“We gained control of many things.
But we had to let go of others.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver
We’re taught from an early age that our future is what we make of it. We can be whatever we want to be, and we can do whatever we want to do. This dream is instilled in us at such an impressionable young age that even when we break through the illusion as adults, we continue to cling to the idea that we can control our destiny. Whatever we have at present, for those of us who may be suffering, is merely a setback in the grand scheme of Life.
But when you really think about it, the illusion of the dream, a hope for a better way, is what keeps many of us alive.
My childhood dream wasn’t inspired by characters in books or movies, or special Scholastic spreads on astronauts or scientists. No. Mine was one formed by an amazing educator who not only set in motion my love for learning and reading but set the stage for insatiable curiosity.
Miss Duffy (who has since married but will always be remembered in my mind as such) taught us spelling and cursive handwriting. She taught us arithmetic using cubes and sticks, and taught us new words and concepts - like any teacher would. She also taught us American Sign Language, and more importantly I think, she taught us to be explorers.
You see, she was a scuba diver and lover of marine life. What memory I have of being in her classroom is always one with a NatGeo VHS tape on marine animals. Okay, she played other tapes too, like meerkats in the desert and cheetahs and Jane Goodall but my favorites, my dream-forming favorites were the ones about whales, coral, the sea, and marine biology.
I wanted to be a photographer and scientist for National Geographic. That’s what I decided in second grade.
Of course, what innocent choices we make at the age of seven are hardly what ends up transpiring for the majority of us.
I still cling to this dream - of being a National Geographic photographer and writer - but I haven’t achieved this particular dream. Instead, I worked with what I had and made choices that would get me closer if not precisely to that point.
I majored in journalism as an undergrad and came out with a focus in educational issues, specifically as it intersects with race and criminal justice. I desired something bigger so I packed my bags and moved to the Big Apple for my master’s degree in sociology. Again, my emphasis was in education with a focus on race, class, school discipline and the political economy of the teaching profession. Now, here I am at a strange T junction. Left or right? I hustle to make things happen while carefully gauging my decisions.
Throughout all of this is my growth as a storyteller and my love for the platform in whatever presentation it takes: short form, long form, social media, news briefs, academic essays, and more.
I may not be at Nat Geo but I’m coming into the dream that I’ve held onto for over two decades: storytelling.
I love hearing other people’s stories and sharing them, writing the under-reported narratives, and finding connections in systemic problems that aren’t being discussed. I may not have control over who hires me for my next career opportunity, or who accepts and rejects my pitches, but at least I have this one thing: to love and continue to love the power of stories.