I have recently been watching The Carrie Diaries, the prequel to Sex and the City, which follows the adventures of high schooler Carrie Bradshaw. The series has some of the same themes as Sex in the City such as female camaraderie and a love of fashion, but it’s a very different show about teenagers coming of age. As juniors in high school, the reality of “the real world” is just around the horizon. After one dismal Thanksgiving dinner, two of Carrie’s friends, Maggie and Walt, a mismatched couple, discuss the role of parents and their future.
Maggie: Why can’t you just say it? “No, Dad. I want to go to NYU and work in advertising.” You’re not saying you want to be a serial killer. What’s the big deal?
Walt: It is a big deal to my dad. He has his own goals for me, and he doesn’t care what I really want. (The Carrie Diaries, season 1, episode 6)
Carrie: I was faced with a tough decision, for sure. But I no longer felt caught between what I wanted and what my dad wanted. I realized this was my life, and I wasn’t going to have any regrets. (The Carrie Diaries, season 1, episode 7)
In my own life, my mother told me during my childhood that I wanted to be a doctor; she said it so often that I believed it and started to think it was what I had wanted all along. I'm not the only one who endures such parental demands; Carrie and her friends Mouse and Maggie discuss the similar pressures that Mouse faces from her parents:
Mouse: I may not achieve my lifelong dream of going to Harvard.
Carrie: I'm pretty sure that's your parents' dream.
Mouse: Well, they drummed it into my head for 16 years, so now I can't tell the difference. (The Carrie Diaries, season 1, episode 10)
Did I stay in teaching for my entire life? No. Do I believe it was a mistake for me to have walked down that road? Not at all. It was what I was meant to do with the earlier part of my life. Teaching has been foundational in my subsequent careers. I still believe that I am a teacher, but I no longer teach traditional subjects in a traditional classroom. Instead, I am teaching individuals and groups in informal settings, hourly appointments and private classes. Most importantly, though, was that it was my decision to make. I needed to follow my own heart and desires.
Now, as my children are facing high school career paths (a recent, misguided, and developmental inappropriate idea in Texas schools courtesy of the state legislature) and the eventual graduation to college majors, I have to let them make their own decisions. That doesn't mean that I don’t want them to be realistic. My daughter voiced that she wanted to be a photography major, and I love that she loves photography as much as she does. Still, I explained to her the realities of a career in photography. In our modern world, it is very difficult to sustain oneself as a photographer. I encouraged her to pursue a degree in photography but to also double major in another field that she loves or to structure her degree in such a way that she can broaden her employment skills. She seemed to understand that reality and is taking design and Photoshop classes that are giving her practical but fun skills. Who knows what she’ll actually do in her life, but the final decision will be hers to make.
As Carrie Bradshaw’s father confronts her boss, Larissa Loughton, at the magazine where Carrie took the new internship unbenounced to him, the following conversation ensues:
Tom Bradshaw: She wants to be a lawyer, which I’m sure you didn't know. You didn't bother to find out.
Larissa Loughton: That’s rich. Carrie Bradshaw, a lawyer?... You have no idea who your daughter is or what she wants.... Just because they aren't your dreams for her doesn't mean they aren't real and aren't attainable.
Bradshaw: I know my daughter better than some party girl who values clothing and clubs. My job isn't to let her go wild. It’s to keep her safe.
Loughton: No, your job is to let her become the person that she wants to be. Welcome to the new world, Tom Bradshaw. There’s a whole world of women-- complicated women with our desires and passions and goals, and your daughter is one of them.
Bradshaw: Carrie isn't a woman. She’s a girl.
Loughton: A girl who is going to grown up soon, and you can’t stop that.
Bradshaw: I’m not trying to. I just...I want her to grow up right.
Woman: It’s not a matter of right and wrong. It’s a matter of who and what she wants to be….If you don’t let Carrie explore the world and figure out what she wants to be, she’ll never become the person she’s supposed to be-- someone who’s happy and loves who she is. Don’t you want that for her? (The Carrie Diaries, season 1, episode 9)
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC