Do you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?
I was a little girl who rode the waves of an ocean, drifting, not knowing where I'd end up, but not fighting where the currents took me. I washed ashore here, there. I weathered storms and bathed in calm. And in order to survive, I placed my trust in the palms of grownups all around me.
Some of those palms took my confidence and forgot they even had it. Some were not able to do much with it. But some took it and nurtured that trust. I learned how to be more selective later in life, but I never withheld the pleasure of sharing a little of me with the people that came into my life.
I was a crazy child who put a staple in her thumb because I wondered how it would feel to have a thin, sharp piece of metal pierce my skin. As the blood came gushing out, I was stunned by the searing pain and learned that a staple does not belong in the flesh. I played inside a clothe dryer often because it was strangely comforting; I felt like I was being cradled inside the dark, confining rotating drum with a slow, pendulum-like swing.
Then I went to school. There, I learned about the world in a safer manner (without bleeding, the risk of electrical shock, or perpetuating an emotional deficit), and consistency became my new cradle. I could count on seeing my teacher's smile everyday. I could engage with my peers. I looked forward to the challenges of grades and competition.
I loved and respected my teachers, and I was always eager to please them. And the first time I ever wanted to be something ("when I grow up") was in my kindergarten classroom, as I watched my teacher gesture, teach, and lead the children with ease and poise. I thought, One day, that's what I will do, too.
As I grew older, the World told me to be many different things. A journalist, one voice said. A doctor, another whispered. It's a respectable profession and you'd make a good living. The World told me to go to school and get degrees; get married and have children; buy a house and have a job. I did all of these things, and this is what I found out:
I learned that I wasn't cut out for medical school, but being a pediatrician wasn't the only way to work with children. I learned that I have much love for the humanities--a philosophy that brings people together through culture and the arts. I learned that children are kindred spirits and that working with them would teach me how to be a better person and parent. I learned that having my own children solidified how I feel about each and every child being a precious miracle, and that parenting and teaching unquestionably go hand in hand.
I remember who I was before the World told me what to be. I was a girl searching for anchors, and I found them in my teachers, who always provided a safe physical and emotional space for me to grow and reach. They were the grownups that--even in the short span of nine months at a time--treasured me and fulfilled my needs. I was a girl that wanted to parent the way she wasn't parented. I wanted to be a mother and have children of my own to love absolutely and unconditionally; to raise to be kind human beings; and to hopefully send out into the world to be their own.
Now, I open my palm to children and take their Gifts in confidence.
Now, it's not "who I want to be."
Now, I am.