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How many people do you know who are pursuing what they dreamed about doing as a kid?

When I was a kid, I remember begging my parents to take me and my siblings to get ice cream. And I will never forget one of the best Christmas gifts ever: an ice cream maker, similar to the likeness of an Easy Bake Oven. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I recall ripping open the flavored powder mix, adding either water or milk and churning into what I then called “ice cream.” I’ll admit, it definitely was not delicious, but it was so incredibly cool to be able to make my own sweet treat.

Over 20 years later, I obtained my PhD in Food Science, specializing in the microstructure, sensorial and behavioral properties of frozen aerated desserts. And now, I’m living out my dream — still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, exploring the art and science of ice cream, and other frozen desserts, all across the world!

Following childhood dreams can be difficult and often unimaginable. There are family pressures, societal influences and stress placed on yourself to be “successful” while pursuing something you love. It can also be difficult if you don’t see people that look like you in that profession. Throughout my education career and in the workforce, I was and still am often the only Black person “in a room” or “at the table.” I’ve actually never met another Black ice cream scientist.

You get used to being the “only one” or not seeing people that look like you. If you don’t see it, it’s easy to believe you can’t do it. But we mustn’t let that deter us from following our dreams and making impactful changes for the next generations to come. Representation truly matters.

Whether you seek to live out your childhood dreams or other passions, it is important to fall in love with what you do, as you get to wake up and do it every day! Being able to live out my passion for ice cream is not only a profession, but a lifestyle. I live, breathe and eat everything ice cream! I sometimes have to pinch myself because I am actually living out my dream as an ice cream scientist. (A pretty sweet and cool science, I must say!)

Below are a few tips to help you along your path to achieve your lifelong dreams, too:

1. Surround Yourself with People Who Will Encourage and Challenge You

My parents, family, friends and teachers instilled in me that I can do anything and everything that my heart desires. Having a support system to lean on is imperative to achieving your goals. Find your biggest fans — those who will push you even when you don’t think you can take another step, and those who will tell you things that you need to hear but don’t want to hear. Listen to them, but don’t forget to listen to yourself too!

2. Do What Makes Your Eyes Light Up and Your Heart Flutter

I encourage you to truly fall in love with what you do. No matter what happens on the job and/or if you switch jobs, you will be able to take the love of what you do with you. Be so in love with what you do that no one person or thing can take your true love for it away from you.

3. Think Outside the Box and View Your Dreams Through A Different Lens

Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

We are all different for a reason, so let your difference shine! Dare to take a path less traveled to get to your dream. Be and think extraordinary and always let your ideas be heard!

4. Never Forget Why You Started

People often say, nothing worth having comes easy. And whatever that means to you on your path to obtaining the career/lifestyle of your dreams, every day will not be easy. Through the good and the bad, remember why you are doing what you do and why you started. There will be so many unforeseen challenges that will come your way and cause you to question why. They might even make you want to throw in the towel. But, before you take another step, remember why you started and never give up on your goals and dreams.