When I was six or seven years old, I would go up to my parents and say, “Mommy! Daddy! I want to be just like that person when I’m all grown up!” My parents would just look down at me and smile. My mom would always say, “Do what you think will make you happy.” I always tried to stay true to that, but as I got older, I decided that I wanted to be something else. When you find something that you truly want to be, but people around you think that you are not capable of doing it, it hurts.
When I was in seventh grade, I decided that I wanted to be a police officer, or at least someone in law enforcement. I wanted to make a difference. I barely told anyone what I wanted to be because I was afraid people would laugh at me or would give me that you’ve got-to-be-crazy look. Well one day it came true!
I was putting away my clarinet after a long practice for a music contest. My band director, whom some high school students call Mr. S., was talking to another clarinet player, Eli. Eli and I both wanted to be the same thing… police officers. Mr. S. was giving advice to him. I don’t know why I did this, but I spoke up and said that I wanted to be a police officer too. Mr. S. and Eli gave me the look I had been dreading.
“I don’t think you can be a police officer, Nicole. Police officers have to be tough, quick, and they can’t show any mercy,” Mr. S. told me. “You are just too nice and down-to-earth. I bet if you pulled over a cute boy and he batted his eyes at you, you would let him go.”
I stared at Mr. S. for a long time. I couldn’t believe that he was telling me this. I knew I was nice, but I didn’t think that would make people think I couldn’t be a police officer. “I know I wouldn’t do that. I would give him a ticket just like everyone else,” I stated. Mr. S. and Eli just rolled their eyes at me. Eli said, “You can’t be a police officer because you’re a girl and girls don’t have the strength to do the things that police officers do. I’m sure you are lying about ticketing a cute boy.”
I wanted to defend my feelings to Mr. S., but I knew that if I did, I would be in big trouble with Mom and Dad. Mom was a teacher at the school and would soon find out. I didn’t say anything—I couldn’t. When the bell rang, I stormed out of the room. I didn’t cry. I was heartbroken, though. It was like my dreams had been ripped apart and thrown away.
When I got home, I walked slowly to my room. I stared at all the law enforcement books I had on my bookshelf. Most of them were mysteries about Nancy Drew. I had read every one of them, and knew what I would be up against by choosing a career in law enforcement. Now it was like they were taunting me. They were grinning and telling me that I would never be like those people who make a difference in people’s lives. I sat down on my bed and started to cry.
I thought back to what Mr. S. had said. I didn’t think I was too nice to be a police officer. I knew I could be nice, but not too nice to be what I truly wanted to be. I was always told that being nice was a good thing. Now it seemed like it was bad. It seemed like Mom and Dad had lied to me. I didn’t want to think about it, but maybe Mr. S. was right. Maybe I wasn’t police officer or even law enforcement material after all. I didn’t want to think that way, though. It just made my heart ache even more.
I started to think about what Mom would say to me: “Don’t let anyone say you can’t do something. Follow your dreams and stay true to yourself. You are too stubborn and hardheaded not to.” I realized that Mom was right. If I really believed that I could do something, then I could.
All the criticism I have received from people has given me more reason to become what I want to be. When Mr. S. told me that I couldn’t be a police officer, it just made me want to prove him wrong. I learned not to let other people’s words get me down and make me stop dreaming. I am always going to follow my dreams—no matter what. Now, I am even more determined to become a police officer than before! Just as long as I stay true to my dreams and myself.