Many of us are asked what we want to be when we grow up when we are wee little people. Believe it or not, I never was. Maybe it is a cultural difference? Maybe it was that my mom didn’t care? I don’t know why I was not asked but I never really thought about it until I got to the US. Suddenly in EVERY grade I was asked by EVERY teacher what I was going to do when I was an adult. How am I supposed to know?
I knew what I enjoyed doing. I loved art. I loved to doodle, draw, sketch, make things with my hands, squish clay between my fingers, pile up rocks, even arrange everyday objects to make “pictures”, create my own paper dolls, make clothes for my kid sister’s dollies, “build” her things from cardboard. . .create create create. So I eventually answered, “I want to be an artist.”
In high school I finally realized they were not really asking what I wanted to do or what I would enjoy doing. What they meant to ask was, “What job are you going to get so you can contribute to society and take care of yourself so you won’t depend on others?” That is not as cute and people are less likely to enjoy talking to you about that so maybe that is why people beat around the bush.
By high school I realized artists, unless they are amazing, really do not pull in a lot of dough. Money is important. I grew up comfortably in the SK and I was poor in the US and I can tell you which socio economic group has more to eat, less stress and is better received by the public. I had no aspirations to be rich, famous or important but I did want to be able to support myself.
Another passion I had was science. I loved the sureness of the sciences. There were facts and even if something was wrong you could prove why it was wrong and it changed but not willy nilly.
Willy Nilly. Willy Nilly. Sorry – that was cool to type AND say out loud.
So for awhile I thought I would become a geneticist. I was kicking butt in Biology class, my teacher was some sort of super hero awesomeness that made me want to learn EVERYTHING and I was fascinated with genetics. For whatever reason, I decided that I had a moral dilemma with messing with genes. Teenagers are so stupid. The pressure was on for us to pick something before college. OMG WHAT WILL I EVER DO?
I didn’t have anyone that really showed me all the options. My dad had been drafted into a senseless conflict right out of high school, he worked at a bank until he was constantly passed over for promotions in favor of recent college grads, he worked at a chain of gas stations and then owned his own business. The thanks for his service and never-ending hard work and dedication? Cancer. Thanks US ARMY and Agent Orange.
My mother was illiterate in three languages, worked herself into near insanity cleaning houses, working in restaurants, sewing, flea marketing – whatever she could do with a 14 year old’s education and a strong will. Eventually she would run the business with her husband until she died way to early from heart failure. Thanks cigarettes, alcohol and stress!
So why would I not jump at a full scholarship to become a teacher? Of course I would. 23K a year, great insurance, the whole summer off and no working on weekends looks AWESOME compared to what I had seen growing up. I love literature, sure – I’ll teach it~sign me up. I was a great teacher thankfully but I realized after 7 years it was not what I wanted to do.
I hopped from this to that and now at 54 I still do not have a “second career”. Who the F coined THAT term? You sadist! Was it not hard enough to pick ONE career? You want us to pick ANOTHER one? Nothing says failure more than having to pick yet another career. Sometimes you can’t win for losing.
A friend of mine sent me this Ted Talk:
Now, I know myself enough to know that I am not the person she is describing. I seem to be an offshoot of one though. Maybe my dad was one and maybe my birth father was the other? (he was in USMC for 21 + years). Listening to her talk though made me realize one of my kids could very well be the kind of person she is talking about.
WHOMever you are – do what she says – don’t fight who you are. Love yourself and put your knowledge and creativity to work. I’m going to. I’m going to use my creativity to generate income for myself. I want the last 20-30 years of my life to be a pursuit of passions and not just food in my belly or to keep the lights on. Wish me luck.