what did you want to be when you grew up?

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This week’s “Let’s BlogOff” is a difficult one for me. The prompt involves a question I’m sure most of us are familiar with: “What did you want to be when you grew up?” It could be that I must complicate everything, and/or that I am a warped person, but I had a hard time remembering the answer to this relatively simple question. I was hoping for a post that was sweet or charming; or the very least, harbors a success story–something good and motivational. I am going to have to think of a prompt that will do this and pitch it to the prompt-creator. Meanwhile, I want to form a good habit doing this “Let’s BlogOff” thing (even as I remembered this morning), so I didn’t feel right ditching this time, this 2nd post. You may have wished I had, but thank you for your patience anyway.

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What did I want to be when I grew up? I do not clearly remember.

When I was little, I didn’t think that growing up meant you became someone different. You were a seed that shot up through the earth’s crust and stretched and blossomed. It was later that I learned about perennials and annuals and trees; about iterations, chapters, cycles, eco-systems; about scars, displacement, healing, and grafting; about ambition and survival.

I think Writer was in there fairly early on. I loved books and reading and writing (especially in nonsensical cursive) and I loved to play pretend. But I didn’t have to wait to be a Writer. I didn’t have to grow-up to be one. I wrote a story about Aliens coming to Vilseck when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. I think it was called ‘Aliens Come to Vilseck.’ I wrote this play in the 4th grade, I cast, directed, and starred in it; I remember it with some embarrassment and that it had a strong environmental message and dramatic pauses. I didn’t know to dream “Published Author,” and I still don’t. The green construction paper cover and illustrated folded pages about aliens was passed around and read. I’m pretty sure it was a class assignment, and I am certain I took it seriously. I am guessing it was more like my daughter’s own belief when she was smaller. You wrote a story, bound it, and went and put it on the Library shelf. Her great novella of the early grades? Monkeys in Space. We should have gone and put copies on Library shelves.

I do recall wanting to be like Indiana Jones in latter grade-school years. He sounded like he had the best career in the world; travel and adventures and myths. I didn’t mind snakes, but when I thought about possibly having to eat fish with some obscure tribe in some heavily foliaged area with a river running through it, I couldn’t overcome that image.  Still, even into High School I had an interest in Archeology and into University I excelled in Anthropology-driven courses. I love Anthropology : more the Cultural side, but Forensics is fascinating, too.  One of the things I adore about Ursula K LeGuin’s writing? Her anthropological approach to her imagination; her translations of the human condition into fictional (oft fantastical) story and then extracting it back out by The End. Yep, back to reading and writing.

I initially intended to go to University as a Conservationist. [Back in 1996.] I was looking at the greenest tree-huggingest schools around the country, because I did know that when I grew up I wanted to live Away; maybe have a house here and there; international. Last minute opportunity took me elsewhere and I didn’t have to think about what I wanted to be during general education and dorm-life and my first serious relationships with boys. But I couldn’t stay. Who could? So I thought, Anthropology or Pre-Med for the next University. The latest–much later? Finish that damn English degree and go onto Library/Information Science. And no, the latest Minor was Film Studies, not Writing. Really all my Mama wanted was for me to get a degree, any degree (she didn’t have one). Dad figured I could do anything I wanted, but I should probably listen to my Mama.

I have never been terribly ambitious, but it borders on ridiculous when I think about how I didn’t do most everything I’d thought about becoming when I grew up—since Junior High on. My dreams about Future Me were small, simple, and singular. I would have a degree and a job and friends and three houses that I would probably time-share. I didn’t dream about my wedding. I figured I would marry at some point, but I never worried about shelf-life. I didn’t dream of mother hood; and actually that was one impossible vision for me. I was never the girl who wanted to hold or coo over your baby, let alone be responsible for it. I did see: I would live comfortably, do something exciting and important, and travel. I’m still young [33]. Let’s just say what we are all thinking. So that last bit about what I did see is still possible. And I have travelled, so check, I guess.

One could think the question of “What did I want to be when I grew up?” would be depressing, considering (even at 33). That maybe “I do not clearly remember,” is a coping mechanism in the face of failure, wasted time. But I never thought about being a Mother and I am one. I love it. I think I’m pretty good at it. And, yes, it still frightens me.  I became a Wife sooner than I had anticipated (at 25), but I love that too—a lot. I think having a vision as a directional arrow makes moving forward easier, and infinitely less terrifying.  Goodness knows I think about how to get from one place to the next, both practically and impractically, for myself and the husband and daughter, and even for friends and my greater family. But when I think about now, then, and the could-be, and the lens I use to view it, it is so different from before I grew up. I couldn’t see myself clearly enough; I’m certain I still don’t. The realization that I do not clearly remember is a hopeful one. It is comforting. It does help me cope. It helps me take risks. It helps me forgive poor choices. And it helps me embrace the good choices more fully.

What did I want to be when I grew up? I do not clearly remember. But I am fairly sure that I am not what I wanted to be, and I know that I am yet who I wanted to be. *

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* like a better grammarian. could be ‘who’ or ‘whom,’ couldn’t it? arguably? simultaneous subject/object? is there a term for that simultaneity? <deep and troubled sigh>

photo: yep, that is me when I was little.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. I can identify with lots of it, never having dreamed of having children either yet loving them, but could never describe it so eloquently.

    1. L says:

      thank you!

  2. Carl V. says:

    Great post, especially as it touched a lot of familiar cords. I don’t consider myself terribly ambitious either. The reality is that most of my childhood where I was at least conscious of the idea of having to grow up and get a job it was just that thought: when I grow up I will get a job. And given that my dad was a blue collar worker and worked in the same place, I unconsciously evolved this idea that my ultimate goal was not “career”, it was to get a job that would allow me to make a living and support my family. That’s it.

    Imagine my struggles when I chose a field not known for making money–social work–and how those struggles increased when I married and later had a child and had a wife who would have liked to have been able to be a stay at home mom but could not because we needed a two income home in order to make it.

    Both Mary and I had to come to grips, not with our “dreams” of what we would be but with these unconscious belief systems that our lives would play out just like our parents’…yet we were living in an entirely different world than them.

    The great thing is that now we both make good money and we enjoy our jobs. Most days anyway. And 3+ years of lifestyle change and hard work have put us in a position where we are financially stable, have the money we need to do fun stuff, be prepared for emergencies, and have money to give, which is very important to us.

    Over the last 5-10 years I would say that I’ve done more growing up and settling comfortably into my own skin than I did the decades prior and I am loving who I am while at the same time am pushing myself in small increments to not cast aside some of my dreams and ambitions.

    I love how the example of what you and your daughter are doing with the ‘zine are exactly in line with my thoughts on pursuing one’s dreams. You are writing. You are creating. You are not sitting back waiting for a huge book deal to drop in your lap. You are exercising your creative muscles. I do some of that and need to do more.

    Going back to what we wanted to be when we grew up, I recalled that during my early teen years, pre-driver’s license, a couple of friends and I dreamed of being race car drivers. We would spend hours making elaborate plans about how we were all going to live close together, what kind of cars we would own, etc. Interestingly enough, the only one of us actually making an effort to get there was my friend Robert who was working on cars from a very young age. He actually became a race car driver. Not surprisingly I dreamt about him last night, even though I hadn’t recalled the race car thing until I was reading your post.

    Funny how our minds work.

  3. Joe Freenor says:

    I take this Blog Off thing very seriously. I write my own ahead of time and post it before I see what anyone else has written. Then I read all the blogs and comment on them (you can do stuff like that when you’re semi-retired and have the luxury of planning your day to suit yourself). I found yours to be one of the more interesting blogs simply because you find yourself not being terribly ambitious.

    For myself, I have been very ambitious for as long as I can remember. And I have fallen short of most of my goals, either because they were too ambitious, or worse, because I didn’t have the talent to achieve them. I actually achieved a most ambitious goal in planning and executing a Backyard Paradise that was so damned big it took me nine full summers to accomplish. And now that it’s been finished for a few years, I wish I hadn’t done it. The maintenance is killing me!

    But I bring all that up because now, at age 66, what I most want to do is finish out the last couple of years of work on our home and then… I could quite happily spend the rest of my life in my living room with a cup of coffee and my wife. We talk about that quite a bit, and it truly is pretty much all we seem to need. We’ve never had children, so we’re able to indulge ourselves in so many ways, but what we most want to do is, sit on the couch and laugh with each other! Go figure!

  4. Oh, yes, writing books and binding them with construction paper! What a nice memory. It was so easy then. And (apart from that) I appreciate how candid you are in this essay.

  5. Sounds to me like you are doing just fine. Loved your point about not having to wait till you grew up to be a writer.

  6. Paul Anater says:

    “But I am fairly sure that I am not what I wanted to be, and I know that I am yet who I wanted to be.”

    I love that line. I relate to that line more than you can imagine. If we had a Blog Off Award you would win it for that line. Thank you.

  7. Man thats good writing in realtion to not remebering what you wanted to be;
    It helps me take risks. It helps me forgive poor choices

    Thanks marcus

  8. Great stuff, L. I’m enjoying reading these blogoff things, both from you and Carl. From early on I wanted to create, be it stories, songs, art, or whatever took my fancy. Mayhap that’s why I went into engineering? Still, the desire to Make burns, and I give in to it oft as not.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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