Saturday, January 23, 2016

The world of dreams isn't a competition

From today's Briefing:

I’m standing in a museum gallery, staring at a photo from Glacier National Park, when my 10-year-old sidles up and whispers, “Someday I want to have photos in a museum exhibit.” She leans her head on my shoulder, stares at the mountain, then sets off to admire more works of art.

An hour later, we are in another Fort Worth museum, studying American art. A massive sculpture of reclaimed wood catches Katie’s attention. She stands close. She backs up. She hugs the wall to examine the artist’s construction and technique. 
New England Landscape II by George Morrison at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

This is Katie’s world. 

And yet from the backseat of the minivan, on the way home that afternoon, she laments, “I feel like I should like sports.”

The comment came from nowhere, apropos of nothing, but my response was swift: “You don’t have to like sports, Katie. You like lots of other things.”

Then the conversation veered again, but I’ve had trouble shaking the sadness in her voice. 

We live in one of the most sports-friendly suburbs in all of America. Frisco already boasts connections to major league baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball, and the Cowboys are building a giant practice facility and headquarters 4 miles from our home. 

Youth sports often feel just as professional around here, with intense practice and game schedules, passionate fans, perpetual skills clinics and paid coaches for elite teams.

This is not Katie’s world. 

When she was much younger, she tried soccer, then basketball. She was a fan of neither. She endured gymnastics lessons for much longer, but she was neither interested nor particularly flexible. She spent a year in dance — and decided that she preferred creating her own moves.

Thankfully, people aren’t defined by what they can’t do or what they don’t like. 
Katie crafts soulful poetry. She creates art on a daily basis. She can stand before a crowd and speak without an ounce of fear.

She raises money for causes she believes in. Whenever she sees an ambulance speed by, she bows her head and prays for the injured or ill.

She gobbles up novels. She’s a vegetarian by choice. She loves long walks. She cheers loudly for the people she loves — including her friends who do like sports.
Some of her friends dream of careers in football or baseball or soccer.

Katie dreams of living in a cottage near a beach, writing, and illustrating and taking photos. 

This world of dreams isn’t a competition. One aspiration is no better than another, and each child deserves the right to change her mind over and over again. (In our house, the list of potential careers has already ranged from archaeology to zoology.)

I can’t predict Katie’s future. I don’t know how often her dreams will wander, evolve, change course. Maybe one day she’ll embrace tennis or golf or bocce ball. Or maybe she’ll never find a sport that speaks to her. 

What matters most to me is that she embraces the passion that whispers in her ear, that stirs her heart, that helps her realize her place in the world.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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