Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid people always told me I should be a writer but I didn't think of "writer" as a job (turns out it is, since that is in fact what I am). When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said teacher for a while. In junior high that changed to architect. I was fascinated by houses and house plans. This interest was tightly coupled with a fantasy about living in a bigger house, I admit -- not that our house was small, but I aspired toward opulence at that age. I distinctly remember the day my mom told me that being an architect involved a lot of math. We were in her car, waiting in line at the bank. That didn't sound romantic and artistic to me and it killed the fantasy. Later, in high school, I wanted to be a psychiatrist, though I was on the fence about medical school (gross anatomy? gross). My dad pushed me off it. He's a doctor and wouldn't wish that fate on anyone.

If I was truly passionate about either career path I guess I wouldn't have been dissuaded. But I wonder why I was so turned off by the idea of effort. I'm not even bad at math, or I wasn't, at least, when I had to do it all the time. Any real job is harder than the fantasy, right?

Did you always want to be what you are?

24 comments:

  1. When I was a kid I wanted to be a "scientist" and blow shit up. Later I read Bertrand Russell and Oscar Wilde and wanted to spend my life coming up with clever one-liners. At college I decided to major in physics for dumb social-prestige reasons; I stuck with it because of inertia, and because I'm not good enough at anything else to justify a switch.

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  2. Crazy how much of our life is determined by inertia + dumbass 18-year-old decision making.

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  3. i wanted to be an astronaut, astronomer, or astrophysicist up until 6th grade, when i realized i sucked at math. i was really depressed when i realized i would never go to outer space! then in college i majored in jazz studies with the vague idea of being a jazz musician. then i realized i wasn't that into jazz, so i switched majors to english just as a kind of default. so i got a degree, but since then i haven't had any career aspirations in anything. i like my job, because it requires no mental energy and consists mostly of downtime, but of course the thought of doing it forever is extremely depressing, not to mention unfeasible. but i haven't even applied for a job in like 3 years. still waiting to grow up i guess.

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  4. _Pace_ Kingsley Amis, I find that the most efficient way to deal with feelings of despair and horror-of-the-future is to convince myself that what I have is actually a hangover. Naturally this entails a lot of drinking to make the story plausible...

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  5. Sarang, at some point in my 20s I realized most of my despair WAS a hangover. Or rather, I mostly felt despair when hungover. I drink less now.

    Matt, what instrument did/do you play?

    I have no regrets about my college majors (linguistics and cognitive science), I only regret that those aren't the kinds of majors that draw corporate recruiters.

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  6. i played tenor sax (bari in jazz band at IU). i quit music in 2001 and haven't touched the horn since.

    i'm okay with how college turned out (academically, if not socially); i just wish it had lasted longer.

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  7. When I was a kid I wanted to be a scientist of some kind, maybe an astronomer, or something studying animals in the wilderness. At some point after that I found out how much math I would need to do any kind of science for a living, and, well...

    In the fall of 1968 (I was 14 at the time) a teacher showed me some poems by Carl Sandburg, and either that same day or that week I decided to be a poet and started writing poems. (It took a few years before I was sure I wanted to stick with it.)

    Somewhere in there I thought about possible ways to make a living while I was writing -- journalism, psychology, teaching (English or social science stuff), etc. Little by little I decided not to, because of all the education they would require. In college I mostly did poetry writing and social science stuff, and the minimum science and math required.

    I've wound up working mostly in corporate cubicle jobs talking on the phone and typing on computers in large offices filled with people doing the same thing. Mindless enough work to support writing time in my real life.

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  8. The only thing I've ever wanted to be is a writer, although occasionally that would morph into wanting to be a musician when I saw how many more fans they had, and how they got to play with others, instead of all alone in their rooms.

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  9. I always always always wanted to be a rock star. Not a musician, but a rock star. I kind of learned how to play the guitar, enough to write your simple 3 chord punk/metal tune.

    I still kind of want to be one.

    I'll have to remember not to point out how hard things are to my kids when they start having ideas about what they want to be when they grow up. Or at least find a way to tell them it takes work but not scare them out of going after what they think they want.

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  10. Funny, I didn't think about becoming a writer until I hit my early 20s. Before that, I switched my aspirations between something scientific (biochemist, then doctor) and something artistic (painter, jazz trumpet player and comic book artist). Actually went to med school (in France, mind you), then moved to the States where I was really bored by biology, chemistry and calculus classes (felt like I was back to my first year of high school), so switched to English and philosophy.

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  11. I recently thought about this as I stock shelves. But yes, I like to think of myself as a hobbyist, always with something (not so much someone) on the side.

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  12. I distinctly remember telling people that I wanted to be an "astronaut and part-time gymnast" when I was 8. By the time I was in college, I wanted to be a journalist in a remote, preferably deathly location--I think I envisioned myself in some kind of _The Quiet American_ context. But I realize now that the journalism thing was just a vaguely practical way of saying I wanted to be a writer. Still, I remain a little jealous of circus performers and foreign correspondents.

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  13. I'm surprised how many of y'all wanted to be musicians. In a half-baked way I always wanted to be famous in some fashion, though acting or modeling seemed just as awesome and just as possible (i.e., not at all). I did act for a while in jr. high/high school and I was kind of good but ended up quitting. Just as well, as now when I meet actors they seem like unbearable phonies, but maybe that's just theater people.

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  14. i haven't totally dismissed model/actor myself. there's always hope!

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  15. Since I was five I wanted to be a writer and a violinist. And now that I'm somewhat grown up I am exactly that -- a writer and a violinist. I never let go of it I never doubted it I never made much money from any of it but it's who I am through and through.

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  16. I wanted to be the first female President of the United States, though I also hoped we'd have already had one by the time I was finally old enough.

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  17. When I was around five or six I remember telling my dad I was hoping to, at some later date, be a playboy, tho I am not sure I used that term. Retrospectively, could it be said that it makes sense a kid who it would turn out is tres gay would come up with such an aspiration?

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  18. Kathy, are you old enough yet? I can't remember the minimum age.

    A playboy -- that's fabulous.

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  19. Not old enough. We probably won't have one before you turn 35 though.

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  20. Yep, probably not. And when we finally do have one, she'll likely be a Republican. Blah.

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  21. Didn't everyone want to be a musician at some point in their lives?

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  22. It's not too late: Rooney 2020!

    Starting in junior high, I wanted to be a genetic engineer. I even went to a science and math magnet high school. I was really fascinated by DNA and was sure I wanted to spend my life in a lab pipetting things into beakers and making cool stuff. Then freshman year in college I took 1 week of organic chem and immediately dropped it and became an English major. I remember one of those 19-year-old realizations that, in life you didn't necessarily have to do the thing that was the most challenging, but the thing you loved the most, which for me was reading and writing.

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  23. almost forgot-- wrigley field grounds crew

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