“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question you’re asked all the time when you’re a child. You are asked to write papers about it. Your grandparents want to know.
I always envied the kids who had an easy answer to this one, and many did — a fireman, a nurse, a teacher.
I never knew. I felt that as I grew up, a career choice would come to me as a revelation, but it never did.
Many jobs sounded interesting to me, but they all seemed to have some problem or other. Many offered really low pay. I absolutely loved working at the Dairy Queen during summers when I was in college. Ditto working in a preschool in my early 20s. But you can’t really make a living doing either of those.
I have always loved travel and thought it would be great to be an airline stewardess, or a tour guide. For a time, I thought it would be wonderful to be a nanny, preferably to a royal baby. None of these jobs, however, required a college education. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but somehow I just couldn’t go from being valedictorian to taking a non-college job. I came from a small town. People would talk.
So, what were the jobs that seemed to offer potential? As a “smart” kid, it was often suggested to me that I become a doctor or a lawyer. Neither of these held the least appeal. I absolutely hate anything dealing with medical situations. In fact, I spent my entire stint as a candy striper volunteering in the hospital gift shop. If I concentrated, I could work up a pretty nauseous feeling just sitting there selling cards and cigarettes to the customers (random fact that has stuck with me: cigarettes cost $1 per pack, including tax. They were one of the most popular things I sold). I sure as heck didn’t want to volunteer to go into any actual patient rooms, where I might have to deliver mail or even, heaven forbid, empty a bedpan.
And I really had no idea what a lawyer did, but my stereotype was that they walked around in court, making animated presentations. I didn’t have the awful fear of public speaking that many people do, but still, as a peacemaking, nonconfrontational type, I had no desire to spend my days in this way.
My dad was going through a rough period during my late teenage years. “Just don’t be a stupid teacher, like I am!” he lamented in a sarcastic way. I don’t know if it’s irony or a sign of my contrariness that that’s just what I ended up doing.
When I student-taught, my supervising teacher was Debbie Fly at Edgewood Elementary, a Birmingham suburb. She was wonderful, and many things I tried during my years of teaching came directly from her. She was so generous in sharing resources with me. After my first day or so in her classroom, she asked if I’d ever taught before. “You just seem so … natural,” she said. “You don’t seem nervous or anything.”
It was true. I’m not sure if it came from my years of babysitting, my high school piano teaching, or the subbing I did occasionally at my dad’s school when I was home from college, but I’ve always felt pretty much at home with a group of kids.
When you were a child, what did you want to be as an adult? Did you follow through with it?