Daughter, I won’t tell you “You can be anything you set your mind to” without one clarification

IMG_0967Tali,

I want you to believe in yourself. I want you to be confident in who you are. I want you to try new things, and try again when you fail. But there’s something about this motto I want you to fight against and resist– and a new meaning I want you to focus on.

When you hear the phrase “You can be anything you set your mind to” or “You can be anything you want to be” most people are using it in reference to careers. And, this is somewhat true. But, I can’t promise that grief won’t overtake you, that illness won’t steal your talent, that injury won’t cripple your career. I can’t promise you that you’ll have the resources to be a stay at home mom. I can’t promise you that a loved one’s illness won’t make you have to quit your job to take care of them. Perhaps you weren’t born with a voice to be singer, with an IQ to topple tests to be special intelligence, with the eyesight to be a pilot, the grace to be a dancer, or the stature to play basketball. I can’t promise that you won’t have to take on a job with long hours while studying for classes. And, baby, mommy won’t always have the money to send you to practice the hobby of your dreams. We may not always be in the best school district. I can’t promise either that all of your teachers will believe in you – or push you to thrive.

See this motto has a false facade of failure built in to it, as if when you see people with a lower paycheck or without a “desirable” job – that they’ve somehow failed. That they are lazy. That they quit too early. They didn’t give it EVERYTHING. That they didn’t prioritize. That they didn’t want it bad enough. And, we dismiss them. We dismiss their journey. We dismiss their humanity. We discount and dismiss the profound effect that where we grow up, our community, our opportunities, our income, our resources, our health, who we knew, our parents, ABUSE, DISEASE, ILLNESS, GRIEF, education, etc. have on our journey. Heck, perhaps they gave up a career for something more important to them — like having time with family. We forget that perhaps a woman isn’t “moving up the ladder” because moving up means less time with her newborn baby. It’s as if a job description defines how much we “tried” or the depth of our character – and we forget about the journey we’ve all individually and uniquely walked.

If success is only measured by a career, you may miss a more important aspect of life – and you may miss the opportunity to meet someone amazing. We forget in this phrase that THESE people without titles and distinctions and accolades of awards deserve respect and love too for their journey. That these people are role models with profound wisdom for us. And, we forget that sometimes stepping away from a dream can be an open door to love more vibrantly, to have more time with a loved one, to fight for a cause, to rest easier, to pursue ‘dead-end’ but enjoyable, fulfilling hobbies, and more. 

Sweetie, I’ve seen the most miserable, lonely CEOs, and the most vibrant, joyful, lively janitors.

So, let me tell you what you CAN and SHOULD choose. Of far greater worth than your career is your CHARACTER. This is what makes you “who” you are – the small choices you make everyday that define your journey and mark your path. You may not make a sports team – but how do you react to failure? People may be cruel to you, but do you still choose love? People may disrespect someone in front of you; do you stand up for them even if it’s unpopular? Do you choose patience? Kindness? Self-control? Do you get back up when you fail? Are you an encourager? What do you think upon when you have free time? What do you do when no one is looking? Are you continually learning and growing? But, do you also rest when you need it and take time to mourn? Do you know when to close a door and open another?

Baby, accept who you are. Embrace who you are. And, pursue your dreams – and push through even when no one believes in you. Give it your best shot, and anything that happens is a success story. But, remember along the way, it’s not your job title that defines your journey or your worth or how hard you tried — and not making it into a career doesn’t equate to failure. Success has many faces, the most important being your character. Pursue character first. Then, whatever career you have, you will be a success.

I love you.

– Mommmy

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4 thoughts on “Daughter, I won’t tell you “You can be anything you set your mind to” without one clarification

  1. This really speaks to me right now. A dream doesn’t have to lead to a career and you don’t need a career to define who you are. A very important lesson to learn…

    • Yes! Absolutely. I struggled with identity when I became a new mom because this phrase was drilled into my head throughout school. This morning, I was really reflecting on it. I thought that going easier in my career may mean I’ve “failed” or that not having energy to do my hobbies meant I wasn’t trying “hard enough” — I was so concerned about this, I was missing something sweeter — just simply being a Tali’s mommy.

      Thanks for dropping by, Emily! Can’t wait to visit your blog.

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