When I was a little kid, I loved professional wrestling. Loved, loved, loved it. I still enjoy it as an adult, but back then it was the kind of over-the-top, glued to the TV screen devotion that only little kids seem to be able to achieve. I would watch the show every weekend and then all week long I would dream about one day being a star in the WWE (WWF at the time, but you know what I mean).
My hero was Miss Elizabeth. I adored her. She was beautiful, but shy. Demure, but brave. She may have been the precursor for today's scantily-clad divas, but this was far before the ladies of the ring had to meet a T&A quota to be successful. I dreamed about being a wrestling manager - being funny like Lou Albano, cunning like Bobby the Brain and beautiful and brave like Miss Elizabeth. Every week when they would run commercials for the local wrestling school I dreamed about being old enough to attend.
But then one day at recess everything changed. I was walking around with our recess monitor - either my 4th or 5th grade teacher, that part's a little blurry - and another little girl, being the quintessential teacher's pet. I loved her. I loved talking to her. And at recess I was happy enough to tag along beside her and chat when there was no one around for a game of Rainbow Brite. She was asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up and I told her all about my wrestling manager plan. I was excited; brimming with that little kid exuberance for my dream career.
And she told me that wasn't realistic. That I needed to think about a real career. Looking back, I think she meant that I was a bright kid who would probably go on to do more than manage professional wrestlers on TV, but at the time it was a crushing blow. Was I not pretty enough? Not athletic enough? I didn't understand why someone I looked up to would tell me I couldn't do what I dreamed about doing. Even my parents had patted me on the head and told me that sounded like an interesting career choice.
Looking back today, I see how that conversation affected me. I still watched wrestling obsessively for a few more years, but I no longer dreamed about being the next Miss. Elizabeth. I didn't think I could do it and that affected my self-esteem in ways I was way too young to understand.
Do I think I would have become a wrestling manager if I hadn't had that conversation? Probably not, but at least I would have held on to the dream until I let it go of my own volition, in my own time. And, as an adult, when I did get to work with professional wrestlers, maybe I would have had the courage to tell them I'd always wanted to manage. Those guys understand childhood dreams like nobody's business and, even if it was just my friend Nick dressing me up in a kooky outfit and letting me walk him to the ring at one of his smaller indie shows in a school gym, it would have been awesome.
But I never asked him. I never really felt like I could do it. And thinking back on that today, I realize the impact that one person can have on the life of a child. So to all my friends with kids, or that teach kids, or even just those who interact with kids at all, I wanted to pass on a little advice: If a little kid tells you she wants to be a WWE diva, an MMA fighter, a flight attendant, a rocket scientist or anything in between, don't tell her it's a bad idea. Tell her that it's a great idea and that you think she'll be an amazing dragon slayer, fashion model, race car driver or whatever she dreams of being.
Chances are she will grow out of it and, if she doesn't, she may just be the best wrestling manager ever to enter the ring ropes. But no matter what, she will feel like they can follow her dreams and do whatever she wants to do, at least for a little bit longer.