I remember very distinctly, at five years old, deciding that I wanted more than anything to be a bus driver when I grew up. What could be cooler, I thought, than driving a bus? Buses meant field trips. Buses meant seat buddies. Buses meant songs, snacks, and hand-clapping games. To be able to ride the bus daily? To be in charge of the bus? I couldn’t think of anything better.
A couple of years passed before I was quoted in my elementary school newspaper as wanting to be a professional violinist. “I just started learning,” I’d said, “ There are four strings on the violin, and when I play, I feel like they are speaking to me.” (Cut to the present: my violin – which I continued to play all the way through the twelfth grade – sits gathering dust in a corner of my closet in my parents’ home.)
Over time, my career daydreams changed, and they changed often. After watching the Robin Williams movie Awakenings, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. Later, at the height of Titanic-mania, I announced I wanted to be a filmmaker. In high school, when I fell in love with classic rock (leaving a long streak of boy-band fandom behind me for good), I was convinced it was my calling to be a rock journalist.
And that wasn’t the end of it. At various times, I considered being an actress, interior designer, photographer, stylist, screenwriter. For a brief period of time, I even dreamt of joining a circus. (Don’t laugh.)
Of course, it’s perfectly normal when you’re a kid to daydream about the future, to change your mind about these things on a daily – or hourly – basis. Is there a point, though, when it stops being okay? When is it no longer acceptable not to have a clue about what you’d like to be when you grow up?
I recently had a conversation with a friend who lamented the fact that she had no idea what her dream job was. Her sister, on the other hand, had known since childhood that she wanted to be a doctor; now she was enrolled in medical school, well on her way to realizing that vision. It would be so much easier, we agreed, if we could be more like her – if we knew exactly what we wanted to be, if we knew exactly where we were headed next.
(For the record, when it comes to my career, I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to say that I’m a writer. I love to write. I always have. But the truth is, there are so many things I love to do. In a perfect world, I’d be a writer-editor-chef-bookstore owner-painter-dancer-teacher-fashion designer. I’d also like to be the lead guitarist of a rock band, though I neither own nor play the guitar.)
Writing is the perfect career for me right now. But I still have other ideas about things I’d like to be when I grow up. I’ve already tried a few – my first year out of college, I interned in a fashion studio and apprenticed on a farm. But while I’m sorting through the rest, I figure the best thing to do is keep trying new things and remain open to adventure always.
After all, you never know – someday in the future, somewhere in the world, there just may be a circus trapeze with my name on it.