Yesterday I gave a talk to a group of final year high school students. Even though it was a Home Economics class, and I was there to address the topic of healthy eating and fad dieting, I started thinking about what I felt like all those years ago when I was staring down the short end of the tunnel toward graduation.
I remember being asked over, and over again, ‘What do you want to do when you leave school?’, or ‘So, what are your plans for next year?’
I remember the hope that I held for what I would find once I left behind my (very) small school and ‘grew up’; the feeling of being both in the good company of my fellow graduands, and yet completely alone in my journey into the future; the fear that would take my breath at unexpected moments when I could do nothing but sit and stare until I was calm again; I remember it all too well.
That taste of my past sent me reeling back into ‘When I grow up…’ mode. I suppose this has been a recurring theme of the past few months since my twenty-fifth birthday. In the middle of last year I thought I knew where my life was heading, and then it all changed in an instant. Although I am not a ‘Type A’ personality, I do not deal well without having some sort of plan or goal to work towards. When everything changed I scrambled for any goal I could cling to, and decided to realise a passion that I had held for a long time – going back to uni to study writing, editing, and publishing.
The experience on Tuesday gave me a smoother reflective path to travel down, and a more gentle easing into thinking about what else I want from my life after I finish my master’s degree.
When I was a little girl of four I wanted to be a teacher.
When I was (still) a little girl of eight I wanted to be a stage actress.
When I was twelve I wanted to be archaeologist.
When I was thirteen I wanted to be an architect.
When I was fourteen I wanted forensic pathologist.
When I was seventeen I wanted to be a dietitian and exercise physiologist.
When I graduated university at twenty-three I realised that although I wouldn’t give back my five years of study for anything in the world, I actually didn’t really want to be a dietitian and exercise physiologist. I was lucky enough to find a job where I use my dietetic and fitness skills without having to be situated in a hospital, and get to help people without being overly clinical.
When I turned twenty-five I realised that I was finally living part of the start of the life I had always wanted to build. I was studying writing. Playing with words. Learning about how a book is made; from the seed that starts in a writer’s brain to the finally printed page, I was making my way down a path towards working with words in one capacity or another. I had the chance to imagine all over again what I wanted from my life. What I wanted to be ‘when I grow up’.
So now, when I think about what I want to be ‘when I grow up’, I know only this:
- I want to be happy, and to make others around me happy
- I want to be excited, challenged, and taught by every moment in my life
- I want to climb mountains, swim in oceans, sleep under the stars of skies I have yet to see
- I want to share my journey with someone, one day, maybe, if the universe sees fit
- I want to make beautiful food and share it with my friends at a table that always has room for one more
- I want to grow things, tend the earth, and taste the sweetness of my labours in what I harvest
- I want to spread the message of a life well-lived, thoroughly nourished in body, mind, and soul
- I want to live everyday as if this is heaven on earth
and, I never, ever, ever, want to ‘grow up’.
Tell me dear reader, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’, or, what do you want to be now?