when we grow up

yesterday at girl scouts, the subject was careers.

BC’s troop sat around several tables while one of the moms graciously volunteered to lead a discussion about opening up young eyes to all the possibilities in the world of work.  each girl made a list of five things they like to do; then each girl made a list of five things they are really great at doing. (often, there was a bit of overlap on the lists.)  then, several moms, including me, spoke about what they wanted to be when they were 10 or 11, followed by the often torturous path our lives took as we attempted to gain meaningful employment (sometimes reflective of our young aspirations) while balancing the rest of our lives.

i think the moms found it more fascinating than the girls did.

each of us, professional women all, had a story. and every story was a winding road. one told of a father who wanted her educated but assumed that a man would take care of her. she ended up going back to school in her 40s as a mother of two children and becoming a nurse.  another told of her lack of direction — though she knew that she loved language and travel — but thanks to the encouragement of some pivotal college professors discovered opportunities she would have otherwise missed, the fork in the road that made all the difference.  and of course, my life has been the ultimate case of the longest path to the most central aspect of my being: i have always loved writing, but when told it would be better as a hobby and not a profession, i avoided it for nearly 40 years before accepting it as a calling.

and yes, i remembered what i wanted to be when i was 11. i wanted to be a writer. or the president of the united states. or a rock star.

anyway, i was astonished at how far we women have come. we moms speak of times when we could not apply, much less hold, certain positions. in my feminist studies at college, i thought that sort of thing was reserved for my mother’s generation and earlier. however, i know full well — at least at the early part of my career — how differently women were still treated. i still sting knowing that with the same masters degree that my BS possesses, i had to take a typing test. i do not believe he had to do the same, though i could be mistaken.

and there is this wonderful ignorance these girls maintain. they don’t know of a world where girls are barred from little league. they haven’t heard about women not running companies, or women not holding positions as government leaders, or women not emerging as leaders in science. it is all assumed. it is as it should be. in fact, the only position the girls could muster when asked if there are any jobs left that women cannot hold was as an NFL player. (i whispered sperm donor to another mom as another entry into that competition.)

the girls went around the room, sharing their ideas for their future professions. there were several cartoonists, an FBI agent, some writers, a psychologist, an oceanographer. my girl announced she would like to be a physical therapist. i’m so glad my history of injuries has been the big influence on my daughter’s career choice. still, i give her props. it combines her interest in medicine with her desire to help people.

in this failing economic climate, it is hard to think about these dreams, wishes that are light-years from materialization. still, i fervently hope that my girl’s dream — and her friends’ dreams — are not hampered by the state of the world.

perhaps in time, i pray that the dreams of our children may buoy our planet into a safe harbor.

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