency and importance of your passion.
If your family wishes to do something during a time you have set aside for your passion, then you can say something like the following:
“You know, I wish I could go on that trip/the movies/the beach with you but I have this deadline I have to meet. Sorry, how about next time? Or how about this Saturday when I’m free?”
Even if your deadline is a self-imposed one—so what? Your family doesn’t need to know that. And even if your family does find out that it’s self-imposed deadline, that doesn’t make your deadline any less important.
If you’re like me, you have an overall goal for your passion, and you know that certain things have to get done at a certain time for that overall goal to be accomplished, right? If that’s true for you, then your passion is something that you deeply respect—and if your passion is something that you deeply respect, then it’s something that your family ought to respect too, right?
If your family doesn’t yet realize how urgent and important your passion is, then you need to let them know, and keep reminding them until they get it.
5. But don’t expect that your family will “get it.”
“But what if they still don’t get it, Ollin?”
If your family still doesn’t get it then, I hate to break it to you, but they may never “get it.”
But that’s okay. Your family does not have to understand your passion in order for you to pursue it. You’re family’s primary job is to love and support you.
Think of all the things that you don’t understand about your friends or family. For example, I have a friend who’s an accountant, another who’s an engineer, and another who’s a math teacher. Do you think I have to UNDERSTAND accounting, engineering, and math in order to be their friends? No. Do they have to FULLY UNDERSTAND fiction writing in order to be my friend? No. All they need is my love and support, and all I ask of them in return is their love and support.
It’s fair to ask for love, support, and respect from your family, but it isn’t fair to ask them to understand everything you do. Because they won’t understand everything you do—just like you may never understand everything they do.
If your family understands your passion, that’s great! If they don’t, then forget about trying to make them “get it” and just move on. Because waiting for your family to “get it” will only stall you from moving forward.
6. On the other hand, if you’re patient—who knows?—maybe your family will “get it” in the end.
Your family may not “get” your passion right now, but trust me, there may come a time when they do. And, as someone who has been in that type of situation before, I can tell you it feels pretty awesome when someone who didn’t understand you at first finally has that lightbulb go off.
How did you get your family on board with your passion? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!
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