When I Grow Up

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.