When I was a girl, I dreamed of being so many things.
In the first grade, I wanted to be a nun. I wanted to wear a veil and teach children. I used to sit on the steps of the convent next to my grade school and wait for a sister to pass by. In my dreams, a passing sister would ask, "Little girl, have you ever considered being a nun?" Then she would invite me into the convent kitchen and we'd have a long talk. The moment never came.
Throughout the years that followed, I dreamed of being a ballet dancer and a star on Broadway. I wanted to sing and make people cry with my music. I wanted to be fast and strong. I dreamed of being an Olympian. I wanted to be a teacher and change lives. I wanted to be a feminist activist. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to go to a prestigious art school and learn to create beautiful things.
From one perspective, my worldly ambitions and dreams have all failed.
"You can be anything you want to be"
is the constant, pounding mantra of the schools. It is one of the hard lessons of adulthood that those dreams you spend so much time building as a youth may never actually happen. It may be an even harder reality to achieve those dreams and find them empty of meaning.
But around my 17th year, God began to reclaim His own and introduce the dreams that He had for my life. My future husband appeared in my life and took a risk. He introduced me to an authentic life in Christ and walked with me through my first frightened steps. My conversion to the Heart of Jesus was like taking a step off a cliff; except that this man who loved me never let me look down and he entrusted my safety to the arms of his Savior. It has always been a mystery to me why he chose to love me. He is a very careful planner, logical and philosophical, and several years older; the more I know about him, the less I understand the risk he took and the more I see how powerfully the grace of God was working in my life. When I was 19 years old I married him. I was 21 when I had my firstborn.
As I spent endless hours nursing and rocking my high-need baby boy, I would pray fervently for guidance. I prayed that God would show me the direction for my life and help me to fulfill my dreams. I questioned why He was silent and begged Him to show me who I was to become. In my blindness, I shouted, "What do you want me to DO?!" as I held the answer to my prayers in my arms.
I was so busy grasping at childhood dreams that, for a time, I missed the beautiful truth that He had given to me in my vocation. I was focused on my failures because I had never been taught to view motherhood as a legitimate and worthy life path. I saw that actresses and business owners and scientists and athletes were also mothers instead of the other way around. The moment that I stopped running away from my motherhood was the moment that I began to see God's dream for me.
I have fulfilled none of my dreams...and all of them.
They have been refashioned by the hand of God to give me a greater joy and peace than I could have dreamt for myself. It is my adventure, my purpose, my path to Heaven.
I still struggle; sometimes mightily. The modern formation for little girls is very linear and masculine; focused on specific future material goals. Worldly success demands clear and constant physical measurement that isn't always possible with a woman's vocation. It is the kind of dysfunctional view of life that would cause a married adult woman with a child to continue to ask:
"What do I want to be when I grow up?"
We want to win something, get trophies and medals, become millionaires and see our names in lights. It becomes the primary purpose of our lives. Years of indoctrination into that mindset are not easy to undo. We don't win ribbons or applause or a paycheck for changing a diaper or doing dishes. We have nothing of significance (other than marriages or births) to have printed in the alumni updates of our alma mater. We spend the entirety of our childhood and youth training to "win" and many of us must overcome the tendency to view our actual successes as failures. By the grace of God I am continually reexamining the gift of femininity, marriage and motherhood and continue to be awestruck by the magnificence of His plan.
My own girls dream big. They want to be religious sisters. They want to be mommies. They also want to be artists and athletes, cowgirls and authors. I want my little girls to dream big. I want them to see God's great big beautiful world and dream of their own place in it. But I pray that their dreaming will never blind them to the miracles and purpose present in their daily lives. And hopefully, I can help them see that fully living one's vocation will provide more reward and adventure than they could have planned for themselves.
--Pope John Paul II (The Genius of Women )