What I Want To Be When I Grow Up


“How old are you?”

“What grade are you in?”

“Where are you going with those scissors?”

“What do you need apple butter and a syringe FOR?”

Remember alllllll those questions grownups used to ask you when you were a kid? Some of them were easy. “I’m seven.” “Grade two.” “What scissors?” “Surgery.”

The one I always dreaded was “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, because I didn’t have a clue. I knew what I DIDN’T want to be. Nurse, mommy, teacher, secretary, ballerina. Nope, nope, nope. Those were different days for women and girls. It’s not like today, when a girl is encouraged to be whatever the hell she wants to be. I thought those were my options, and since I didn’t want to be ANY of those things (although the idea of teaching was something I flirted with later on), I saw my future as being a very blank page indeed. I wanted to be a land surveyor for a while, because they had some neat looking equipment and got to play outside a lot. I wanted to be Captain Kirk. I wanted to be a dingo.

Also, I was a KID. I didn’t know what I was good at yet. I liked to draw pictures. I liked to sing. I liked to write stories. I still like doing all of those things, but I’m not particularly good at any of them, and I certainly could never make a living at them. I’ve sung in chamber choirs, at dive bars, and friends’ weddings. I’ve been a pretty good Garfunkel by times over the years, but I’m no Simon. I draw silly little marginalia and cartoons. I often can still explain things better by drawing them than I can by trying to describe them. I write a modestly popular blog. I have a degree in theatre (yes, I know, “whoop-dee-doo, Lynne” but it is a fact), but I’ve never made a living at it.

My parents were teachers, and although the idea of having long stretches of time off over the summer was appealing, the idea of spending an entire day with a roomful of children was not. I thought about social work, but my father told me I had better straighten out my own problems before I did THAT. Hey, guess what, Dad? I’m still screwed up!

I did wind up being a mommy, which kind of surprised me. According to my kids, I was pretty good at it, too. But I never felt that it was my primary identity.

Anything involving mathematics or science was out. Big Bird does not do math. Although, I like lab coats. Lab coats are cool. I wish I could wear a lab coat to work.

And so, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I have a good job, which I love. I feel like I make a contribution to society, and that’s important to me. I still sing, draw and write – you’re reading this, aren’t you? I’m okay with how it all turned out. I’m a lot of things. I just don’t get paid for them.


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