Backyards, Blackish, and a Gal Named Bisa
What does it take to break through expectations and experience the world?
We search for answers as we raise a world roamer.
Without knowing it, our eleven year old daughter, Mag, just had a major life milestone. She met Bisa Myles.
Bisa Myles, the travel blogger. You might not know her; she’s not famous yet.
But she doesn’t have to be famous to influence our daughter’s life path.
Here’s the thing. Bisa represents options. She represents opportunities. And mostly she represents finding both of those things where and when others do not.
Mag learned that Bisa breaks through personal expectations, size expectations, survival rate expectations. Bisa sees options and she experiences life.
See, we live in the suburbs.
Most of the adults around us are the second generation in their family to go to college. Which means that their grandparents probably worked very hard to ensure that their parents could go to college. College, the grandparents knew, would show the next generation that the world was much bigger than their factory job or their work on the farm.
College would lead out of stagnation and into a good job, where one would find a nice spouse, with whom procreate a respectable family, who would live in a comfortable house, which would have a big backyard.
Success, in the grandparents’ minds, ultimately ended in the option to have a big backyard.
What a wonderful first vision of success this would have been, if it hadn’t gotten confused by the next generations.
Having a big backyard was originally important because it represented the option to have something that hadn’t previously been an option. It was not the yard itself, but a new option that the grandparent-generation was working so hard to offer their children.
Around here, the yard no longer represents options. It represents a repeating and unquestioned vision of success. Our peers envision their children working toward college-job-family-house-yard because they worked toward college-job-family-house-yard because their parents worked toward college-job-family-house-yard because their parents worked to give them the option of college-job-family-house-yard.
It reminds me of an episode of Blackish; the sole episode I’ve seen, actually, since I only watch sitcoms when flying.
It was the Season 5 premier episode, entitled “Gap Year.” In it, the Johnsons drop their son, Junior, off at college, only to find him sitting in their kitchen when they arrive back home.
It being a sitcom, you can imagine what ensues. Banter between parents. Threats to son. Bizarrely interspersed soliloquies.
And hidden amongst it all, Blackish mirrored my reflection on life in the suburbs, and on what it means for my daughter and her peers.
Dre, the father, argues for the importance of his son returning to college (at minute 16:50 of the episode):
“When I was a kid, walking through my neighborhood, the only jobs I thought you could have were a postman, a barber, or a bus driver. Hey, all of them are good. But college taught me that the world was much bigger than my block.”
Dre reminds us that college can open eyes to more options.
But it is Pops, the grumpy grandfather, who reminds Dre —and us!— what it really means to have options. (17:10)
“Look, the boy grew up different from how you did. Just like you grew up different from how I did. And now he’s traveling down a road you haven’t even been on before. You ought to be glad that Junior has the option to do it his way.”
Pops realizes something that Dre and modern suburbia have not: our children’s futures don’t have to be limited to the options that we once had.
Back to Bisa
Sure, college can create options. But it can also be part of a very limiting vision of success, a vision that misses other options and culminates, de facto, with a big backyard.
So in a community where college is subliminally encouraged since elementary school (picture kindergarteners walking down hallways lined with university banners and fifth graders writing letters to prospective colleges) and a backyard is a foregone conclusion, I want to make sure Mag knows that the world offers an exciting and diverse array of options.
What will help her to see that?
Meeting people like Bisa Myles.
Did you have a Bisa Myles who opened your eyes to the world’s options?
Tell us about that person in the comments below!
DISCLAIMER: no backyards were harmed in the writing of this post. In fact, we really enjoy time spent in a backyard. We just don’t want anyone to ever be stuck with one because they didn’t realize there were other life options.
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