"WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?"
Remember when all grown-ups asked you this question? Depending on your age and recent experiences, you answers probably ranged far and wide.
At seven, I knew absolutely I wanted to be a teacher. That lasted several years, because I loved school, liked my teachers (well, most of them), and had a lasting identity with books and paper and pencils.
Not sure when that one began to fade into the background, but when I was in high school, I knew, absolutely, that I wanted to be a writer. The newsstand downtown carried a magazine called The Writer (still publishing, by the way), and I went every month to read a little in each issue. Sometimes I had enough extra money to buy one. Joy unbounded!
That dream was partially realized when I wrote for my high school newspaper, at least three years, and maybe even during my freshman year. I was very keen.
By the time I was a sophomore, however, I'd fallen in love with the stage, acting in one-act plays, variety shows with the choir, and eventually the junior and senior class plays. Our Thespian troupe made a trip to Chicago to see plays (memory fades here, sorry). Acting, it was absolutely plain to see, was the way to go--the actor could be absolutely anyone at all, a different person each time.
Clearly, I had a weather vane existence--if the wind blew one way, I was a writer; if another, I was an actor.
Those were the days when boys wanted to grow up to be cowboys and firemen and girls wanted to grow up to be nurses and airline stewardesses.
A few years later, it was sports heroes, and executive secretaries. Still later--astronauts (both boys and girls), scientists of all stripes, designers, artists . . . . We all began to believe we could be anything we wanted to be. Well, why not?
Looking back over several decades, I don't recall ever being only one thing. Does anyone?
For instance--college was intended to prepare me for a career in chemistry. Instead, I got married, had a family, and continued my interrupted studies in English and French. I did get to teach a while, but circumstances changed and I worked, instead, as a paralegal in a law office.
For instance--writing has come and gone several times. After my high school newspaper experiences, there seemed no reason to continue in journalism; instead, I concentrated on fiction writing. Short stories, novels . . . . Later, non-fiction. Essays, now a blog, memoirs for my family members. . . .
For instance--the theater never materialized, though I've acted in local amateur drama societies a few times. Instead, music became my latter-day self-expression--singing in a choir, directing a choir, playing piano and organ for churches.
What do I want to be when I grow up?
Not sure. There are so many possibilities! Do I have to settle for just one?
Maybe the problem is in the question--it suggests we have to choose a role to play, an occupation that will support us and our families into perpetuity. It doesn't let us try out different possibilities--the weather vane is not allowed to shift with the wind.
How about changing the question this way: What kind of person do I want to be when I grow up?
I couldn't have answered that at age 7 or 15 or 21. But I do know, now, I want to be a person who listens more than talks; who encourages others to succeed; who forgives whatever needs to be forgiven; who shows kindness, especially to those who seldom know kindness.
That's a humongous ambition right there. Those traits have been in the making all my life and will continue forever.
Did you get to be what you wanted to when you grew up? Does it matter now?
More important--are you still growing? I hope so!
Have a blessed week!