Girl Drawing Dreams in Chalk on SidewalkWho hasn’t heard a young child say that she wants to be a doctor and a chef; a gymnast and a writer; or a veterinarian, singer, and clothing designer?  And who hasn’t secretly laughed at the thought of the ambitious goals of a child knowing in your heart the realities of the world we live in?  It is all you can do sometimes to encourage her and resist the urge to say,

“Oh honey, but don’t you know you need to choose one path?  You say you want to be a doctor, but did you know that means at least 8 years of demanding higher education after you graduate high school?  Then, of course, there are the 60+ hour work weeks as you begin your residency.  Later, your schedule may settle down a little, but by then you may have a family of your own to consider.  Just where do you expect to find the time to juggle all of that and also pursue a culinary education so that you may become a world renowned chef? One day you will have to choose one or the other as a career and then just hope that you have enough time remaining to dabble in the other as a hobby – unless you somehow learn to live without sleep.”

Let’s face it, no one really wants to be the one to pop that child’s bubble and make her face reality while there is still time for her to dream without limitations.  In my opinion, we should never stop encouraging that girl and her unique dreams.  Let her dream.  Whether she is 8, 14, or 99 we should celebrate her diverse interests.  After all, it is those people who dare to pursue unusual combinations that often leave the greatest legacy.

Take, for instance, Janet Stephens of Baltimore, Maryland.  She was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal because her dual interests have overlapped and resulted in groundbreaking research that could not have possibly been discovered by someone without her unique background. 

Janet is a hairdresser and loves her career.  However, she has an interest in history too.  While she has never been trained in historical research she did not let that stop her as she began combining her hobbies. Over ten years ago, she started researching historical hairstyles and recreating them.  Now, she is considered an expert in historical hairdressing and has turned many former perceptions regarding historical hairstyles upside down – something a traditional historian could never do.   

In 2008, she published a journal article entitled, “Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (Hair) Pins and Needles” which brought her work to the public eye.  Since then, she has continued to study and recreate historical hairstyles, present her findings to other scholars, and maintain her full-time job as a contemporary hairdresser. 

This is a great example of why we should appreciate each person’s unique qualities and diverse interests.   After all, the world is not as neat and compartmentalized as we would like to believe.  So, while we can certainly help girls set goals to accomplish their dreams, let’s tread carefully.  Let’s not limit our children’s potential.  Let’s celebrate their open-mindedness and unique interests!

As Janet Stephens commented to The Wall Street Journal, “Whatever you’re most passionate about when you’re five is what you should do for the rest of your life (Feb 7, 2013, Wall Street Journal).” 

What where your interests as a child?