When I Grow Up I Want To Be....
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
When we were little girls our imaginations ran wild with fantasy, fairy tales and imaginary friends. We imagined we were having tea with friends as we played tea party with our dolls. We played dress-up putting on assorted fairy costumes and princess gowns. We dressed up as little brides imagining we were marrying our perfect princes. At some point we began to imagine and fantasize about being a doctor or nurse while playing hospital. Or maybe we imagined being a teacher as we played school. The fantasies began to take shape and became bigger as we imagined what we wanted to be when we grew up. We were asked by our parents' friends "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and they were amused by our responses. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a surgeon. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be a model. I want to be a famous actress. Now in my generation answering these questions with any of these responses were sometimes met with "isn't she cute." Maybe because in the late 1960s early 70s the idea of women being more than a bank teller, secretary or housewife was new and a bit lofty.
This was particularly true being a black female during that time in our society. Your loftier dreams sometimes met with doubt and skepticism. Even though strides were being made during this time and more and more black females, and females period, could go to college and become doctors, lawyers and yes even famous actresses, it was still a struggle achieving the path to success in these careers. We were always made aware of the reality of this happening may be very difficult or next to impossible. So we were sometimes told to plan something a little more realistic or at the very least to have a Plan B.
But some girls can't be told or easily placed in a box. You can't tell some girls that their dreams aren't achievable. Some girls being told "NO" demand to know the reasons why "this can't be." They begin to look out into the world and they do not see themselves represented as doctors in hospitals. Surgeons in surgery. Lawyers in court. And let's not even talk about the District Court Judge. They begin to question why aren't there any women in these prestigious positions and why am I being told I should study to be a teacher but not the professor. Why am I being told to study and work hard to become a loyal employee and not the boss? They want to know why they can't dream the dreams boys get to dream. The boys get to imagine being doctors, lawyers, politicians and Presidents. Not only are they allowed, but they are also encouraged. Encouraged to embrace that feeling of being able to accomplish anything and being anything they wanted to be. They could even imagine flying to the moon and back. WOW!!! How amazing the freedom to dare to dream must feel.
We were born during a time of change. Well those of us born in the late 1960s and early '70s. The momentum of that change took on energy and excitement. For our parents, they began to see their children can have a brighter future and they began to dream not only with us but also for us. This was especially true with their little girls. Fortunately, some of us were told we no longer had to stand in that box. Some of us weren't even told about the box. Some of us when asked "what do you want to be when you grow up" when we responded with a doctor, lawyer, politician, scientist or engineer, no longer were we met with the cynicism or speculation from previous years. Questions no longer about how realistic are these lofty aspirations. No longer were we told we needed to plan to be something smaller and not bigger. No! Not anymore. The question then became, "Okay! How are we going to accomplish these goals?" From that question, we set forth our paths to achieve our dreams.
As years passed we mapped out our education and path to success. After all, these are the first steps to achieving success in America. We made sure we joined the right clubs, after school activities and made good grades. Then we mapped out the next steps of college and from there law school, medical school, graduate schools and yes even going off to Hollywood to become actors, writers and producers. These girls of the '60s and '70s that once questioned why they did not see a representation of themselves and who they wanted to be and what they wanted to accomplish, no longer asked if they could do it. They decided to fill the seats that no woman sat in previously. They decided to break barriers and ceilings and will not be asked to clean up the mess along the way. These women of this generation lead and carved a path for all women. Now we see women in just about every career imaginable. Women now know what it's like to imagine flying off into space and back.
But there was still one dream that remained to appear to be far off in the distance. It was that one dream you often never really even heard many girls verbally expressing the desire to be when they grew up. That dream? President or Vice President of the United States of America. The highest offices in the land. Now not only do we have a woman but we have a woman of color. Vice President Kamala Harris. This is such a major accomplishment and milestone for women of every ethnicity everywhere. No, I'm not forgetting about President Barack Obama. Nor am I ignoring the significance or the impact he has had not only in America but on the world. But this is about us girls and US achieving our dreams. This is about how our dreams have been emboldened and broadened within my lifetime alone. This is about those little girls, particularly of color, that have someone in the highest office in the land looking at them and representing they can dare to dream to be anything they want to be no matter how low or how high. WE decide what and where our destinies will take us. That little girl looking at Vice President Kamala Harris may very well turn out to be our next President. And to that little girl we all say "Keep on dreaming!"
So now what is the answer to that years-old question of "what do you want to be when you grow up?" The answer is "Anything!"