Dear daughter of mine,

I think one of my favorite things about being your mommy is being able to watch you grow and change every single day. You’re 4 years old now, and it’s probably my favorite age yet. Not that I don’t miss the sweet baby snuggles, or the excitement of all your firsts. But now, my sweet girl? We have actual conversations together. The kind where we talk back and forth. You answer my questions and ask your own. The kind of conversations where you form your own thoughts and opinions instead of just parroting what you’ve heard. Now, I get to see more inside that beautiful mind of yours, and I love it.

Recently, we were talking about what you might want to be when you grow up. You said, “Captain America.” And I smiled. I don’t think you quite yet get the question, and that’s okay. I kind of love that Captain America is your ultimate goal.

But one day, not too far down the line, I suspect, you’ll start to realize that adults make decisions about how they spend their lives and earn their money. “What do you want to be?” That will be a question you’ll hear more often than not. And though your answers will likely change a thousand times as you grow, I know you’ll also begin to sense the pressure behind the question.

And I just want you to know: None of that pressure will be coming from me.

Dreaming big

You see, when I was a kid, my very first dream was to be a writer. The day I got my first journal, that was it. I knew I wanted to write stories for a living.

Somewhere along the way, that dream changed into me wanting to be an actress. And then a dolphin trainer, which is actually what I ultimately went to college for. Or at least, that’s what I started out in college believing I would be. That dream lasted only one semester, though. And then, it was back to the drawing board.

It took me seven years to graduate college. I changed my major multiple times: cell biology, when I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist; women’s studies, when I was mostly just floating and unsure of what I should be. Finally, I picked psychology, when I decided my calling was to work with abused and neglected kids in the foster care system.

That was the degree I ultimately graduated with, only to turn around and get a job as an executive assistant at a big corporation a few months later.

Eventually I worked my way into human resources, using my degree only to prove that I had, in fact, gone to college. I made good money, I had good benefits, and I enjoyed the people I worked with.

All the while, though, I was writing. Small side jobs at first, then work that began to flow more consistently. I even started working on a book, mostly because I had so many words I needed to put on paper. But I never thought I could make a career of it. I never thought I could actually make a living doing something I loved so much.

Unfortunately, that’s the lie we’re so often told. When we pressure kids to figure out what they want to be at such young ages, when we push them off to college before they are ready, when we emphasize money and stability over passion and happiness — we convince them that what they love can’t possibly be what brings them success.

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Learning to love what you do

Something funny happened when you were born, though. As I spent those early months at home with you, I realized that returning to a 9-to-5 I wasn’t passionate about was suddenly going to become miserable for me. I’d never hated my job before, but I knew I would if it was the thing that took me away from you.

I knew I needed to work because we needed the money. But I also knew that those hours away from you would need to be worth it to me. If I was ever going to survive that separation, I would need to love what I did.

So, because of you, I began to work harder than I have ever worked in my life to build something. And I did. At 30 years old, I became a writer. I made it work. And four years later, I’m blessed not only to have a career I am passionate about, but also to have a career that gives me the flexibility I need to be the kind of mom I want to be.

Bottom line: Fuel your passion

I want that passion for you too, sweet girl. Whatever you become, whatever you do with your life, I want it to make you happy. I want it to be something that fuels your passion.

So whether you’re a stay at home mom, or not a mother at all, or an artist, or a rocket scientist, I want you to know this one thing: You don’t have to figure any of it out by the time you’re 18, or 25, or even 30.

You don’t have to have all the answers, and I’ll never pressure you to just make a choice. You’re allowed to explore. To figure yourself out and to discover what you truly want. You aren’t allowed to sit on a couch doing nothing, but you have my permission to fail. To change your mind. To pursue a path that turns out not to be right, and to reverse course a time or two.

You have so much time to figure out what you want to do with your life. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll really figure out how to be Captain America.

As long as doing so leaves you feeling happy and fulfilled, I promise I’ll be your biggest cheerleader every step of the way.

Love,

Your momma

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