Read this article, from the New York Times: At an Age for Music and Dreams, Real Life Intrudes
Her name is Tiffany Clay and she is 18, with light brown hair tied in a ponytail and large eyes that always seem at the edge of tears. She has been on her own, more or less, since she was 16, and the violin in her delicate hands was bought for $175 on eBay by her music teacher.
She is a complicated young woman, says that teacher, and a gifted musician. Consistently at or near the very top of her class. Should be going to a top college, on scholarship. Should be, but won’t be, because she feels a need to make money more than music.
Ms. Clay is a child of her age and place, worried about being laid off, uninterested in and maybe even afraid of imagining a life beyond central Ohio. Newark is what she knows: a pleasant, bifurcated city of 45,000, where concerns about unemployment temper the pride in local public art, and where affluence and poverty sit side-by-side in the classroom.
She once explored the idea of going away to college to become a music teacher. But it just didn’t seem practical: spending four years studying the theory of music, which doesn’t interest her, while here in Newark, the school system is constantly adapting to real and threatened cuts.
Music programs always seem among the first to go, she says. No job security in Tchaikovsky.
So she is maintaining high grades, playing in the orchestra, working 35 hours a week as a Sonic Drive-In carhop, paying $345 a month for the small apartment she shares with an unemployed boyfriend — and planning to study nursing for two years at a technical college in Newark.
“Everybody gets sick,” she says, plotting her future.
Many people will read this and think this girl has had to grow up way too fast. It's a shame her family has fallen apart and can't support her, and that she has a talent she can't pursue further. She's missed out on truly having a childhood, that wonderful time that should be full of dreams and hope, and free of the pressures and responsibilities that come with being an adult.
But others will think it's the story of a tough, resourceful kid who is doing exactly the right thing, and that more young people should be just like her. She's not all starry-eyed about becoming a violinist, a profession where there's probably a-million-to-one odds of being able to make a living. She's not some spoiled kid whose parents will be supporting her for a decade because she's chasing a dream that doesn't pay. She has taken a cold, hard, realistic look at her life and is doing what someone in her situation needs to do to get by, without any pretension that she's "better than that," or that following a calling to make music full-time is somehow her only destiny.
The comments on the article touch on both sides of the argument, and bring up some very interesting points. I find myself somewhat torn between the two views described above. Either way, I think everyone can agree that Tiffany Clay is a very impressive young woman, no matter what she decides to do next.
What do you think?