(The Root) — You can read this essay in its entirety — plus the thoughts of 40 other prominent African Americans from the worlds of the arts, medicine, religion and academia — in the anthology Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community, available online and wherever books are sold. Find more about the book at wheredidrlovego.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.
In My Time, on My Terms
Two decades before Maya Rudolph and her zany crew brought the laughs in Bridesmaids, I spent a lazy afternoon watching a made-for-television movie of the same name. Though the specifics are a bit fuzzy now, I recall that the plot centered on a quartet of besties who return home for a friend’s wedding. Each woman has her own personal dramas going on, but my attention was drawn to a character named Caryl. She’s the single girl of the group. As soon as her backstory revealed that she is driven by her career — hence not obsessed with landing a husband — I thought, I know her. That’s going to be me.
I’m the first to admit that I’ve been focused on blazing my career path, but more than anything, I’d consider myself a dreamer. As an only child, I spent a lot time daydreaming about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be once I left the nest. Needless to say, I had many, many dreams.
My first bright idea was to be a pediatrician, but when I realized that what I actually wanted to do was care for newborns, I thought being a maternity-ward nurse might be a better fit. Then I wanted to be a dancer and a model and a writer and a fashion buyer and an advertising executive, and so on and so on. Oh, and I should also mention that I wanted to live in a different city every year, which my grandmother thought was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard. I wanted to do it all, but in none of my childhood fantasies did I ever envision myself as a “Mrs.”
When I was in high school, a senior classmate of mine arrived at school, hysterical and in tears. Since graduation was soon approaching, I couldn’t imagine why she was so upset. Then she told me what was going on at home. Her father had announced that he was leaving her mother, which was devastating enough. The bigger blow was that her mother had never held a job and had no means of supporting herself.
Sadly, my friend was even more upset by the fact that at 18, she had more marketable skills than her mother. I was speechless. I felt terrible for her, but deep inside, I couldn’t imagine how such a thing could happen. I knew I would never find myself in such a situation. Never.