Mariana Missakian

Redefining the World, One Big Dream at a Time

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A few years ago, the world told me “Your dreams are too big my dear” Last week, and as I walked to the stage to accept the Student of The Year Award at the Westford graduation ceremony, I declared to the world, “If your dreams are not too big, then they aren’t big enough”

When I was nine years old, every night, lying in bed, I would dream about my future. I dreamt of success, the home I wanted, the car I would drive, and all the places I would explore.  

At 18, I packed those dreams in a suitcase, came to Dubai, and spent the next 15 years turning those dreams to reality. I went from big to bigger, climbing higher and reaching further, shining brighter with every passing year.

Until the day I became a mom, and that’s when the world suddenly told me “Your dreams are too big my dear” and asked me to choose between my dreams and my new reality. To choose between my family and my ambition. When I became a mom, the world kept on asking me “Mariana, in case of an emergency who would you save first, your child or your job?” The world kept on telling me “You are a mother now, hand over your work badge, your corporate superstar accolades, your childhood dreams, hand them over, and watch the world go by.

Growing up, I was told I can have it all. I dreamed of having it all, and I almost had it all, But when I became a mom, I felt like I lost it all.

But there are rare moments in life that redefine us, and redirect us, to unleash our full potential, a potential we never even knew we had. For me, that was Westford University. Westford came into my life and not only asked me to dream and to dream again, but Westford came into my life and asked me to dream BIG. Westford is more than an institution, it’s more than education and certificates. Westford is a community, it’s a beating heart, that pulses with the hopes, aspirations and dreams of every student that walks through its doors.

“Mariana, what is the problem you are trying to solve”, Dr. Renaldo kept on asking me throughout the program. What is the problem? Tell me What difference you want to make? What keeps you up at night?

Dr. Renaldo’s relentless questions were not just about academic pursuit; they were a call; a call to dare, a call to dream, a call to do. His words echoed in my head and fueled my determination to be the change I wanted to see in the world. This school, this program, the faculty, the staff, and my advisors not only believed in me, cheered for me, and gave me the tools to excel, but they were the spark that reignited the fire in my belly to redefine and chase my dream with intention.

My dream? My big new dream?  To create mother inclusive workplaces, so no mother is boxed in. So, no mother has to choose between her family and her career, so no mother stops dreaming.

If as a child, my dreams were simply boxes to tick on a to-do-list. As a mother my dreams have become forces of change, impact, and legacy.

And that’s why on those days when going on and pushing through the modules and the assignments were harder than usual, I reminded myself it’s not about me. it’s about the mothers, and the new world I am trying to build with them and for them. 

As I look back on this journey, I must take a moment to thank the two people who have been my rock of Gibraltar. My husband, Fadi, and my son, Enzo without their love and support, my dreams wouldn’t be as big, as bold, and as fierce. Enzo, you teach me something new every day. You make my life exhilarating. Before you, I existed. After you, I have become. And Fadi, the boy I fell in love with 25 years ago, thank you for believing in my dreams. You have not only believed in them, but you have nurtured them, giving them a space to multiply and thrive making my life fuller, deeper, and much more colorful, than the apples I had growing up in Lebanon.

Growing up in Lebanon I ate 2 types of apples. The red one in winter. And the green one in summer. And yet there are more than 7500 different varieties of apple. 7500!! And still supermarkets display less than 10 varieties. 10 out of 7500.

All of us graduates, we are like those thousands of apple varieties not represented on the supermarkets shelves, each untapped, brimming with possibilities, ripe with potential. We hold within us boundless and countless dreams, dreams that are truly our own beyond the collective shared childhood dreams of job, house, and car.

Last Saturday, and as I looked around the graduation room, I saw so much variety and diversity.

I saw fathers.

I saw mothers.

I saw sons and daughters.

I saw grandmothers, and grandfathers.

I saw my mom. Crying. Tears of love, pride, and joy.

I saw CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs.

I saw change makers.

I saw you, all of you, and each and every one of you, ready to reshape the world with your big dreams.

So, my fellow graduates, as we stand here together, in our orchard, on the verge of our new world.

Hand in hand let’s build a new world. A fuller world, a better world.

We each have a role to play in that world.

A cause to champion.

A change to ignite.

A big dream to dream.

A dream that is ours. A dream that is as unique as us. A dream that challenges and redefines the ordinary.

My dream is to build a world where mothers’ dreams don’t shatter, wither and fade.

What about you? What is your big dream?

Mariana Missakian

Doctorate of Business Administration, UCAM Spain