I imagine that when your family runs a business there’s probably as much a pull to blaze your own trail as there is to join the operation and protect the legacy. I always kind of thought of “joining the family business” as sort of a cop-out. Not that I have a family business per say that I could ponder joining. But, when I’d heard of people joining their respective family businesses instead of pursuing their passion, I judged. They couldn’t make it on their own, I would think. They tried and failed. But I am not sure I think that anymore. As Dan Savage said about stereotypes, sometimes these things wait you out, and before you know it, you’re a blacksmith.
Back in the day, people with last names like Silversmith or Shoemaker were silversmiths or shoemakers. Their very identity was tied to what they did for a living. And, today, we ask people what they do as one of our first inquiries as we get to know them. We are [delusional] [confident] [spoiled] enough to believe that should be passionate about our careers. Thus they say a lot about the types of people we are. But because of hubris or rebellion or preference, or innumerable other reasons, we don’t always consider joining the family business as a professional goal. Rather it’s a fallback.
I never really thought of the family business as a time-honored family tradition.
Then, I heard an interview this weekend with Niki Russ Federman, fourth generation Russ, of Russ & Daughters. She waited out her legacy, trying all sorts of things: healthcare marketing, artist, yoga instruction. Then she felt the pull. It wasn’t because those other things didn’t work out. It’s because she was proud of her heritage and felt so keenly the importance of the institution her family established in the lives of people all over the city and beyond. From what I understand, to her, it was about roots and comfort and “someone’s gotta taste all that caviar.” I also learned from the Russ & Daughters website that Niki’s father didn’t immediately join the family business either. He started his career as a trial lawyer before he left “Lex for lox.” (Love that!)
So, as I contemplate the life I want to live, I find myself inexplicably, or obviously, drawn to the career my mother chose for herself. My mother owns a dance-fitness franchise, as she would say. Since 1989, she’s been a Jazzercise instructor. She’s a business owner. She dances for a living. She gets people moving and motivates them.
I was never into fitness as a kid. I had an oddly-shaped body and I felt uncomfortable getting my body moving. Over the years, however, it’s become a passion of mine. While it would be really something to become a Jazzercise instructor and join my mother’s team, it’s not really practical. I live more than 30 miles away from her facility. But, perhaps there’s another fitness opportunity out there for me, as I design my life moving forward.