I ask my kids that fairly periodically. Their answers make me laugh and they change nearly every time I ask. For now, here’s the latest polling:
- Dominic: Graphic artist
- Andrew: A marine biologist or a booger, depending on the day
- Makenna: A cupcake
- Riley: A chef
Dom’s held pretty steady for the past three years, knowing that he’s going to be an artist of some sort…but when he was a kindergartner, he wanted to be a motorcycle. Go figure.
About as often as I ask my kids, I find myself posing the same question out loud: What do I want to be? What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? I change my answers more than my kids do, even as I’m pushing another decade, I still haven’t quite nailed it down.
When I was young, I watched Top Gun and held fast to the dream I wanted to be a fighter jet pilot for a few years. By the time I hit college, I had no clue and explored just about as many majors as they could throw at me. I graduated with one in political science and couldn’t get a job for four months. It took a while for my adventure to really take off.
I eventually got hired at a newspaper as an archiver who worked as a stringer. Then I worked as a marketing/pr flack for a university. Then I was an advisor for a student newspaper at that same college. Then I sold Clinique makeup for a month. Or two. Then I worked for a jackass who had a sham of a publishing company churning out Alaskan books. Then I worked as a newspaper reporter again. Then I was back in marketing for a fantastic nonprofit. Then I was an outreach person for a big engineering firm. Then I taught creative writing to inner city school kids in Houston. Then I wrote for another newspaper helmed by the Devil himself. Then I was a staff writer for a radiology magazine out of Rhode Island. Then I freelanced. Now I do part-time marketing for a cute little food Co-op in Southern Vermont.
I obviously lack the career trajectory that guarantees fame, fortune, and recognition–but I’ve never been bored. And when I recovered from a near-death experience in 2015, I realized I’m okay with all of these cool jobs I’ve held along the way and I never take them lightly. Sure, some pay peanuts and won’t ever get me awards and accolades, but the fun part of being whatever you want, whenever you want, is that you’re never bored. I’m never bored. I don’t take jobs anymore that wouldn’t be a good fit for me just because I need a dental plan. I mean, dental plans are great and I could probably use one right now, but I do my best not to let the benefits blind me to bad fits.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about lots of new roads I might want to take. So much like the torrent of thoughts blazing through my mind, it’s a random, eclectic list.
I want to make tea blends. I want to illustrate children’s books. I want to be a baker. I want to make cool things out of wood (I’m not entirely sure yet..maybe small end tables?) I want to find old crap at swap meets and make a living refurbishing them with chalk paint and good intentions. I want to own a bookstore and sell really good coffee and yarn (I suck at knitting…but I love the yarn.) I want to teach art classes. I want to teach writing classes to kids. I want to speak at writing conferences about cool shit (Don’t really know what the cool shit is yet, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be epic). I want to travel and be paid to write about roadside dives and geegaw shops. I want to write really good obituaries that matter to the people who need them the most. I want to make YouTube videos. I want to illustrate a deck of oracle cards.
I have moments when I wish I’d been a little more focused when picking a college and a major, but then I remember my grandfather who pretty much did anything his heart desired (professionally) along the journey. He tried it all. He was a renaissance man and that sort of gives me comfort when I’m pushing 40 and feel like new beginnings and new directions aren’t scary–they’re amazing.
My folks have been supportive no matter what crazy idea I get and I’ve been lucky for that. I hope I’m that opened minded when Makenna makes the switch from underwater mermaid actress to handbag designer and I hope she’ll be open minded enough to let me register for purse-drawing classes right along beside her. I’ve long since abandoned the idea that a job defines me–rather, it’s the journey (and some of the jobs, I suppose) along the way that does.
My biggest wish at the end of the ride, wherever and whenever that may be, is that I leave behind one hell of a story, some good memories of me, and at least one quality maple end table to speak of. Chalk paint optional.