My earliest memory of what I wanted to be when I grew up comes from when I was ten years old. I’m sure that up until then my greatest desires centered around mothering my dolls and doctoring my stuffed animals. I used to play school with my toys and pretend to be a teacher. But when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, none of those things came out. Rather, my answer was, “I want to drive a tank in the Army.”
I suppose my upbringing had a lot to do with my answer. I grew up in a military family, we lived on base most of the time, and military vehicles were a common thing to see as we went about our day to day business. By ten years-old, most of my friend were planning for their Barbie dolls to marry Ken. As for me, I was planning for my Barbie dolls to go to war with my brother’s G.I. Joes.
But that dream of driving a tank came to fairly abrupt end. You see, I have a medical condition having to do with my feet that actually prevents me from being eligible for military service. Now, at age ten this was not something I really cared about. I was a kid. I was dreaming. I was imagining a life that might be cool. But pretty much as soon as the words “drive a tank” started coming out of my mouth, my parents made sure to let me know it would never happen.
So I moved on. I found other interests. And by age twelve, I wanted to be an astronomer. All things outer space filled my mind. I had stacks of books about the universe, the planets, comets, and black holes. I loved looking at the stars and imagining my life as one who studied them. Yep, I was dead set on being an astronomer.
Then my parents reminded me of my lacking math skills. I’ve always found math difficult, but I was twelve. I was dreaming. And I had years to boost my math knowledge (which, by the way, is no longer lacking). Even with years to go, I still got reminded all the time about how science requires math and math was not a skill I then possessed. Another dream died. It was sucked right into the black hole that was beginning to form around my life.
During all of those years, I was taking piano lessons. And I continued taking them. By the time I was fourteen, I started to dream again. I would spend hours at my piano. For me, music was a release of every emotion I had. It was an escape from a life that I felt didn’t want me. I would drown out everything and everyone in a sea of Beethoven and Chopin. Playing music, feeling music, living music… I lived for it.
I dreamed of Juilliard. I dreamed of Carnegie Hall.
And when I was sixteen, I applied to a performing arts school. I was three weeks away from my audition when that dream came to a screeching halt.
My parents decided to make a sudden move, and they did not consult me. It was immediate. It was needed for them, and I do understand that… there was a sick family member. But no one considered what I was giving up. I was basically told that family was more important than piano and I needed to just deal with it. I could take lessons anywhere.
Yep, I sure could… but that performing arts school audition was mandatory for admission. And when I didn’t show up, I kissed my chances goodbye.
I still played piano. For hours every day. Locked in my room.
But Juilliard and Carnegie Hall faded… and a new dream took root. If I couldn’t train for the big time, I could most certainly become a teacher. I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up… a music teacher.
But there are only a handful in each state.
One at each school.
You won’t make a great living.
That job is almost impossible to get.
Music won’t pay your bills.
Yep… those are the great things I heard from my parents.
Time passed… senior year of high school came, applying to colleges took priority, and I wanted in a music program. But the voices, the opinions, the insertion of someone else’s version of my life… it all took over. Despite getting accepted to a great music program, I stayed home and started out at junior college studying computers.
But you’re so good at computers!
Technology is where the money is at!
This will give you a future!
Yep, I studied computers. I transferred to a major university and got that fancy B.S. in a field I wanted no real part of because hey, music won’t pay the bills.
I gave up on my dream to live out someone else’s, only to find that I wanted nothing to do with it.
After college, I worked in my field of study for a short time. I was miserable.
I never drove a tank. I never discovered a far off planet. I never played Carnegie Hall. I never became a music teacher. And I hate the tech business.
So what do I do now? Nothing even remotely resembling anything I grew up thinking I’d do. I’m a fitness coach. Go figure.