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Yes, She Can!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As the mother to a daughter with an impressive imagination, I am electrified by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ historic win this past weekend! I laughed, I cried, I danced, I drank! It was a day of celebration on so many levels, because it just solidified the spirit of “YES” that we embrace in this house. 

Let me take things back to my own childhood for just a moment. 

It was very hard for my mom to tell a child like me that I could be anything I wanted to be, mostly because my imagination seemed to have no logical limits. When I was five years old I decided that I wanted to grow up to be a train. 

No, not a train conductor. Not a locomotive engineer… I wanted to be an actual 200-ton, orange and blue freight train, choo-choo-chooing through the countryside. I had plans to chug through the Kalahari Desert, The Siberian Wilderness, and the Amazon Jungle, train tracks be damned. 

Faced with such an ambition, what could my poor mother possibly say to me? 

She would say, “Read. Once you educate yourself, nobody can take that from you.” 

And so I read everything there was to read about trains. I watched every episode of Thomas the Tank Engine I could find. I envisioned myself burning coal and dashing through the countryside. Choo, choo, choo!

Not once did my mom tell me that I couldn’t actually be a train. She figured I’d stumble upon that knowledge all on my own. And I did. 

When I turned nine years old, the movie Pocahontas was released. I watched in amazement as Pocahontas blazed through the wilderness, connecting spiritually with one of the things I held most dear – nature! 

When MisterE and I found ourselves at a waterfall at El Yunque, Puerto Rico, it took every ounce of self control I had not to launch myself off a cliff and into the waters below, just like Pocahontas. I love me some nature!

For a week I dreamt of nothing but Pocahontas, until one day I declared boldly to my poor, poor mother that, “When I grow up, I want to be a Native American!”

I do not remember her response, but I do know it was not a “No.” I’m sure she told me to “read,” because I do remember reading everything I could find about Native American History.

I went through a brief stint where I wanted to be Robo-Cop, fighting for justice with giant, bionic guns. “Read,” my mother said. “Read about injustice all over the world.” 

When I turned ten, an aunt gifted me a number of Barbie dolls. I had no interest in such toys (I wanted books, books and more books), but I played with them to be polite. I invented a game where Barbie would travel to a faraway land, only to return home with an unknown illness. She would infect her friends at different rates in different ways, and it was up to me to discover the cure to these mysterious illnesses. 

My mom caught me playing this game once, and she gently nudged me towards our collection of Encyclopedia Britannica. We had an amazing library growing up, and I’ll always be grateful to her for that. Those encyclopedias taught me about Lassa Fever, Dengue, Ebola, and Malaria. 

I was hooked! I never stopped reading about infectious diseases, and 14 years later I had a Masters degree in Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Infectious Disease Control. 

I had every intention of becoming a Field Epidemiologist, working on the front lines of outbreak investigations. But somewhere along the way I met a man, fell in love, and made the choice to start a family instead of traipsing the world in a hazmat suit. 

So here I am, currently managing infectious diseases from behind a desk while mothering a miniature version of myself. Seriously, how does so much personality fit into such a tiny body? 

Anyone who’s met Hurricane (or read my blog) knows she’s had a lifelong ambition of becoming an astronaut. She’s vacillated between a dolphin-astronaut, a doctor-astronaut, a farmer-astronaut… but always an astronaut. 

Hurricane’s uncle (my brother) is really excited about her becoming an Exobiologist, and has single-handedly funded the majority of her astronaut education thus far. Space suits, books, a telescope… Picture taken when she was 11 months old.

Where she really gets creative is during Halloween. Last year she said she wanted to be an alligator, which was straightforward enough (though totally random). This year, however, she asked to be salt. She offered no explanation, no detail — she just wanted to be salt

I had a good laugh about it, and also felt a great sense of pride because I know this kid is going places. I just have to remain patient when she begs to read a fifth, sixth, or seventh book before bed each night. 

If I get tired of reading before she’s ready, she takes matters into her own hands. Mind you, she can’t actually read just yet.

Learning from my own mother, I keep her surrounded by books that cater to her interests. She has dozens of books featuring little brown girls who are astronauts, doctors, dancers, presidents, artists, and freedom fighters. 

One of our favorite books to read after dinner is “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli

Yes, I’m one of those moms. Representation matters! I never want Hurricane to doubt, for even a second, that she can be anything she wants to be. And that is why I cried when Kamala Harris was announced as the Vice President-elect. 

When my little brown girl — the daughter of immigrants — faces down the challenges that I know will surely come, I will be able to add Kamala to the list of names in her “Yes, you can” arsenal.

In the words of Ms. Harris, I want her to know that, “You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.”

So tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how excited are you to see Ms Harris in the White House? Because I’m at a solid twelve!

Have fun! 


Hi, I'm Chioma Ikoku, a spirited explorer and a peace-loving homebody. I founded Casa Diem Life to help you combine the excitement of travel with the comfort of home, because I believe that adventure begins at home.

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