“When I grow up I want to be a Spacefireman”

What do or did you want to be when you grow up? If you are ‘grown up’ have you realised your dream? As a child and young person this was the question that my friends and I would discuss at length. As my dream of being Robbie Williams began to fade, I had to readjust my aspiration for my adult years. My careers adviser at secondary school advised me to explore a career either in theatre engineering of some sort, either that or a career in politics. I remember being very intrigued by one potential career path, and not so much by other – I wonder if you can guess where my leanings were towards. Now I am experiencing the joy of hearing my two sons (5 and 8) imagining their future careers, the options that both have put on the table are equally as diverse as being a theatre technician or a politician, but at least they have aspiration.

I have written and spoken time and time again of the lack of aspiration that the children and young people have. The word itself does not exist in their vocabulary and is nothing more than an alien concept. The whole notion of future is something that is limited to days, weeks, at most months. In some cases, the answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up” is quite simple, “still alive”.

Last week I attended the funeral of a well known community member, Marie. The final years of her life were somewhat troubled and ultimately ended with her being murdered. My Bradford journey meant that my path and hers crossed a number of times. Building real, non paternalistic, long lasting relationships with community and family members connected to the children and young people that ive worked alongside has meant that I have found myself welcomed into the life story of a whole variety of different people from the community we serve in Bradford. The same was the case for my friend, Marie. Our interactions were generally kept at a 5 minute chat where she would check how I was and then talk about some of the things she was going through; on some occasions I would be there at crisis point and would strive to connect her with the support needed. On one occasion I was working late in Great Horton, Bradford and heard her in a spot of bother with a guy who was likely to cause her harm – I intervened and likely prolonged her life as a result of that event (the details aren’t important in this instance). On hearing of her tragic death I was saddened but not shocked; life circumstances had pushed her from crisis point to crisis point. But nonetheless, the all too predictable and tragic is still heartbreaking and serves as a reminder of the importance of aiming to intervene early, as part of the solution, to imagine better futures for our children and young people and to make that dream reality.

I look at this picture of Marie and I wonder what she wanted to be when she grew up. At the point of this picture being taken she will have had no idea the paths her life would lead her down. The innocence of childhood in this photo was seemingly robbed by the reality of adulthood, the reality of poverty.

I want to dream of bright, hope filled futures with our children and young people, but i don’t want to stop there. I want to help make those dreams reality. Life should point to hope not hopelessness, to opportunity not opposition, to breakthrough not breakdown. I want to look into the hope filled eyes of a child or young person and tell them that they will have the opportunities to achieve their potential because they are possible and i will continue to work tirelessly with that ringing in my ears.

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