Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A life's ambitions

Some people know in their early years that they want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a firefighter or an astronaut or a (fill in the blank), and they work tirelessly toward achieving that childhood dream.

For me, my interests and ambitions as a young girl were varied and ever changing. It seemed I could never give my “final answer” to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

My earliest career-goal, at least the earliest that I can remember having, was to be a horse rancher, which is pretty out of character for a girly-girl like myself. Waking up at the crack of dawn, wearing flannel and slinging mud and dung is not exactly my idea of a good time. But this dream was prompted solely by my love of horses and my wish to own one—or a dozen. While I no longer dream of being a rancher, my fondness for horses has not diminished.

My next dream was to be a WNBA basketball star. I loved playing basketball as a kid and I played in the local Boys & Girls Club summer league for years. I even tried out for my high school team but I didn’t make the cut (suffice to say, I was devastated, but that’s another story). Anyhow, my dad dashed my dreams of becoming a WNBA hopeful with one not-so-PC comment that went something like this: ‘You can’t play basketball. You’re not black.’ Thanks, Dad, for that astute observation! Geez.

During elementary school and junior high some of my other ambitions included being an archeologist (random, I know, but I loved history class—especially learning about Greek and Roman cultures), an interior decorator (I still think that would be so cool!), a makeup artist (I studied Kevyn Aucoin’s makeup books) and, for a little while, an architect (though, I don’t think my math skills are up to that.)

But for as long as I can remember, even during my horse rancher and basketball star phases, I held on to one “secret” dream tightly. I wanted to be a famous pop singer. I sometimes imagined taking the stage, singing my songs. I would even choreograph dance routines in my head. (I took ballet and jazz as a child.) But for the most part, I kept this dream to myself. Sure, I participated in a few talent shows, dancing with friends. To me, it was less scary to dance on stage than sing. Singing was, and still is, my passion and it was too vulnerable for me to share with everyone. I would lock myself in my room and sing at the top of my lungs. I’m sure my family could hear but that closed door offered protection. I remember being in 3rd grade (I think that’s when it was) and I had to do a school project on what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was too embarrassed to say what I really wanted to do, so I wrote a report on being a teacher, since that’s what all my friends wanted to be. I had no desire to be a teacher, but it was easier and more acceptable in my mind to want to be that than a pop star.

Eventually, slowly, I let people in on my dream, but it wasn’t until high school that I joined choir (I finally could fit it into my schedule senior year) and my friends actually heard me sing. And one friend in particular encouraged me to keep at it. So I auditioned to sing the national anthem at the biggest football game of the year. It was the first time my parents really heard me sing, out from behind a closed door. I was so nervous but it was such a rush and an amazing accomplishment for me. I later went on to perform in another talent show my senior year, and that time, I sang.

If I were completely honest, I still fantasize about being a singer-songwriter. After all, that’s what I initially studied in college. When it came time to pick a major, I picked music because I knew I loved it (singing but also playing the oboe. Heck yes!) and I didn’t know what else to do. Yep, even with all those other aforementioned aspirations! I attended a local community college for my first semester where I learned about music theory, developed rudimentary piano skills and earned my first solo in the chorus. I transferred to Pepperdine University for the second semester of freshman year and continued my music studies but the pressure and stress got to me. Somehow, the thing I loved turned into a source of great frustration and, at times, depression. Looking back, I think I could have overcome this emotional hurdle but I ended up changing my major the summer following my freshman year. I stayed in choir but decided to give journalism a try.

The thing is, even though I always excelled in my English classes and occasionally thought how fun it would be to pen a novel, I never seriously considered being a writer—or a journalist for that matter. I didn’t even read the newspaper! But I figured, I like to write, I’ve been told I’m good at it, and I like reading magazines, so maybe, just maybe, I can do this. By some dumb luck, I found out I can. And I enjoy it. Not that it was easy though. I was a scared, naive sophomore in my Intro to Journalism class. It was stressful and tough and I felt totally out of my element. But for some reason, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel—unlike with music, which I was only studying because I loved it, not because I pictured myself being an opera singer (Pepperdine’s vocal program focuses on classical music). I don’t know what I’d be doing now if I had obtained my degree in music. I could see myself being a writer though. Funny how life works out, huh? Sometimes the last thing you ever thought you would be is the very thing you are meant to do.

So tell me readers, what did you (or do you) want to be when you grew (grow) up? And are you doing it? Or did life surprise you with a new ambition, too?

Image sources: 1 & 5 via leave happier, 2 & 3 via i can read, 4 via Under Lock and Key


Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

1. You should post a recording or video of you singing; I would LOVE to hear it!!

2. I wanted to be a vetrinarian, actress and marine biologist before I landed on writing - and eventually journalism - in my pre-teens. Now, I'm going more the PR route with my journalism career. I'm not really sure what I eventually want to end up doing, I'll just have to see where this leads me!

Shoshanah said...

I remember in first grade we had to write down what we wanted to be. I either wanted to be an astronaut or an ice cream man (like the guy who drives the truck around the neighborhood). Talk about a wide range of choices. Needless to same I did not wind up becoming either one

Elizabeth Marie said...

Awwwww I am so jealous of your singing abilities. More so of your guts to sing in front of people. I don't have that in the slightest.

I always knew I would work in fashion. I'm pretty effing surprised a lot of the time that I'm here, doing it.

Your comment about the Shred=HILARIOUS.

Anne @ The City Sage said...

A beautifully written and reflective piece--thank you!

Since third grade my answer to the 'what do you want to be' question is 'author'. I studied creative writing in college, and while I'm not a paid author yet, i know one day when the time is right I will be!

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment on my blog today--your kind and positive feedback made my week :)

samantha said...

I wanted to be an underwater archaeologist. I don't even like to swim, really, but the idea of discovering something lost in the quiet depths really spoke to me.

Now I'm in the nonprofit world, and while I'm not too fond of the actual job I have now I feel like an industry that gives me the opportunity to help people is definitely where I fit.