The power of empowerment

I had great parents and I just want to preface this post with that statement because my parents did the best they could with what they knew and what they had. They were loving and caring and I never wanted for anything. Well, almost anything. Material things? Never wanted. Opportunities to see new and fun places? Totally had them. A strong support system who came to every play and music performance I was ever in and more? Yep, I had it. But what was missing was the power to make decisions and choices that were solidly my own without fear of disappointing or letting down my parents.

I remember when I was 10 I wanted to be a heart surgeon. I would watch open heart surgeries on the public broadcasting system and stare in fascination and awe as the surgeon held the human heart in his or her hand. At that point I wanted nothing more than to do just that. I remember running up to my dad and telling him in an excited almost manic voice “Dad! I know what I want to be when I grow up! A heart surgeon!” And I’ll never ever forget his response: “Well that’s good but you have to be really smart to be a heart surgeon.” And right there my dream died. I never thought of myself as particularly smart. I worked hard and got decent grades but smart? No, that was some of the other kids in my class but not me. So I stopped watching PBS and let go of the dream of one day being a heart surgeon. It was just one of the many dreams I let go of because of self doubt and people in my life pointing out my limitations instead of my possibilities.

This happened throughout my life. The biggest let down was choosing college. I worked so so so hard in high school to achieve a decent GPA and do well on the SATs. I did it for me. My parents never pressured me or made it seem like if I came home with a B or C I was a bad student. They embraced my work ethic and were proud of me. I remember telling my dad once that I wanted to go to Cornell and his answer was yet again that I would have to be really smart and get better grades (I had a 3.75 back in the unweighted days) and it would cost way too much money to go. So I gave that up immediately. I ended up getting into every college I applied to, all state schools in NY, Maryland, and Florida.  When it came time to make the decision of where to go, I was basically pushed to go where my parents thought I should go, to the University of Florida, because that’s where they moved the day after I graduated from High School. I went to UF and hated freshman year and felt lost and alone and confused but I stuck it out and it did get better. And it did teach me the art of perseverance for sure but I can’t help but sometimes think about what might have been if I would have gone to my first choice school.

It happened again when I chose my major and was thinking about going to law school. I was an English major and loved it and was really drawn to law classes at the university as well. When I told my parents they basically responded with “lawyers are a dime a dozen, you’ll never pay back your student loans, you’ll compromise your morals and ethics everyday, and how will you have a family if you’re a lawyer.  A little aside here that 5 years after I finished college my dad went back to law school, so there’s that. I then told them that I wanted to get my masters and PhD in English and teach at the university level and write and the response was basically are you crazy, do you know how much that will cost, you’ll never get a job. So they convinced me that occupational or physical therapy were the best careers for a woman who wanted a family so that’s what I should do. I wasn’t particularly good at chemistry and some other sciences that were heavy loaded in the PT curriculum so I decided to get my masters degree in OT. And I never looked back. Until now.

Now my older daughter is going through the daunting task of looking at colleges and choosing career paths and I am convinced of one thing and one thing only: that she pick where she wants to go and knows she can do it one way or another regardless of grades or money. I want her to be happy in her choice after processing all of the information and I want her to know that she can do anything that she puts her mind to and more. And if that means I need to sell a kidney to help her do this then I will. We’ve been looking at colleges this past week and I just want her to soak it all in and know that she has a bright future ahead of her in whatever she wants to do and that she can make things happen for herself. And that at the end of the day, she is the one to make the decisions and choices and deal with whatever comes with it. And guess what? She wants to be a lawyer. The only response I had to her telling me this was “You’ll be one hell of a lawyer or whatever you choose to be”. The end.


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