The Right to Try

Career Enrichment, Entrepreneurship, Women Empowerment
08/03/17 - Nicole Wood

I recently returned home from my second trip to Belize. Absolutely stunning country. Bursting with interesting history, a curious mix of cultures and ocean views to die for. But while abundant in beauty, it’s lacking in options. There’s certainly no Silicon Valley. Barely a university. No Home Depot. Not even a McDonald’s.

Its people, however, are kind and proud. They will gladly show you the sites and welcome you into their homes, as our newly made friends down there did this trip. Our friend Mirsa invited us over. While I sat and played with her dog, her little cousin Shanies walked into the living room and went straight to grab something from the kitchen. Shanies lived in a separate unit in the same building. Knock on the front door? Don’t be ridiculous. She simply climbed over the barrier on the balcony and walked right in the open doorway.

At only 15 years old, she was gorgeous. But I got the feeling she didn’t know it yet. Ed, my husband, teased her from the moment she walked in, as is typical for him to do, and she didn’t so much as flinch. I liked her already. After a 13-hour workday on her feet, Shanies’s mom came home, and we had a nice chat. She bragged about how smart Shanies was.

“She makes all A’s in school!” I turned to Shanies and said, “That’s incredible! What do you want to be when you grow up?” Given my profession and being a privileged white person in America, it was a natural question to ask. With a shrug, “I don’t know.” My initial thought was “Ah teenagers…don’t think these things through.” But very quickly I realized, there wasn’t much thinking to do.

Shanies’s mom went on to explain that college is not an option. Tuition is far too high. With minimum wage at $1.65/hr in Belize, mom could work as many 13-hour shifts as her feet could handle and never come close to paying for higher education. In fact, only 75% of students in Belize even make it to high school, with less finishing all four years.

So Shanies would likely go on to cook. Or serve at a restaurant. Or work at a hotel. All perfectly fine professions. But what angered me was that her options were so limited. I wanted to stuff her in my suitcase and take her home with me. It was only a few hours on a plane separating her from top-notch education and endless opportunity. Who knows if she would have even wanted it. I’m not so US-centric that I can’t see that there are many ways life in Belize is preferable to life here. I just wanted her to have the choice. Shanies might be the next Oprah. Or Elon Musk. Or Tory Burch. Or Sheryl Sandberg. I don’t know who or what she could be, but I know that she has the right to try.

Thinking about her on my plane ride home and gearing up for a full day of work in the morning, I realized that it is my duty to build my business for her. It is my duty to help my clients achieve all they can. To help our coaches prosper and make an impact. To work with the same hustle and endurance as Shanies’s mom does. Simply because I can. Because I was given the gift of being born in a place and family where I was taught to dream about my future and was told that college was expected. Because I was given the choice. And I’m going to make the right one.

I’m not sure yet how Ama La Vida will help Shanies and the many young women around the world like her, but I’m for damn sure going to explore it. For now, I’ll put my head down and keep working. Keep building my business so it can afford me with a greater platform to make a change in the hopefully not-so-distant future. But know I’m thinking of you. I’m scheming. And you can bet your asses I’ll be back.

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