INSPIRATIONAL MENTORS: MY MUM THE DANCE TEACHER

I discovered my passions a little later than high school, and if not for the ongoing support of my parents, I would never have achieved my goals. I’ve always found it challenging to follow one career path.

Towards the end of high school I decided I would apply for an arts degree at university. I lacked proper direction but knew I was passionate about media. I envisaged that tertiary education would allow me to carve out a career for myself and by the end of three years I’d have prospects and clear goals.

Instead I finished uni with no job offers, average grades and a degree full of so many subjects it was a case of ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none’. As a 21-year-old, the best way to deal with this was to do what any new graduate would do to keep sane: leave the country and travel.

Once I had time to relax and unwind, I knew that writing was a career path I wanted to follow. It’s been a long journey, with equal amounts rejection and success. Mum always encouraged me to continue and I lost count of how many of my articles and pitches I made her read. She was always interested and engaged, even when the subject was the latest nobody who was playing at the local pub. Her enthusiasm and approval were important to me because she was a strong role model – someone who migrated to Australia from Germany as a child, was forced to learn a new language and had to begin life again.

Somewhere between finishing a writing course and working transient jobs, I discovered my passion for electronic music production and DJing. I already had a career in writing and editing but felt unfulfilled – there was a niggling sensation that something was missing. I knew I had to explore music as a potential career avenue.

Mum went back to study dance teaching at age 42 – an unenviable feat considering both her parents had just been admitted to a residential care home.

Returning to dance at this time was undoubtedly difficult, as a considerable amount of time had passed since she was engaged with that world. She left behind a promising career as a ballerina in the ’70s in Berlin, when at age 21 she met a rather adventurous young German man (my father) who convinced her to go to Australia.

Opportunities as a dancer in Australia were limited compared to those in Germany, so Mum found other avenues of employment.

After taking a number of recreational ballet classes as an adult, and feeling somewhat dissatisfied with the method of teaching, she had a moment of “I could do that too” and so began a career change.

Whenever my belief wavered, she told me this story – told me that I was never too old to change my career.

Despite my parents’ encouragement, initially they weren’t ecstatic when I announced my intention to be a DJ and electronic music producer, mostly because of the stigma associated with musicians – that they were addled with drug and alcohol problems and remained on the dole.

After my parents saw how dedicated I was and my willingness to forgo social engagements in order to spend long nights in front of the computer writing music, they realised this passion wasn’t a phase.

Eventually I moved to Sydney to study film music composition in my early 30s. The application process was tedious, and further complicated by the fact I was living in Berlin at the time. My parents took on roles as my administrative assistants, helping me communicate with the music college when I was in a completely different time zone. Their help was invaluable.

Finding a job while studying full-time also proved difficult – the financial assistance from my parents allowed me to finish my studies without worrying about the pressures of obtaining work.

Although my career change was stressful, my parents’ financial and emotional support, alongside their philosophy that happiness was more important than anything else, encouraged me to chase my dreams.

First published on Living Well Navigator 27 April 2015

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