Yesterday, while riding the 103 bus headed uptown, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation taking place close by.
A young girl, maybe no more than 5 years old, sat with her father. She was apparently coming home from school and he from work. With the air of a typical (not yet out-of-work) Ivy League educated Wall Street guy, or maybe an attorney, he was perfectly dressed in a dark suit, carrying a dark briefcase, dark hair combed neatly into place.
Together they sat as she chomped away on a cookie. She looked up at her dad, her huge brown eyes reflecting pure innocence and complete admiration for this man.
"Daddy?" she said. "Do you know what I want to be when I grow up?"
She gestured for him to bend down so she could whisper this revelation into his ear. He leaned in close, but still her childlike whisper was loud enough for me to hear.
"I want to be a dancer!" Excitement spread across her little face.
Dad quickly sat up and straightened up, then launched into what became a lengthy diatribe on her future: the importance of attending a proper university; explaining the structure of higher education (undergraduate, graduate, etc); the number of years she should plan to go to school; his desire for her to become a socially-acceptable "professional" such as a doctor, or a lawyer. She sat, listening quietly, her 5-year-old dreams of being a dancer and doing something beautiful with her life vanishing before her young eyes...
I think my jaw may have hit the floor of the bus at some point during all this. It took everything in my power not to jump up and shake this man out of his own misguided ignorance. She is 5! I wanted to scream. Let her dream! Instead, I bit my tongue, turned away and tuned into my iPod. I simply couldn't listen anymore.