On being something…

During my doctoral work, my mother came to visit my small graduate student flat. I’d fixed a meal, and while mom was sipping after dinner coffee, I stood with my back to her at the kitchen sink, up to my elbows in soapy water.  Mom sat and marveled at how her daughter lived in the city, routinely rode the subway, and seemed happy in her independent existence. She commented to the air about all of these things.

Suddenly she stopped and pointedly asked, “What did you want to be when you grew up?  I mean when you were a little girl?  I remember thinking about what your brother might be.  But I never thought about you being something.”

I stood there with my hands in warm water, my back to my mother, with tears silently flowing.  Quietly I answered, “You are right. I never thought about being something.”  In fact, it would be far more accurate to describe my educational and career choices as mere happenstance.  I routinely fell into things.  There was no forethought, no planning, no dreams, no future. No one thought about me being something–including me.



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