What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Photo credit by saikofish; creative commons license.
When Maggie Shayne asked in her weekly blog, “What will you be when you grow up?” I laughed at her answers, partly because we have a lot of similarities. Maybe that’s why we’ve always gotten along so well, though. Many people who know me only as a writer ask, as with Maggie, “If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?” Usually, they have no idea how many other things I’ve been. And then there’s the AARP’S “When I Grow Up” campaign, which I think is excellent for adults who need to remember how many options they still have.
That’s the thing about the question: it gives us all options. Whether you’re 13 or 113.
I hated it when the local school system forced my daughter at 13 to declare her major. To me, given the fast spin of the planet and how quickly technology and politics change the world, I’m not sure that the same set of majors will be available to her between the 8th and 12th grades. I’m sure the school system had good reason for setting the kids on a track that early, but I still rail against it. I hate the idea of deciding at 13 “what you’re gonna be for the rest of your life.” Maybe if they’d rephrased it as “what foundation you’re going to lay first and the build many possible careers on.”
For me to imagine what else I might have been or will be, I have to look at what else I’ve done or dabbled in or wanted to do. Essentially, these are where my interests lie, what I’m good at, what I still have a passion for. I always–at least as far back as the age of 3–wanted to be a writer. My mom wanted me to be a musician, which was her dream, but for as much as I love music, I never had it in my blood like I did writing. But what else would I have become if not a writer? Well, I did become a contract negotiator for Department of Defense. It’s been a good career with lots of excitement (and stress, too), but it’s definitely afforded me a chance to travel, use my mind, make a difference, and stand on the cutting edge of technology.
The next childhood dream I had of what I wanted to be when I grew up was “master spy” or “secret agent.” I was fascinated with the world of espionage from a very young age–still in the single digits–but alas, I never became La Femme Nikita or Alias’Sydney. I poured those fantasies into my suspense novels with characters like L. Madison Steele in The Lorelei Files’ Access or Aubrey de Lune in the Madonna Key’s Dark Revelations. While I don’t have the physical stature of Angelina Jolie or Katherine Heigl to be a secret agent, I did very seriously consider joining the CIA or FBI when I was in college and, even a few years ago, switching to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). I would have been–and would still be–good at it. As it turns out, I have a real knack for researching, analyzing, and preparing persuasive cases.
I also considered becoming an English teacher. A professor, to be exact, with a specialty in Dark Ages and folklore. Having wiped out two years of college with CLEP tests before I ever left high school, I was on the track to having my PhD shortly before I turned 23. A change in the university system got me off track for a while, but at one point in my mid-20’s, I tried to return to it, with plans to be an English professor in a junior college, but I instead was hired by the Department of Defense. It’s still an option, though. I have the Master’s Degree and could easily–and lovingly–teach at a local college or online college. I might also think about teaching English as a foreign language while I travel the world. Or I might teach acquisition skills I’ve learned in my Government career once my younger daughter has fledged and I’m free to travel more. Oh, but I love options!
Another thing I dream of being was a photo-journalist. That, too, is still an option. I have a degree in Journalism, I’m decent with a camera, I have the investigative skills, and who knows?
I also wanted a career in marketing, but I added in bits and pieces of that to my writing career and for a while in the 90’s and into the turn of the decade, wrote a couple of successful books (now out of print because they’re way out of date) and a newsletter for writers on how to promote their books. I got too busy with other parts of my life to continue it, but I still love brainstorming publicity ideas with anyone who asks. Marketing, in various forms, is still a viable possibility for when I grow up.
I wanted to be a life coach about 8 years ago, took the courses and training I needed, and do it on a part-time basis now. It was primarily a skill set I learned from my Federal career–the combination of coach, trainer, and cheerleader. I’ve loved working with my clients to help them make their dreams come true, but so far, I’ve chosen not to make it a full-time job. It’s still a good possibility though.
There were various other dreams that came and went (like being a doctor) and still hold a spark, but it’s oh-so-great to know that everything I ever strongly yearned to do or be is still an option, at least some form of it. Whether I refresh an old dream when I retire or when my nest is empty or when I fall in love again and want to move to some place new and exotic or just want to do something different with my life, I still have lots and lots of alternatives.
At this pace, I may never grow up if growing up means having to choose just one thing to be for the rest of my life.