How Did You Turn Out?

Me reading as always, age 12

Are you the kind of person you thought you’d be?

If you met up with someone you hadn’t seen since you were a child, how would you feel when telling them “what became of you”?

I think kids separate the future into attainable and unattainable. Those ideas can be really skewed. When I was a kid, it was attainable to be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary. If I worked hard enough, I might become a “lady doctor” or even the prime minister like Mrs. Gandhi. I knew I could be an electrician or a lawyer, but I’d have to spend my whole career surrounded by nay saying men who wouldn’t respect my ability, and who’d want that?

I wanted to be a writer. Over the years I wanted to be a novelist, a playwright, or a poet; an editor or a ghost writer. When it came time for higher education, I couldn’t quite make myself go into journalism or public relations because they seemed too practical. After studying theatre, English, Russian literature and philosophy (all at once), I settled on library science.

Yomiko from Read or Die has awesome paper powers!

Yomiko from Read or Die has awesome paper powers!

Did I settle, though, in the sense of giving up my dreams? To my surprise, it doesn’t feel that way. In fact, my interest in writing and in libraries both stemmed from being a quiet and reserved person. But something happened along the way. Whether it was through acting scenes in theatre school, or making a presentation about mechanics’ institutes in library school, I somehow learned to speak up and to work in teams. When I got my first librarian job at 23 and I had to train and supervise staff, I realized I could do it. Since then my job has been completely consumed with managing staff to perform customer service. Who knew?!

Nowadays my writing consists of proposals, plans, reports and emails. I don’t spend any time wishing I were a Published Author. Besides, I’m too much of a homebody to do a book tour!

I attended a 25th high school reunion a few years ago (!) and several people asked what I did now. Most nodded and grinned, believing that shy Dar was still hiding behind her books. When I said I was a library manager, one classmate said, “Is that all?” I knew what she meant though – she thought I’d have written a novel by now.

People change. The Child You can’t see beyond age 30 – all they can see are the landmarks of adulthood like going to college or buying a house. The 20 or 25 Year Old You can’t see that a work/life balance may feel better than a blazing ascent and a crash. Or that adjusting your plans for the people you meet along the way isn’t something you do by default – it’s an active (and welcome) choice.

I’m turning 50 this year. I wonder what my 75-year-old self will think of me!

“Well, at least she wrote that blog….”

She posted WHAT? (Photo: 50shadesofage.com)

21 comments

  1. Great post! Im sure my 7th grade English teacher would think that I would have been some sort of writer (yes, a writer of blog posts but that’s something). I did run into someone a while back who knew my family years and years ago and she blurted out “I’m so glad you didn’t turn out like everyone else in your family!” I knew what she meant–I didn’t end up in jail, divorced multiple times, on drugs, or on welfare–I was just shocked that she verbalized it. Overall Im really happy how my life turned out. And yes, Im still reading books like crazy–which I have done since I first learned to read.

  2. Interesting! I already think work/life balance, but the BF thinks in terms of ‘make all the money now’ and relax later – which I think is an OK idea, but wonder how often it’s the reality. But I won’t discourage a strong work ethic!! And I love that you talk about adjusting plans for people willingly – I agree. People think I have my life all planned out. But I don’t, because I know that life has a plan! I need to be open and flexible to the changes that come up – like moving out and in together, for example.

    • My career plans changed several times due to relationships, but I never got off track entirely. Some interesting twists and turns! I think one of the biggest decisions to make is, “Will I move (to another city or country) for my partners’s job – will they move for mine – and if so, how often?” Since you two met post-university when you were already launched in your careers, you might not have such a hard time with this!

  3. I was so rigid in what I wanted to do when I was younger. My dreams were based on wanting acceptance from those I loved. My life didn’t turn out even remotely like I thought it would, but I like who I am and what i have done.My work has been all over the place, trying new things and taking chances when presented to me. While I am happy how things turned out and have found my place in life, I have never attended any of my high school reunions and doubt I ever will. My peers all saw the facade i presented, that’s not who I was then or now so I think it would be an uncomfortable situation for me, the wall flower.

    • I think everyone feels they were misunderstood in high school, but only a few really were. I can see why you chose home schooling for your kids. High school is such a “false” environment with all one age group from a single area.

      • School really is a strange environment, it is the only time you will ever be with the same age group exclusively. But we homeschooled because the school wasn’t meeting their educational needs. I actually had fun in high school, it wasn’t until later that I learned people had this impression of me that was so different from who I was inside. In a good way though, they seemed to think I had it all together.

  4. EcoCatLady

    Ha! Well, the main thing I wanted as a kid was for everybody to leave me alone and stop placing so many demands on me, and I think I have achieved that! Seriously, I was the odd duck who never had any clue what I wanted to be when I grew up… and I still don’t!

    For a while as a young adult I wanted to be a singer-songwriter… but then I got the chance to see what that life was really like and beat a very hasty retreat. But I think what I really wanted was the validation that comes with performing. “Please world, tell me that I am OK!!!!!”

    I finally concluded that the hole inside of me could not be filled with applause, and these days I’m of the opinion that I am just fine – it’s the world that’s screwed up! 🙂

    • As the eldest of 3 kids, who shared a bedroom with a sibling, I always craved quiet and privacy. I can’t say many demands were placed on me, but I was always supposed to act as an example for the younger ones – hopefully I wasn’t too bad an example 🙂

  5. Fiona

    It’s an interesting question! I’ve seen some of my friends face real disappointment with the shifts in fortune that have touched their lives. Others seem to have sailed through on a charmed course.

    I feel like I’ve done “what I was meant to do” in life by becoming a teacher. I’ve done other things as well, but I decided on teaching at age 11. I’ve been so lucky that life has not really thrown too many curve-balls my way.

    • I’ve probably had more than my share of curve balls, but my career has been one of the steady things I could always rely on. I’m glad your path in life hasn’t meandered too much!

  6. This is very relevant to my life at the moment – my PhD is in marine biology and I always thought I would continue in a life of fieldwork and academia. However, recently I’ve come to realise that this field has very few jobs and is super-competitive, plus I’ve realised I like the stability of fixed hours and a fixed income (rather than a series of temporary contracts). So I have no idea how I will “turn out” next year when I start looking for a real job 🙂

    • I didn’t know that was your field of work! There is a huge focus on marine biology where I live, started by the fishing industry and the federal department of fisheries and oceans, and supported by local universities and research institutes. A large percentage of students here take biology and oceanography in high school. As a result, like you say, it is super-competitive.

      I made similar choices when I realized I wouldn’t make a living in the theatre (living from production to production) or as a freelance writer or novelist – I could suddenly see the appeal of a 9-to-5 job. Regular hours are not so boring when you realize they allow you to have a life on the side! I look forward to hearing about your further (good) fortunes 🙂

  7. I so enjoyed this post! I had wanted to be a policewoman, but ended up a corporate rat. 😀

    • Excellent 🙂 Nobody really aspires to be one, do they? At the end of the day, I am a municipal government worker. Luckily I serve the public with books rather than by-law infractions or property taxes!

  8. rachellivesinsuburbia

    Gosh, that’s a big question in your blog title!
    I still have these thoughts of “when I become an adult” I will…and I have to stop and remind myself that I am an adult. I think my problem is that I never had a set dream of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I sorted of drifted along. Somehow, something guided me along and I am here (luckily not homeless in a crack house) with a family, career, house, dog, station wagon, etc. Now that I am no longer drifting I am trying to have some direction – working toward something rather than just accidently picking it up along the way (or missing it entirely!).

    • I think that is the normal experience! For example, someone may not have known what kind of job they wanted as an adult, but their part-time student job eventually became a full-time job. Otherwise how would the world ever get insurance agents and administrative assistants and recreation leaders? I think it’s healthy that we drift in to fill the niches that are available 🙂

  9. I think I’m finally starting to be what I want to be. I was too shy and afraid of rocking the boat when young, my father wouldn’t let me do art in my final year at school…

  10. English and Russian (Language) major over here!

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