Giving up Hollywood for your parents…REALLY???


by Kenneth Justice

~ “I left Hollywood and the hope of furthering my career as an actor to come back home for my parents” he said.

One of my really close coffee house friends works in the entertainment business. Throughout most of the 19990’s he was an actor working in Hollywood and got parts in more than a dozen major films. He knows the people you and I watch in the movies on a first-name basis…..he knows a lot of them. Some of the films he starred in were big-budget films and the movie studios paid to fly him to various parts of South America, Europe, and across the United States.

At one of the local theaters near my house there is a 20-foot mural of my friend…..and around certain parts he’s a larger-than-life person…..but he’s very humble. In fact, for the first year or so that we had coffee together I didn’t even know who he was. We would talk about life, love, music we enjoy, and all the other stuff that people talk about at coffee………

And then one day he said something that made me realize I didn’t really know what he did for a living…….

But it’s not all the musicians, rock stars, and A-list Hollywood actresses and actors that my friend knows which impresses me the most; it’s that he gave it all up for his parents.

The reason I moved back to Detroit is that my parents are very elderly…..they need me to take care of them. I actually still own a house back in Hollywood but I haven’t been there in years….and I may never make it back at this point” he said

For many of us, giving up our dreams in order to move back in with our elderly parents seems like a big mistake. “Why not just hire a live-in nurse to take care of them” many of us might ask. For my friend, there never was a question of ‘if’ he would move back home… was a given; of course he would do it. My friend’s concept of family is that you take care of your loved ones and don’t hire other people to take do what you can do.

To be honest, I don’t really know what I think about the whole situation. On the one hand I admire the love and devotion this son has for his parents…..yet on the other hand I wonder how many parents would really want their children to sacrifice their dreams simply to come home and take care of them; I’m sure many parents might tell their adult children to not worry, “go pursue your dreams“.

Sometimes I wonder if perhaps we in the Western World put too much stock and emphasis on ‘pursuing our dreams’. What does that really mean anyways? Have you ever noticed how many high school athletes have dreams of getting a college scholarship to play a particular sport and how many young adults have dreams of making it to the big time and playing professional soccer, football, basketball, or fill-in-the-blank?

—-) In one study 59% of high school athletes said they believed they would get a college scholarship via their sport; yet the reality is that 98 out of 100 high school athletes never play college sports.

—-) Even more disproportionate is the number of high school athletes that will actually make it to playing professional sports; only 1 in 16,000!

Numerous psychological studies have been released in the past couple years that have been finding the disproportionate number of young adults who have unrealistic goals and ideas of the world. More than ever, young adults are growing up with their head in the clouds and this has led many sociologists to labeling this era of young people as “Generation Me“.

While I’m sure every generation throughout history has struggled with certain elements of narcissism and too much focus on self; I wonder if their is truth in the idiom that young adults today are simply not living in the reality of the world; perhaps they are too focused on dreams, too focused on unrealistic fantasies, and too focused on impossible to meet expectations. I’m not sure what I think on the topic….but I’m still reading.

For my coffee house friend; he had actually already arrived to one of his dreams; he’d made the right connections and starred in numerous Hollywood films…..yet he still gave it up for his parents. Although, perhaps that is what made it easier for him; he had already accomplished a minor part of his goal so he isn’t left wondering ‘if he could do it’….because he knows that, even if in a small way ‘he did it’.

Spending my time in Costa Rica this past month gave me a lot of time to think about dreams and goals. It was my fourth trip to Central America and for many years it was a dream of mine to live there one day…….and while I would still love to spend more time there; I’m starting to wonder if I’ve spent too much time dreaming about ‘what could be’…..and not enough time simply living in the here-and-now.

Just a few thoughts this morning as I sip my morning coffee,


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Categories: Culture & Society

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55 replies

  1. Nice one Kenneth. The civilization of desire is only created in order to provide customers to the reality of consumerism. Of course in the arena like situation, all get in and only few get out. They all pay the price even the so called winners….

  2. Maybe too focused on hollow dreams, those that rely on luck or appearances to achieve, so not much real achievement in them. Maybe too unfocused on the work it takes to achieve a dream. We have one child who sat back and waited for the world to come and offer her a living, with predictable results. We also have one who worked his behind off and has achieved more at a far younger age that all the rest. It was HIS dream and he did the work to achieve it. We also have two with lives more like ours…pretty average, not having too much but happy with what we have. That takes work, too, even when the dreams are lesser in the eyes of the world.

  3. such great points you raise – like the stats too -and kudos to this guy for his love and devotion to his family (and I like the angles you note on that choice). 🙂

  4. <>
    Yeah it might, Kenneth then I see a mom not contented that a son went far away to pursue a dream. It depends…We chase goals and perhaps between we sacrifice something more precious than a purpose.

    • That’s sad. Our son is in another continent entirely, and we are happy for him to be there because not only did going allow him to be who he wanted to be professionally, he is even more comfortable living in the culture there than he was in the US.. We spend everything we can save going to see him and his beloved, and they come to us whenever they can. If we can learn to simply be in loving wonderment for who our children are, it all seems to work out pretty well.

    • Right that’s a happy situation, I’m glad to hear that. Where are other barriers than visiting, things get complicated. She doesn’t speak english and she cannot cherish her grandkids as they do not know romanian language. She isn’t unhappy or ever complaining about her son’s decision though it’s pretty tough I may say.

    • Hmmmm, I’m really sorry about that. But it isn’t insurmountable. Our soon-to-be daughter-in-law is French and her family speaks only Chinese. At nearly 60 and 70, we are learning French for her sake. Our son is learning Chinese for her family. Money makes things tough, but one can always learn.

  5. “perhaps they are too focused on dreams”

    You give me food for thought…I think I’ll ponder this while I work today.

  6. Those kids could benefit from less specific dreams. For example, “I want to play football when I grow up” is a lot different than “I want to be a professional football player when I grow up.” There are plenty of adult sports teams that would allow anyone to keep that joy in their adulthood. Then again, we’re always pressuring young adults to decided what they want to be as if that will define the rest of their lives. I saw something on Facebook the other day that said “we ask people to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives when, a few months ago, they had to ask permission to use the restroom.”

    On the further topic of parents, I think it may depend on who they are as people. I’m always supportive of family. Family is one of the most important aspects of life, if you ask me. That said, if my parents were they type who always put me down, made me feel like crap and always put me down, I’d pay someone else to take care of them. I don’t need to put up with that.

    My parents have said that, if it wasn’t for them living so close by, my grandparents would have ended up in a nursing home. Throughout my childhood, we always picked them up for church on Sunday and went over to eat dinner with them on Wednesday. If anything happens, my parents can be there in 5 minutes. At the end of the day, it depends what you want for your parents. I bet my grandparents would have passed away a long time ago if they lost their independence and were left in a home.

    • TK,

      You are SO right, a lot of it comes down to the ‘kind’ of parents we each have. If our parents are overbearing arse’s than it would make it a lot tougher to go out of our way for them…. but if our parents have always been there for us, loved us, helped, us… then setting aside our own agenda for them might make it a lot easier.

  7. it’s all in the individuals values… if it is important to be part of a family and support parents or in-laws that is what you do. I have a deep value of family and because of that everything comes second to those values… I only work part time so that I can be home for my 5 year old and help with my older sons child.I send time helping out my 77 year old mother in law every week.I also try to support my own mother who is 1500 miles away when I can but the rest of my family has the same values as I do and they care for my mother who is 84. I never thought that after college I would become a stay home mom to my two sons and I never thought I would be driving around a widowed 77 year old.. but in our house it is the most important job, then dreams and salary come into play… I guess some people just have to think about it more.. to some of us it just comes naturally.

  8. Unrealistic goals are not a bad thing if you want to challenge yourself. Along the way you might find things that never would have been found in the first place.

    It is just that we should not just say me me and I , I . and be selfish. Our goal should be that of a greater good. But that makes me an optimist and dreamer.

    Having a cup as well. cheers.

  9. You are doing VERY IMPORTANT WORK!!!!!

  10. Most “American Dreams” involve seeking wealth and material things. As a friend of mine says, “It’s all firewood” referring to the ultimate end of the world in a cataclysmic fervent heat. It has been my experience that the more I focus on people and their needs, the more satisfaction I experience, hence your subject in this blog. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Family is important, but you can spend a great deal of your life living through and for them. As one gets older, one realizes it is what you do every day that is really important. Time is the most important resource any person has and it can never be recaptured.

  12. Don’t be selfish and don’t forget that someone gave us the opportunities and the dreams we live in. What goes around comes around. I gave up a lot for my parents, but life comes with sacrifices and we make choices.
    Blessing for the family of your guy.

  13. “because he knows that, even if in a small way ‘he did it’.”

    Think that may be very relevant. And still very selfless.

  14. “Sometimes I wonder if perhaps we in the Western World put too much stock and emphasis on ‘pursuing our dreams’. What does that really mean anyways?”

    I think that some dreams can be a distraction from the real people we know who need our help.

    People like that man who wanted to take care of his parents are the true heroes. I respect people like him for things they do that matter.

    I am not against movies but I think they often give young people an unrealistic idea of how the world works.

  15. Sipping my coffee reading you sipping your coffee. Good morning. 🙂

  16. Excellent post. 😀 There is such an emphasis on dreams right now – I try to boost people in that direction – I think where we may be failing the young people of today is to show them that our dreams can come from what we are doing – life can change in an instant. We have to learn to follow our dreams within our now – like you said. Like the character George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life…….

  17. We as humans always think the grass is greener on the other side; and someone else is thinking the same about our lives as well. In reference to your friend, I believe there is much to his story than he feels comfortable sharing, but at least he got to experience things many people have not and will not ever accomplish:))

  18. Another great introspective article. I admire your friend for making his decision. Sometimes what we see as our dreams may not really be the final dream. As we encounter life and interact with people, we may change our dreams/goals based on these experiences. Our priorities change. This may lead us to another set of goals, another dream that may bring more meaningfulness to our lives.

  19. I see the goals issue a lot, and I get frustrated by it. As a teacher, I’m supposed to support students and help them achieve their dreams. If I think those dreams are unrealistic, I’m the bad guy if I try to convey that they may want a backup plan. If I support them and go along with it, then I’m just “puffing them up” and setting them up for a fall. I suppose this is a reflection of society as well – go for it! on one hand and watch out! on the other. Where to find that golden balance?

    • Yea, I don’t envy you being a teacher AT ALL! Too many young adults of today have entirely unrealistic expectations for their life. Did you see that article that went viral a month or so ago about generation me? It was so funny; I remember a line it had something to do with young adults telling themselves “I am not special” in order to get them back down to reality lol

    • I’ll say something similar when they feel they have to be on their phone the entire day. “Unless you’re a mommy, a daddy, or a doctor, you don’t need to be contacted all the time. You’re not that important. Look, I am a mom, and my phone is off.”

    • Lol right on……for the past few months I’ve been turning my phone off on the weekends just so I can be with my family and/or friends and not be disturbed…..

  20. “I’m starting to wonder if I’ve spent too much time dreaming about ‘what could be’…..and not enough time simply living in the here-and-now.”
    Good on you Kenneth. We really need to recognize that the ‘hear and now’ is all we can be sure of. To not live it to it’s maximum would be a pity (funny word, don’t you think? I used it for lack of a better one). Not to say that we should never plan for the future. To not do so would be unwise too.
    I think the whole idea about shooting for one’s dreams could very well be a post-industrial/post-modern ideology. Like you said, every generation has probably struggled with some form of narcissism and the youth of today may have highly unrealistic views of reality and the world, however I can’t help but think about the way people must have lived before the industrial revolution. I remember when I was in my early 30s (ok, I’m 40 – not that old. So then, early 30s wasn’t too far off :-), I was talking with a friend of mine about how I couldn’t stand this whole mind-set of women (specifically home-makers) not being able to ‘choose’ what they would like to do in life. I had real issues, thinking that that type of mind-set was sexist and unfair (grew up in Canada. What can I say?). I said that it was totally wrong – the whole issue of a woman not getting to pursue her ‘dream’ and the man getting to do whatever he wanted. My friend then looked at me and said, “Not always”. That comment made me think of the ‘non-western’ world. How a lot of men are just struggling to provide for their families. How so many men are just taking over the family trade. How work and life and existence depended on fulfilling human needs – food, shelter, clothing. And maybe that’s why there seems to be so much more respect for parents and family in these cultures and realities.
    I think the whole idea about your friend returning to take care of his parents shows where his values lie. He values family and relationship above personal success. I truly admire that.
    Just my thoughts on the matter.
    Blessings =)

    • Staci, wow so many good points;

      1) “I think the whole idea about shooting for one’s dreams could very well be a post-industrial/post-modern ideology”

      Right on! I hadn’t thought through it that deeply but there is a lot there that could be explored

      2) “My friend then looked at me and said, “Not always”. That comment made me think of the ‘non-western’ world. How a lot of men are just struggling to provide for their families. How so many men are just taking over the family trade”

      Wow, now that’s a really interesting point and what that I rarely ever discussed or considered. I consider myself pretty liberal when it comes to women’s rights as I too believe women should be able to pursue whatever they want to pursue in life…… but what a great perspective that perhaps this is more of a Western phenomena where we think only ‘men’ get to do what they want, because as you’ve pointed out…. men outside of the Western World often DON”T have a choice; they are locked into a lifestyle that they simply have to do, whether they like it or not.

    • Yeah, I too believe that women should be able to pursue whatever they want in life. Unfortunately though, many women would love to be more present in their children’s lives, but are unable to in western culture because of a number of different factors – high taxes, bills to pay, expectations of others, need for social status, etc.

  21. “Generation Me” I think words it nicely. You brought up a lot of great points in this post. Some of it I’ve talked about with a friend not too long ago and I’d say we both probably agree with you here.

    You’re friend sounds like a good person though. I think dreams are just that, dreams. Unless you put them into action and make a “dream” your reality by accomplishing goals. And sometimes living life to the utmost sometimes means doing “what’s right”. To me your friend seems driven but grounded and did not lose sight of what was important to them. There’s a balance between working towards your dream and actual being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. At times we work so hard for what we want in life we forget why were even doing it in the first place. It really comes down to experiences and connections. The ones you miss and the ones you nourish.

  22. This is a great answer to the perennial question “How’s that working out for you?”

    Your friend answered “Well, it’s not really.” And decided to seek success defined by his own terms.

    That’s called “freedom”. And it’s wonderful.

  23. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself. You can avoid other people, but you can’t avoid yourself. So you need to be able to look yourself in the eye and say, YES – I have done what is right, and I can respect myself. Your friend couldn’t have done that if he had stayed in Hollywood. I’m in a similar situation – had to drop everything at home to move back in with my aged mother, and leave family and friends behind, in a different country. But there has never been any question about whether I should or shouldn’t: I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t. Not always easy, but certainly the right and proper decisions. Maybe I have a post bubbling up on this!! 😀 I like your reflections.

  24. Some very good points in there. The celebrity industries- music, film, sports- seem unhealthy to me from all dimensions so I can’t see that your friend was giving much up by leaving it behind. But good for hi. That he did and is self-aware enough not to talk about it!

  25. Watching my mom set her own dreams aside to care for my dad for ten years after he suffered a debilitating stroke at age 54 was one of the greatest privileges of my life. Her example of devotion and sacrifice is a legacy to me and my children and stands in brilliant contrast to what the world says matters. I am grateful and only hope I can love like her….

  26. I find it significant that so many are beginning to wake up to the reality that it is too easy to ‘prepare & live for the future’ & miss the opportunity to also live & enjoy life now.

    Another thought provoking post.

  27. Greetings Kenneth–a very interesting topic to be sure. No surprise that I have some thoughts on this. I agree that this generation is living in the uncertain and unreal world that exists. It is a time of entitlement–that I should be able to do whatever I want whenever I want and to some extent I see things that way too. Was it Carl Sandburg who said “Nothing happens unless first a dream”? Dreaming is part of living but to spend all of my time in a dream state is to waste the best part of seeing a new day. Another quote of Sandburg I really like is about happiness. People work far too hard at trying to be happy. It is not something we can create as much as it is something that happens around us–” the secret of happiness is to admire without desiring”. Your friend is to be commended for his choice. We would be a far better place if more folks gave up their intense pursuit of what they can’t have. I do not believe that because someone works really hard to achieve what it is they desire that they should acquire it. If you are meant to have it the universe will conspire to make that happen for you. That’s the way I see it anyway, Great article Kenneth–Jim

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