On ambition

A few years ago, a friend asked me that if I could insist upon one trait in my child, what would it be? I picked ambition.

My fifth year reunion is wrapping up now, and one thing I realize is that I used to be ambitious. Ridiculously so. Like take-over-the-world ambitious. Maybe I’m mellowing out and settling for a quiet life. A career. Maybe I’ll meet someone and settle down and have two-and-a-half-children and live in suburbia and drive a minivan. I’ll be a respectable lawyer working for big companies at a white shoe firm, and if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll be a cartoonist too — that sort of life. Choice C instead of “all of the above”. A world where I don’t call and hope others call me. Maybe.

We’ll see what happens to me. I hope there are explosions involved. But if not, I still hope my children end up ambitious. And I especially hope for that if my child ends up being a girl.

One of my favorite professors in law school has a daughter, and I remember him telling my class that he was worried that social stereotypes would pressure her to reject math and science. So he went out of his way to make find and make mathematical puzzles for her to solve, in the hopes that she might love math and science as much as he did.

Hopefully, that won’t backfire. My parents tried to make me a math-science wiz. And largely because of that, I dropped out of Computer Science and majored in “Government”. Oops. But I understand and respect the motive.

If I ever have a daughter, I probably won’t insist she be a math / science wiz. But I will insist that she be ambitious. Like take-over-the-world ambitious. Like Sheryl Sandberg meets Hillary Clinton ambitious. And she’ll probably hate me for it. But if I had a choice, that’s the daughter I’d choose. I hope she chooses that too.

P.S. If you actually are my daughter and you end up reading this through the magic of the Internet, no pressure. Also, listen to your mom. I don’t know she is, but she’s right.