I am (grudgingly) admittedly middle-aged. Too often when I look at my life, I see where I've been, contemplate what I've done, reconsider choices I've made and how different choices might have changed the course I've taken. Yet I rarely look forward to what's coming. Even rarer is the occasion I actually think about what I'm going to do with my life. It often feels like, similar to what one of the gentlemen says, it's either happened or it hasn't.
I was thinking about this after watching the video (cough) several (cough) times in a row, and that was when it hit me. I spent more than a decade as a Human Resources Director. I had the corner office with the view. I worked ridiculous hours with moronic pride. I had an assistant and a secretary. I had the plaque on the door. And I had absolutely zero loyalty from the last company I worked for, the company I'd invested all of my time, efforts, life in. They didn't give one ripe shit about me when my health took a horrible, horribly unexpected turn. That company kicked me to the curb so fast I felt dirty, like a malignant liability. Years lost to a company I'd believed in. Championed. Cared about. And for what? I was destroyed.
I was sadly unable to return to work in the traditional sense. I can't sit at a desk for any amount of time. I can't stand for any amount of time. More often than not, just balancing how I'll get through each day is a conundrum for me. I took almost two years to professionally mope. (What? I was good at it.) And I read everything I could get my hands on. Then, one day, my husband said, "Why don't you write? It used to make you happy." And so it began.
When I was 6, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was, "I want to write big books." What I meant was long books--the kind adults read. I now know those are called mass market books, or single title books. I wanted to find my books in a bookstore. I wanted to write elaborate tales with any number of plot lines, though I didn't know what the word plot meant, unless you were referring to a garden. What stopped me from being what I wanted to be? Life. Practicality. And, above all, responsibility.
See, somewhere along the line, we've begun to believe that if we want to be a certain "thing," it can't be practical. Surely if I want to be a ballerina, it's impossible...right? Right? Who really grows up to be a ballerina? I couldn't have answered that for you twenty, ten or even five years ago. Now? I know the answer. Who grows up to be a ballerina? The child/girl/teen/woman who wants it so badly she refuses to give up on her passion when life tells her she needs to behave, by society's definition, "responsibly." She sheds that social stigma and give value instead to her dream. She pursues it. She works harder, longer, more passionately than the 50,000 other children/girls/teens/women who think they want it too. And she prevails. The moment someone pays her to be a ballerina, whether she's paid $50 or $5 MEELION dollars to dance, she's achieved her goal of being a ballerina.
I always wanted to be an author but I wasn't brave enough to do the thing certain to make me happy and equally as certain to make sure I lived with my parents after college. Had I been brave, I would have pursued writing. I would have shrugged off that leaden cloak of responsibility society laid over my shoulders and replaced it with a whimsical, lightweight scarf. One that fit me, not the masses. I'm not a "One Size Fits Most" kind of woman. I'm me, and I'm custom-fit, thanks.
It took a medical catastrophe and a wise man to make me re-evaluate what my dreams were worth. Then it took some time to rehydrate those husks that had blown around, un-nurtured for so long in my heart and mind. Then? I wrote. And the funniest thing happened. My first book sold, and I became a bonafide author. Twenty years I wasted chasing society's expectations, financial standing and false pride. No more. Now I live each day on the expectation that what happens today, tomorrow, next month and next year are all my responsibility. What about all that stuff behind me? I couldn't tell you. I haven't looked back in so long because you know what? I'm not headed that way.
So I'll ask you now and hope you'll answer:
What do you want to be--really, really be--when you grow up?