When I grow up I want to be…

Yesterday’s Daily Prompt (I know, I’m a bit behind, but I was writing poetry yesterday) asked “when you were 10 what did you want to be when you grew up? What are you now? Are the two connected?” And that got me thinking, just as it was supposed to.

I have a book of memories and collected items my grandfather gave me when I was starting Kindergarten. I kept it religiously, filling out my teachers’ and best friends’ names, my interests, adding my pictures and certificates to its now over-stuffed pockets, and writing down what I wanted to be when I grew up. Useful information, as it turns out.

I was never a very achievement-oriented child; I did well enough in school, but I never wanted to excel. I wanted to read, to play, to draw, to swim, to be happy. If I look past the expectations others have placed on me, expectations I have tried to rise to meet, I really am still the same person now that I was then. I have no great interest in “success” you can mark by accolades or money. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy what money can provide (a nice house, a nice car, nice furniture) but I recognize that these things bring comfort and fleeting enjoyment, not the true happiness that nature, family, friends, reading and writing bring. Nevertheless, reality is reality and a reliable income is a necessary evil.

But back to the question at hand. At the age of 10, I wanted to be a mother and an artist. In fact, that was what I wrote consistently from Kindergarten to 6th grade (when being a writer first flitted across my mind). The mother part I have down pat; I am a mother to a beautiful boy and, while challenging, the rewards are greater than the frustrations. So in that, I feel very fulfilled.

As a young child, I drew and painted all the time, and my parents encouraged me in this endeavour, possibly more-so because they had art backgrounds themselves. I was also an avid reader from a young age, but when I discovered writing, I realized that I could make words more accurately reflect what was in my head than I could ever do with pencil or paint. At that point, I shifted away from art and began writing poems and short stories. In 9th grade, I was very specific: my ambition was to be a creative writer and to eventually make it to Smith University, a private liberal arts college for women in Northampton.

Ultimately, self-doubt and pressure to do something that would make money and fulfil the directive that I must use my abilities to their greatest potential propelled me away from writing. I did study English at university but it wasn’t a very inspiring experience and, though I discovered at that time interests in archeology, anthropology and history, I never really found my true calling. And I never did make it to Smith. I ended up studying things sort of related to political science and eventually thought that if I worked in government, I might at least be able to write again, even if it wouldn’t be creative writing – and I would get paid. And that is what I have been doing for the past 10 years. Writing policy for government. Some of it has been very interesting and I certainly enjoy the act of writing, of intuitively fitting words together to most accurately convey the meaning of the policy. But I was feeling that all my creativity had dried up.

Until now. Until I took a break from work to try to figure out what I want to be…and started writing again. How lucky I am to have some time to sit in my garden, or to roam about, writing. But the thing is, I still don’t know what to be when I grow up.



8 thoughts on “When I grow up I want to be…

  1. It seems to be a common theme–we’re drawn to something in our youth, but ignore the signals to pursue a more practical career, then later in life, we return to what called to us in the first place. Congrats on looking back again at your calling.

  2. I wonder if growing up is not the end point that we think it is when we are young. Although it seems like a destination, now that I have “arrived” it looks more like a way station, where people pass through on their way to elder. Not a destination and therefore it is frustrating, because you almost seem stuck in a spot that was supposed to be luxurious but so isn’t.
    I wonder if this is part of how the world has changed with industrialisation/better health… that we are not ending up in adulthood, it is a longer part of the journey. If that is indeed the case, than what we need to do is to ask children, what will they enjoy learning later, instead of what they want to be when they grow up?

    • Yes! I agree. In fact we should no longer be thinking about the one thing we want to be – that’s not how careers work anymore anyway. We should simply be true to ourselves and our realities and try to find something in each stage of our lives that responds to that. I like your revised question for children!

  3. It’s true goals keep on changing with the changing times but the urge to be contented from inside remains same…until it gets that…a nice post 🙂

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