Has anyone ever told your fortune in an unwelcome way?

My grandma had a friend named Mickey who, every time he saw me, offered his two cents on my career trajectory.NurseOneDay

“You’ll be a nurse one day,” he would say, taking drags on his cigarette and standing in oversized boots, laces untied. The level of confidence in his voice unnerved me; but even as a shy kid, I had enough moxie to press him on it. “But, why?” I’d ask, explaining that I already liked writing, and that I was squeamish about blood and gore. He never gave a specific reasoning, just chalked it up to a “gut hunch.” This angered me in a way I couldn't articulate. Looking back, the implied subtext was probably “because you’re a girl.” But is it fair to tell any child they'll grow up to be a fill-in-the-blank without good reasoning?

My grandma had another friend named John who was Mickey’s polar opposite. (This sounds like a metaphorical story made up to prove a point, but it’s true – my grandma is somewhat of a social butterfly). I only had to tell him once that I was “into writing,” and he was off to the races. John alerted me to writing contests. He asked me about the books I was reading. He asked me, a 12-year-old, about “what I was writing” in the sincerest way, as if I had a serious body of work. He made me promise not to quit. It was frightening -- in a poignant way -- because my dream started to walk upright in someone else's eyes.

Both of these adults, though only on the sidelines of my life, left an impression. The contrast was even more pronounced because these “future talks” happened in the same environment (Grandma's house) --  one day with Mickey, the next with John. Which one do you think would have made the better recruiter?  Mickey, the “man with a hunch?” Or John, the man who had more faith in me than I did in myself?


Tags: Advice