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My mother doesn’t support my career choice. How do I change her mind?

The question

I am in my early 20s and I have gone to college a couple of times already with no idea of what I wanted to do. This time I've really thought it over. I want to move to Toronto to attend film school. However I feel as though I cannot make this change because it's evident my mother does not approve. She doesn't seem to understand why I want to do this, because there won't be any family around to help me. I know that this will be a difficult challenge and I'd have to get a job in order to support myself. I'm not asking for her financial support, I'd just like a little understanding. What is the best way to get my mother's support and approval? I should add she's generally not like this and is actually pretty cool as far as moms go.

The answer

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For us parents, being "cool" and acting in our kids' best interests are not always the same thing. In fact, sometimes we unfortunately have to show our love by being total hard-asses, and … Hold that thought. But first, please allow me to say I must be becoming a more empathetic person because I feel both your pain and your mother's – simultaneously.

As a writer, I know how it feels to pursue an elusive, quixotic, some might even say chimerical goal (at least that way I can use all the fancy words I know), like yours of getting into film.

My parents weren't discouraging, exactly, when I started out. But I recall once early on I felt discouraged and muttered something to the effect of "Maybe I should've been a lawyer after all." Next time I visited my mother's house, her coffee table was bristling with law-school brochures.

But as a parent, I also feel your mom's side of the equation. My oldest son wants to be an actor. As we all know, this is a difficult path. So for the past year, I've been buttonholing actor-friends and director-friends to come over to tell him just what a difficult path it is, all the ups and downs.

I'm not trying to discourage him. I'm just trying to give him an impression of what a freakin' knife fight it is (or as tennis great Jimmy Connors puts it: "People don't seem to realize it's a damn war out there"), that if he wants to get anywhere as an actor he will have to go at it with supervillain-like ultra-determination and passion and drive.

What I want to see from him is passion, perseverance and some fire in his belly and under his ass. You need that to get your foot in the door of any profession now, let alone acting.

My guess is that is what your mother is looking for from you. The Boulevard of Broken Dreams is littered with the bodies of dilettantes who thought it might be kind of cool to get into film. But there's nothing cool about it. It's tough as hell. You might crack before getting your big break.

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So here's my advice. Show your mother your passion. Show her your Bane-like ("It doesn't matter who we are; what matters is our plan") ultra-determination to get into film.

I see a bit of it in your statements: You saying you'll get a job to support yourself, etc. But you've also said you've been to college a couple of times already – which is fine, plenty of people take well into their 20s trying out different ideas, seeing what's a good fit. But she (I would imagine) needs to see this is not another whim, and wants to know you'll see it through this time. Not for her sake (again, taking an educated guess as a fellow parent), but for yours.

Anyway, if you truly have the type of determination you're going to need to carve out a career in film or TV, you'll do it regardless of who approves or disapproves. Every once in a while someone asks me: "Should I seek a career in writing?" I always say the same thing "If you need to ask that question, the answer is no."

Because I know it sounds corny but I had no choice. And that thought, weirdly enough, gets me through any rough patches: "This may suck, but what can you do? I had to do it." I just had to.

Must you go to film school? If you must, then do it. Your mother's approval will come later.

Parents are funny that way – at least all the ones I know: No matter how much "tough" we try to put into the love of our kids, we wind up approving of pretty much everything they do in the end.

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What am I supposed to do now?

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