As children, we are often asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
I find this to be a strange question; one that tells us at an early age that what we choose to do for a living will define us as human beings. Perhaps a less guiding question would be, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’
I suppose that for many people, the question is not scary. It is a natural progression to go to school, perhaps further, and then work. And somewhere along the way, you grow up. It is an accepted reality of life.
But for me, even at a young age, the concept of being defined by one personality, one version of myself, was terrifying. It still is. Perhaps this is why I have such a broad list of qualifications and job titles in my resume.
When I was a child, I went through phases. I wanted to be a teacher, an astronaut, a mermaid, a fireman, a natural doctor and an actress. And I’m sure there were a few more career goals in the mix. As I grew older, I wanted to contribute to the world and make a difference. I wanted to join the United Nations. I wanted to travel to developing nations and build bridges.
At this point, I must give thanks to my parents for not once telling me that I couldn’t accomplish something (even becoming a mermaid). They are both very practical, and thankfully, patient people who I am sure were regularly challenged by my day-dreaming. However, when six-year-old me told Dad that I wanted to be an astronaut, instead of telling me to pick something more realistic, he explained that they are very smart people so I needed to study and make sure I was good at maths and science. Cheeky!
For me, the whole world was possible and I refused to restrict myself to just one area. This is why I enjoy writing. I don’t have to be all of these things to experience them. I can write about a teacher, an astronaut, a mermaid, a fireman, a natural doctor, an actress and a UN activist. I can travel, love, be hurt and forgive, all while sitting in the same purple chair. I can work out what the requirements and difficulties are in all of the world’s professions and decide if they are right in the current manuscript.
Writing allows the reader and writer to see the world from a different perspective. We can all experience multiple personalities without needing a psychological diagnosis. And isn’t that worth more than being defined by a single aspect of your life?
So, to belatedly answer all those people from my childhood, when I grow up (no, it still hasn’t happened yet) I want to write.