Jana Orlova

Mom, look, I have a job!

Literārā publicistika Sleja

“Mom, look, I have a job!” aka what to do if no one believes in you.

“Ever felt bad about your choices? Told by your parents or relatives that you should study something you’re not really interested in? Have they told you that you will never find a job? Do you feel social pressure in your daily life? Don’t worry, we have a solution!“

It seems easy to decide what you should study or what career to pursue based on what you’re interested in and passionate about, but is it really so easy to put into practise when society tells you what you ‘should’ be doing instead? What if you start doubting in yourself and your abilities? And worst of all, maybe you start to feel others (family and society) are right and you shouldn’t do what you enjoy, but what is profitable or ‘normal’ for society?

I was a victim of this, but I got out of the situation and followed my passion. My Mum was not happy with my choice of studies (media art). Did I listen to her? No. Call me a mean daughter if you want, but I never really listened to my Mum anyway. And she doesn’t know how to convince people (I would say she doesn’t have “sales ability”), so in my case the problem wasn’t too bad from my mum’s side. However, there was also the time when the biology teacher in 9th grade thought that if I couldn’t name what blood was made of, I’d be unemployed. And in general, I would only find a job if I will study the sciences. Did I listen to her? No, why should I? I can only say one thing: she was wrong. I’ve never been unemployed.

Family, friends or even a teacher in my case are one thing, but what about society? Have you ever been a victim of stereotypes, or on the other hand do you yourself think stereotypically? Recently, when I was editing a video, I was thinking that I didn’t know many women who edit videos on a daily basis. Then I attended a lecture by Dāvis Sīmanis (Latvian film director) and was surprised to learn that there are many Latvian women film editors who have graduated from the Latvian Academy of Culture. My mentor and I were both wondering – how did these women become film editors, and did they face the same challenges?

So I asked some of you to share your stories – what people have told you about your career path, that you still remember till this day? A quite sad but common theme was very critical teachers, giving opinions that traumatised young people and influenced their career choices.

“My own trauma is that I went to a folklore group at school and the folklore teacher told me to keep my mouth shut at the concert, not to sing, because it didn’t sound good. I was about 9 or 10 years old then. Since then, I have ruled out joining a choir. Although actually in my family most of the women sing beautifully and in different choirs or bands. Also, when we sing together, we sound very good. What comforts me now is that I have been singing lullabies to my children every night before bedtime for 7 years and they love my voice – it is the sweetest and most beautiful voice in the world for them.” – T.

“When I was in my early teens, I had decided I wanted to be a film Director. My Mum’s old neighbour was a cameraman and his son a director/producer, so she asked if we could visit him so that I could get some advice on my future career. When I sat down to talk to him, the first thing he did was look at me very sceptically and then said, ‘you know, I’ve only known three female directors in all my years in the film industry’. It was clear he was trying to discourage me as he thought I was unlikely to succeed as a female director. My response at the time was ‘now you know four’, but it did stick with me, and I think the fact that I can remember what he said 20 years later shows that it did have an impact in some way.” – L.

“When I was studying architecture, my dad used to give me “reality kick”, but it was normal, I didn’t think it was bad because he was just wishing me well. I tended to dream big, that I was going to work for world-famous architects and their offices, so I am glad that there was someone who could give me that sense of reality and he has been the biggest support in my career! But the problem I have most often is that the construction industry is very sexist. I have been in situations at work where I am not seriously looked at or listened to because I am a young blonde girl, but that’s another story” – L.

“When I lived in Latvia, I felt like the school was trying to suppress me and teach me by the book and tell me what’s right and what’s wrong. I was not an excellent student, especially in math. There were times when the maths teacher called me an idiot, just because I didn’t understand the question for the first time. She didn’t try to understand why I didn’t understand, didn’t try to explain to me differently so I would understand. She told me that I was a complete loser, and I was going to have a terrible life and I will work as a repairman. I moved to England after 9th grade and I had to retake all my exams and I went through a course that taught exactly the same things I was taught in Latvia, but in England I was seen as… human. That everybody is capable of doing everything, you just need a different approach, and I passed all the exams.

I had another teacher I disliked. She used to discuss and give unnecessary advice, because she didn’t like anything I did or how I spoke. That I am too sociable and that I am socially active. At the 9th grade graduation, she asked me what I was going to do and I told her I was moving to England. She told me that it was a bad idea because I was a little nobody, what was I going to do in such a big country and advised me to continue my studies here because MAYBE (!) she could make me into a person and what a man should be. That was terrible to hear, but of course I didn’t take it seriously.” – K.

“I am a teacher and I have been working in a school for a year and I can say that the experience I had in school and the teachers I had has completely changed because the Soviet-era teaching methods are no longer taught to young teachers. Of course there are some teachers who are elderly who humiliate children. But in the school where I work, there is only one such teacher and if I notice that she is using her drastic teaching methods, I immediately get involved. “ – L.

So what do you do when no one believes you? Believe in yourself.

And here’s an inspiring video.


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