Dreaming Big, Living Small
(East Providence, RI USA)
One of my most poignant childhood memories has to do with who I am today. It took place when I was eight years old. I was always a very shy girl, and I never spent much time telling anyone what I wanted or needed.
However, one day I decided to spill my deepest desire to my father. I never told anyone what I wanted to be when I grew up. When asked this question, I would shrug and say the standard, “I don’t know.” When my father and I were watching television one night, I finally blurted out what my dream was for adulthood. I wanted to be a dancer. I stood up and twirled around the room to demonstrate.
Up until that point, I would spend hours in my bedroom twisting and twirling in whatever elaborate outfits I could create from my meager wardrobe. A pair of knee socks could be rolled down to my ankles and instantly transform me into a ballerina. I would watch dancers on television and in movies and feel like I was being taken into another universe. When my friends would perform at dance recitals, I’d feel an overwhelming sense of jealousy. I wanted to dance, and I wanted people to see me.
When I told my father about my private dreams, he told me that I could be anything I wanted to be. Great response, right? I thought so, too. But six months later, when I begged my parents to give me dance lessons, my father’s response fizzled away. My parents had seven children. They could not afford to send each of us to the lessons of our choice. Dance lessons were out.
When I asked my father how I was supposed to be anything I wanted to be without having any kind of instruction, he said I would just have to find a way, if I really wanted it.
I never did become a dancer. I was given the foundation of a really great life without the tools to build on that foundation. Beyond that one moment of sage advice, I was never encouraged to do something I loved. I followed the guidelines set forth by my parents, and became an adult who follows guidelines, not dreams.