My path was crossed the other day by someone I had not seen in a while, and thankfully so.
As I did what best could be called the “pass and repass” ritual of being a polite Southerner, I was asked what I was up to lately.
I gave a brief report which was met with a snort.
“Still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, do you?”
Given the environment I was in, I had to bite my tongue and smile weakly.
Maybe I am still trying to figure out what I want to be.
Maybe I’ve partly always felt like I was on some wild vision quest because I am scared that if I do stop learning, stop challenging myself to do something I have never done before, I will grow bored – a sure death for my soul – or I will hate myself for missing a great opportunity.
When I was in high school and Mama wanted to know my future plans, I told her I was going to be a writer.
“So you want to major in English then,” was her logic.
“No,” I said, “to write, you have to experience life and see it.”
She looked at me through her Virginia Slim haze and said simply, “You don’t like to travel. You think it’s a day trip to go to Gwinnett Place Mall.” (That was decades before the Mall of Georgia and the then mecca of malls was pretty far.)
True. I had better plans.
“I am going to sit in a coffee shop and observe people and write about that. I can eavesdrop on their conversation, imagine what is going on, what they are going home to, if they are happy, if they are sad. There’s a lot you can pick up from just watching people.”
Mama inhaled as she nodded slowly, not buying my spiel.
She wanted to be supportive but she also wanted her Kitten to have a promising future, preferably as a lawyer or doctor. Mainly a lawyer, she is always wanting to know if something is worthy of litigation.
Months passed, I graduated and found myself sitting at a technical school one semester, in the paralegal program, a good precursor to law school Mama thought.
“It’s just hard for me to figure out what I want to do the rest of my life when I am just 18. How am I supposed to know what I want to do?” I cried as I made my announcement.
Sure, I have had several jobs – and by several, it’s more than 30. Heck, it was at 30 when I was 28. I had turned in a notice at my then-current job to which I was asked, “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know yet, just not here,” was my answer.
I would like to think I have learned a lot of new skills with each job, because oftentimes, the new position would be in a field I had never worked before. I don’t think it’s a matter of me being qualified but rather me being crazy and foolish enough to apply. So far, I have known my limits and have not tried to be a bungee jump instructor.
I have had some great jobs, too. I have met some of the most amazing people – some wretched ones too, but overwhelmingly amazing – and had the opportunity to be a part of some truly interesting and challenging experiences.
There’s even been a few times, I have been humbly reduced to tears because I was able to do something I didn’t think I could.
Some paid well, while some the compensation was so low I would tell Mama I was going in the hole by putting on my makeup every morning.
I’ve walked away from some jobs because they didn’t feel right, and took one that, on paper, looked as scary as the devil’s lair but ended up being incredible.
I have learned so much from each experience individually and the collective sum. I can look back on how things have transpired and laugh, because it has been apparent how each experience built on the next, laying a foundation that would help me in the future. Even when I couldn’t see it at the time.
I know I would rather try something and fail. I know I would rather take a risk than wonder.
And I know I would prefer the change, the transformation – no matter how scary it can be at times – to not having any evolution to my soul.
So maybe I am still trying to figure out what I want to be “when I grow up.” That’s fine. I’m still figuring it all out.
It’s OK if others are too.
We will all get there.
I think I am up to 47 in the job tally.
And I have maybe, just maybe, grown up a little bit with each one.