Waaay back in the 80s, when I was but a teenager in high school, I declared to my mom, “When I grow up, I’m going to be Dr. Ruth [Westheimer].” My mom simply chuckled and offered a humoring “Okay, Hon.” But, I meant it. I really wanted to be like Dr. Ruth. Her diminutive build, kind face, perky personality, and infectious laughter made her, and her message of positive sexuality, truly accessible in a very loving and candid way that I found utterly engaging. I deeply admire her.
When I began college, I started taking psychology, sociology, and even icky ol’ biology classes in order to pave my way for my future as a clinical sex therapist. When my family figured out I wasn’t kidding around with what they had to that point considered my silly notion of becoming a sex therapist, they implored me to rethink my plans. “What will people say?” When I answered with a resounding, “I really don’t care,” they countered with firm objections that they did care what other people would think and say. They had reputations to protect and we had strongly conservative, religious family and friends that would “just die” if they knew I was actually pursuing a career in “sex!” So after much finagling, grief, and even mild threats, I changed my career trajectory. I was simply too young, too dependent, and too much of a people-pleaser to fight for my dream. I knew I had to be in a serving profession or I’d be miserable, so I compromised and became a high school English teacher. Which, to be fair, I absolutely loved doing; but, the closest I got to being “Dr. Ruth” was teaching Health as an elective.
Now, what seems like a thousand years later, I’m knocking on the age of 50s’ door, and running out of time to pursue my life’s dream. My spice and I have seven children, a menagerie of animals, a mortgage, bills, obligations, and all the other expensive and time-consuming stuff most grown-ups have acquired by this age. Now that I’m old, more independent, and too jaded to give a rat’s arse about what people think, I’m not fiscally in a position to pursue my life’s ambition. And, frankly, I’m more than a little pissed. With my parents’ pressure on me as a young person. And, with myself for falling for it all.
That admitted, I am doing everything I possible that I can to align myself realistically with my goal of working with people to advance their sexual intelligence, health, and pleasure as well as to help people build, nurture, and maintain healthy relationships. I became a certified life coach. I’ve taken, and continue to take, classes and courses, and receive certifications in relationships, communication, and adult sexuality and pleasure education. I’ve also lived a lifetime of experience as a teacher, mentor, and relationship confidante. I’ve been with my spice for thirty years and know a thing or ten or fifty about keeping a relationship alive and growing. So, thankfully, all hope is not lost.
Sadly, my mom is still afraid of what people might think if they know what I am doing even now, at this adult stage of my life. And, while I dearly love my mom and respect her desire for anonymity, I really don’t care about what people will think or say. What I do care about is what I will say; what I will think as I reflect back on my life and realize that I let the possibility of other people’s thoughts or words thwart my goals and stop me from achieving my life-long dreams. Because I’m the one who will be living with that regret.
What dreams or goals have you had die on the vine because of that question: “What will people say”? And, was it worth it?