I decided a number of years ago that regrets hold you back. You keep living in the I wish I had world instead of taking the future by storm.

I do have two regrets though. The first is that I did not take the opportunity to become a helicopter pilot.

We landed in Montreal in 1968. My parents had been here for a year laying the groundwork for us to emigrate to this country. We had not seen either of them for about two years. We were looked after in England by old friends of the family, Abbas and Shomeis Afnan.  I have had discussions with Fetneh about this time period. We were all in a bit of a daze. In between and betwixt as it were. Living in a strange land waiting for the future to unfold. Go to Canada. I had no idea where that was or what I could expect. My aunt who lived in Iran thought we were moving to the end of the world.

I finished High School here and was floundering around wondering what to do with my future. We had no counselling to speak of. I had no idea counselling was available for this sort of stuff through the school, and would probably not have taken advantage of it anyways. Someone suggested I get a helicopter pilots license. Sounded very sexy. I did not know anyone who was doing that. We were all encouraged to become doctors, lawyers, or accountants.  I looked into it very briefly. What stopped me cold at the ripe age of 17 or 18 was the $10,000 required to get the the license. That seemed like a small fortune to me.

Our attitude toward money is very different than the one prevalent in North America. Money is a means to an end here. I saw that amount of money as equivalent to the Queen’s fortune. I was also tole that amount was not as bad as I thought it was. I could repay it within a year by becoming a bush pilot. The serious issue with this proposition was that I had no diea what a bush pilot was and what it entailed.

The regret is not so much that I did not get the license, but I lacked the gumption to go after it. I lacked the aggression, foresight and will to do something that extravagant and let myself be defeated. The action of going after it would have, I think led to a major changes in my attitude toward life as a whole. The getting of the lecinse itself is secondary.

The second regret. My parents were very big on me becoming a doctor or an accountant. I got of science in university really quickly. So an accountant it was to be. The only class I have ever fallen asleep in was accounting. I kept floundering. This was not very pleasant. I was defeated and lacked the tools to see my way out of things.

I failed at the time to recognize my artistic side. This was hardly surprising. I was graded last in my art class in England. I just did not understand what was expected and what I could accomplish. Fetneh is very artistic. She had great talent. But the skill was frowned upon by the parental units. She was sent to secretarial school. She is now an esthetician. I am guessing her artistic side is getting a bit of work by her making people look beautiful. I wish I could convince her to start again. It would help her relax and certainly express herself more fully.

Malcolm Gladwell, in one of his books, says that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something to the point of making it look easy. I have that under my belt where computers are concerned. I am running out of time to accomplish that in creating art. I may have those hours where photography is concerned. But not in creating any other sort of art.

I have struggled with the concept of art. What is art? Would I recognize a great artist if I saw one? What is great art? I finally decided that I would just buy the stuff I like whatever it happens to look like. I would not be concerned about the critics and pundits. Just follow my own instincts.

I never dared broach the subject of becoming an artist with my parents or anyone else for that matter. It was such a foreign concept to me. Yet, I hung out with the fine art students at Concordia struggling valiently to understand what it was they trying to express through their works.

I started taking picture many years ago. It was a fitful start. Could not make black and white pictures work. They were dull lacking emotion, passion or anything that would have made them appealing. Never considered taking a course or anything.  That was also a foreign concept. Not practical. I was to become an accountant. Accountants do not take pictures.  They are supposed to be dull and boring people.

You may recall that I took the art therapy class after my operation. All my friends were terribly excited. I was revealing a side of me that had been hidden. You can take pictures and paint? What a combination. Daryl bought me a water coloring kit encouraging me to continue with the hobby. We cleared a table in the kitchen and made it the art table. Bought all sorts of supplies.

40 years of suppression took its toll. Not one piece of work came out of it. I find myself sometimes, specially of late with an idea attempting to burst out of me flamboyantly displaying itself on a piece of paper. It flounders and dies. The years of suppression have taken its toll. I am almost scared to even attempt to put brush to paper. I curse Malcolm Gladwell. I wish I did not know about the 10,000 hours. It is red herring. He is hardly to blame.

I wonder how much similar damage we inflict on our children. It is all inadvertent. We do not mean to do this. We are protecting our children from the inevitable downfall when they fail to make it as an artist. Surely that is a good thing. Here we are giving them a failing grade before they have even attempted anything. We site statistics on the low number of successful compared to the number who enter the field. We fail to see that the numbers are the same regardless of which field you enter. How many truly successful lawyers do you know? There are so many. Most live very well doing the mundane stuff that is required of a lawyer. Close the house deal.  Set up a business agreement. all done daily for the thousandth time. Sounds great. This is not a criticism of any profession. Just to point out that the number of truly successful practitioners of any profession pales in comparison to the numbers who enter the field.

We do our best as parents to shield our children from life’s little foibles. Damned if we do and damed if we don’t.

16 Responses to “Expectations, suppression, and regrets”

  1. Good news Farokh. Your art is staring you in the face. It is your writing combined with your photos of the day. Keep going.



  2. Ohhhh I have a regret. It's an on-going one and it's also about lack of gumption. Not in becoming a helicopter pilot but in becoming a "professional" (as in "what I do for a living") artist. I lack aggression, foresight (that's a big one), and the will to do something big (not accept defeat, keep going, keep going). What does that tell me about myself? What makes it worse, is that I have had copious amounts of support from my parents and my sisters. My lack of gumption certainly isn't about lack of support – it can't be anyone else's fault but my own. It's a personality flaw that I have no idea how to change (correction – I have the idea, I have not the will). A year ago September I lost a friend just like that. Completely unexpectedly. I told myself lesson learned, no dicking around, there's no time. A year has gone by and I am not ahead I am just somewhere else. Even after a lesson as big as that. I have read that book too, that Gladwell one, and I hate that I did. Why can't I just do the 10,000.00 hours and stop whining??

  3. having been a dancer since i was sixteen, i got my 10,000 hours in pretty early, and i can say that i could almost pinpoint when that happened, when suddenly what i had been doing with a great deal of effort became easy and natural. but what i know about art is that it is exploration, discovery, curiousity and not an expression of 'creativity'. that seems to be an idea that non-artists have. every aspect of life can be (and for people with the right mindset is) creative – asking questions, figuring things out in the way kids do. that's why i love being an artist, can't imagine being anything else, it is like eternally being a kid. ironically, the real reason i wanted to be an artist (when i was sixteen) is i was really messy, and artists could have messy spaces, and artists could have lots of lovers – i didn't want to choose just one. those were my barely conscious but if i'm 100% honest, real reasons for being a dancer and not a professor, which would have made my parents happier.

  4. I once read somewhere that it takes 30 days to change a habit. There was something in it about trying to teach yourself to cross your arms the other way round–just do it the opposite way every day for 30 days. Job done. I don't know if it was the number of times or doing it over that length of time or what that was the magic key to help you change, or break, a habit.

    But it makes me wonder…if every time you felt 'suppressed' you took a step back and said to yourself, 'Let go of the suppression. Let go of any expectations of what I'm about to do, and instead, just do it', how long would it take until you didn't feel so suppressed anymore? This wouldn't take 10,000 hours, I'm sure, nor make you an expert in whatever it was you were attempting. But it might help to make a start, sans suppression. You're not trying to become an expert in it, just trying to break that habitual mindset.

  5. You can teach an old dog. For my Fortieth birthday, my wife decided not to get me golf clubs, a dribble bib, or a recliner. She bought me a shiny black Fender Telecaster. I had always loved guitar and dreamed of playing. I had played for a few months at the age of 13 and again briefly at the age of 22. So, at forty I started clunking out the chords and gathering speed. I started taking lessons (a big breakthrough) at 8:30 am on Saturdays. I have zero musical theory and relatively low fine-motor coordination

    Flash forward a dozen years and 10,000 hours of practice later. I play guitar and harmonica is a classic rock band called Plan B in Westchester New York. Stones, Doors, Clapton, Santana, Hendrix, Dire Straits, Allman Brothers, etc. We practice every Saturday afternoon (I still take my 830 am lessons) . We play gigs in bars, street concerts, parks, at charity events. Even in the assessment of my daughters, now 20 and 23, we don't suck. This past Spring, we went into the studio to record 18 songs one very long weekend. And last year I helped start a guitar school for kids who couldn't afford lessons. (Cut to shiny smiling faces plunking out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) . . . .

    Lessons learned :

    1. Find something you love, even if you start out lousy at it.
    2. Find a teacher who can encourage you, not judge you
    3. Surround yourself with other enthusiasts of similar skill level
    4. Keep showing up. Relentlessly, no excuses. Put in your 10,000
    5. Pass the torch.

    • If only one realizes that the suppression or discouragement is starting at a young age. Becoming an artist was very frowned upon. My mother’s sister is an amazing artist showing amazing promise. She quit for quite a few years, to raise children and other stuff. That did not help the cause, such as it was.

      I am ecstatic that you are playing as much as you are. We have all heard and been impressed by your prowess with the harmonica. You bring that instrument to life. Cannot even begin to imagine what you would do with a Fender.

      Thanks for the encouragement and sage advice.

  6. Regrets. I have a few! I really wanted to be a teacher, became a banker and now I spend every week teaching children ages 5-13. We make decisions based on so many wrong reasons.
    In one of the classes we were adding illustrations to a prayer, so it could ease the memorization. We each had a word/image and mine was to draw an island. I thought to myself "o my! I am so bad at drawing". But I had to try while suppressing the internal moans and groans. When I was finished, one of the 8 yr old said, 'that is a really nice Island'. It made me think that the beauty of the art is the appreciation for the creator not so much for the creation. It is looking at something through their eyes. Much like the pictures you have taken. Some of them I really like because I see it through your eyes, reflecting the person you are. The sensitivity, humor, ironical, appreciative, etc…of your character!
    Keep writing and taking pictures.

  7. Ahhh, yes regrets. We all have a few. What would our lives be like without them?? They are there for a reason, simply to remember what we did wrongm to make things right or to avoid repetition altogether and maybe to even teach the ones we love about our failed experiences.

    'Just follow my own instincts'….art is beauty in the eye of the beholder….

  8. I have to observe with Anne that your writing is staring you in the face—it is a gift. You think of it as something like breathing, no effort. You can't see what all of your faithful readers do. Congratulations, you are officially an artist. And you have been writing well over 10,000 hours, for what that may be worth. (I actually ran into Malcolm Gladwell eating at the communal table at Oddfellows a few days ago. Ironically he was eating by himself.)

    When I chose my major a the University of Delaware I had no idea the odds were against me. I am certain I would have taken a pass had I known the number of grads who would go on to have the few good jobs was a tiny fraction. Now as Lily considers gaming animation I could be fearful of the same odds (maybe worse). Ok, I AM fearful. Thanks for this perspective at exactly the moment I need to offer full support of her dream.

  9. Like Brian, I wanted to play guitar. And like Brian, I started taking lessons. I think I still owe about 9,000 towards my 10,000, but Brian's post has given me fresh hope that I'll eventually get there.

  10. Well Farokh, This post got a lot of comments. Definitely it hit people right between the ears. I have never had a passion. When I see people with these great passions that draw them to do extraordinary things, I wondered why I didn't have one. In the end, I have become thankful that I don't because I don't drive myself or the people around me a little crazy trying to fullfil that passion. I guess you can't have it both ways so I am very happy to be who I am, doing what I do, having friends and family, etc. So I will never achieve great things but I can still enjoy the beauty around me of people and places. I think that you definitely enjoy all that beauty and hopefully that will be enough. I definitely agree that you have a wonderful gift for writing and chatting. Hugs, Sue

  11. Farokh,
    You are a fabulous writer. You have always been so grounded and so aware of what is and isn't said…what is and isn't seen….and you have the courage to write it and to say it!!! You liberate. As I said to Janet today, having you and Bun at the shoots along with her and Nancy made an otherwise obligatory situation become a fabulous "As it Happens" talk show!
    You have always been an artist. Pick up that paintbrush again. Who cares about 10,000 hours – that's what Gladwell says – it's a nice sound bite for an article. That's all it is.
    xo Jane

  12. Farokh,

    I have been thinking about you and Janet a lot, and reading your posts. Again, I am amazed and inspired by your strength.

    Quite late in his life, I asked my grandfather if he had any regrets. His wonderful response was 'No… what's the point'. I've tried to take that with me.

    I agree with Anne's post at the top of this thread. Your writing is your art, and it's pretty magnificent. I don't buy into Gladwell's thing about 10,000 hours as the law, because there are some things you just cannot master no matter how many hours you put into them (piano taught me that. I love playing, but after all these years I stilI stink). But having a writer's voice that is yours, and that you can express with eloquence and meaning and feeling… that can't be taught – that's a gift. Thanks so much for sharing yours.


    • The 10,000 hours is interesting. We seem to need to quantify everything. Devin was sent to the Warldorf school. report cards speak of progress, but nary a grade in there. It took a while to adjust to that. He is doing well, is that an A well or a B well? Quantify, quantify, quantify.

      You are not an expert until you reach the 10,000 hours. I started writing this blog when we gor out of hospital, around the middle of September 2009. The compliments on the writing style started pouring in almost immediately. I was humbled and surprised to say the least. I have never done anything like this before. Me, a writer, surely not. Yet, here we are still hearing what amazing story telling telling qualities I have. Compliments about my writing coming from a story teller such as yourself are even more valued.

      Regrets are interesting. We came to Canada n 1968. Culture shock does not begin to describe what was going on inside of us. We did not have the tools to describe what we were going through, or deal with it in any way. We shut down oblivious to the amazing possibilities that the country offered. The regret is not so much in not becoming an artist, but failing to realize that we have other possibilities in front of us than becoming a doctor or accountant. I would love to have no regrets whatsoever, but that ain't happening anytime soon. To make matters worse, Janet has encouraged me repeatedly to chuck everything and explore the artistic side. She saw through it so clearly. I missed a second opportunity. That is a regret I have to live with.

      Thanks for the comment.

  13. Faroukh joonam,
    I love reading your writings and the more I get to know you the more I love you.
    I look forward to our chats in the Abha kingdom.

    • My Dearest Taravat,

      You are way too fixated on the Abha Kingdom. You have a long and fruitful life remaining on the beautiful earth. Why the fixation with the after life?

      Live and concentrate on what you can accomplish here. The Kingdom will wait. You seem to live in anticipation of something that you cannot control, and nor should you be able to control. I have been given some sort of schedule that says I have little time left. You on the other hand have the luxury of giving more to those around you.

      Live. Live a full life. Leave the Kingdom alone. Release your worries and concerns. Meditate on this life. Meditate on what more you can accomplish. All the goodness in your heart has to go somewhere. What a pity to waste on the after life.

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