I am 32 and I don't know "what I want to be when I grow up".
When I was a little kid I wanted to be a “singer” for the longest time. I wanted to perform like my favorite artists of my early adolescence… though I suffered from a considerable amount of anxiety and “stage fright” I still pushed it aside to play lead roles in a small number of school plays through 6th grade. (A la “Snow Queen” circa 1997…)
When I got to middle school, however, I moved to another school in a different demographic, in a different state, than the poor lower class white neighborhood I had immersed myself in to that point; nobody else was really “better” than me – we were all equal parts, what some would call, “white trash” and pretty similar as it pertained to finances. I was bullied in middle school on the bus. Every. Single. Day. I could not afford multiple pairs of pants and several outfits, but here I was – meshed with children who were of means well beyond anything I had ever had, or experienced, in my insulated poor town previously. The girls, often, wanted to know about my grooming habits – my hair brushing, the way I wore my finger nails, and why I wore the same pair of black cargo pants multiple times a week. The girls fought for the coveted “back of the bus” seats and I was relegated to wherever I could sit away from them to avoid the snickering and ridicule that was, honestly, quite cruel literally just to be cruel; I was new to the school, new to town, new to the district – they had nothing from me to warrant the cruelty they inflicted on the daily. This started the trajectory of my internalizing the very real thing that people could be cruel, and they could judge and ridicule you in a way that you could not ignore; that killed performing for me. After several years of vocal coaching and recitals – it was over. I could never stand up in front of a crowd of people and do the singing and performing that I previously so loved… because for the first time in my life I only saw the girls in the back of the bus in the crowd and realized that a crowd could be full of people like them. Why put myself in that situation – ON PURPOSE? So. I ended my vocal coaching, never tried out for another play. I, however, stayed in choir to try to enjoy the thing that I loved so much while blending into the background. Soprano I – plenty of us to drown me out, I guess. During my senior year in high school the Choir teacher had all of the girls line up and go into the office in the hallway outside of the choir room and record ourselves singing into a taped deck and then write their name on it to be graded. Our choir teacher was in I swallowed hard and got in the back of the line and watched the line ahead… within seconds of the first girls going into the office to record there were girls hovering outside to listen to the girl inside doing what she was told and the laughter and giggling and likening the girl’s voices to undesirable sounds from animals, men’s voices, everyday life became the mob-mentality entertainment.
I got out of line and went to the office and just sat there. I was a student aide during another period of the day so I sat in the office adjacent to the receptionist whom I made friendly conversation with during the earlier morning hours of the day for a half credit. She could tell that I was rattled and did not push the issue. I told the principal that I did not intend to return to the classroom and did not intend to complete the assignment – and so I didn’t. I refused to subject myself to that kind of ridicule. The choir teacher was (no lie) furious and seeing me in the hallway and not in his class he pointed to me and told me that I needed to get back to class (as I crossed the commons to go sit in the lounge area as the office started to fill up and the space was needed). I told him quite frankly – “No, I am not going to put myself in that position where girls are outside of the door listening and poking fun.” He repeated himself – telling me to get back to class. I, again, told him ‘No’. He tossed his hands up and left. While it may not have been the most respectful way to handle something – I was not going to let someone put me back into the position of terrifying white-hot embarrassment that rocked me to the core post-discovery of this level of judgment I was previously unawares to…(Yes, I literally went the first 12-13 years of my life not realizing that there was crippling judgment that could change who you are at your very being). Sorry, the girls on the back of the bus ruined that for me – call me lacking in resilience, but the deed was done. A childhood dream of performing put to rest with one swift movement. I am 32 and even though I feel like I have a nice voice and good vocal coaching and it wouldn’t be awful – the possibility that it could still attract ridicule means that I won’t even karaoke with my friends. Sad.
Fast forward to my adult life, I intended to complete my undergraduate degree, take the LSAT and go on to law school but then I met my husband and the $180k in student loans for a JD were just too overwhelming, too daunting and not something I felt comfortable bringing into a marriage. The decision to not go to law school left me reeling – left me feeling lost and lacking in a purpose, a direction. I loved the idea of litigating and changing lives because I felt that I would be *really* good at it having three years of social work education prior-to that I felt that I could bundle into this… but the $$$ made that decision for me… What I wanted more was a happier home life. A relationship that made me feel happy and secure and lessened my anxiety and increased my feeling of self-worth – that was worth far more to me than the law degree. To this day, I still wish that their had been a way for me to pursue this without the price tag because, honestly, I think I would have been really good at it…
Fast forward to today…
I am doing a job that I am genuinely good at for a company that, I think, genuinely values me and promotes a work-life balance that is 100% necessary for me. In addition, they are paying for the good majority of my masters degree that will wrap up in June of the coming year. It provides all of the benefits for my family – bar none. I feel, often, like the struggle to climb the ladder is still there but persevere on the hope that I will set myself apart.
People ask me all of the time “What do you do?” and my response is often too long-winded and complex. “Uhhh… some logistics, some technical support, some financial…. supply chain?Eh?” So when I decided to get my masters in management, which is the goal, I was forced to choose a concentration, so I chose where the industry was going; Business Intelligence- and thus I am learning SQL and various other technical languages needed to survive in a growing technical industry. However, I still don’t have a title… a coveted ‘title’ – a name of a ‘thing’ or position that I am pursuing. I am simply getting the letters behind my name and the very expensive piece of paper in hopes that the next steps will come to fruition. Each year during my professional evaluation at work I have downplayed my accomplishments solely because I was a bit disorganized in writing them in a meaningful way until pressed against the wire… Hey, just because you procrastinate on the details does NOT mean that you are not doing meaningful work; some of the most creative minds have been those of great procrastination. That said, I always meet a deadline – no matter what. You know the old proverb – Hell or High Waters. I do my best work under pressure. This year, I decided vehemently to stop doing that. I didn’t do it because I felt it wreaked of hubris and self-importance.
Alas, here we are… nearly two degrees in – as the first in my maternal family to possess a masters degree, second in my paternal family to possess a masters degree, and one of only two in my larger “childhood” family (7 of us) to possess an undergraduate degree. I don’t have a “title” – like “When I grow up I want to be a doctor!”… It seems a bit muddy and I feel like I made a lot of earlier decisions that resulted in too many lateral moves that I should have instead pushed for larger moves. Here I am. 32. And I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Are you doing the thing that gives you passion and drive, or what you’ve always wanted to do with your life?