Monday, July 30, 2007

What I've always wanted to be, and what I've become

I guess we always dream about who we “want” to be “when we grow-up”. I know I did. Besides dreaming, we’re also asked to decide what we “can” be “when we grow-up”. For me, the “What can you be” questions started about 6th grade. Career day and all that stuff. It always made me squirm – at first with anticipation – then with discomfort. The anticipation maybe lasted for 3 years. The first 3 years of taking “assessment” tests. You remember those don’t you?

  • I like excitement and don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. T/F
  • I like it best when there is a set schedule T/F
  • Adding up numbers and looking for relationships within them is a challenge I enjoy T/F
  • I explain things best when I can make a graph T/F
  • It’s not how well things function, it’s how esthetically pleasing they appear that is important T/F

The questions from those tests have all funnel into possible career choices. Fireman, nurse, doctor, teacher, architect. I was eager to take those test – I looked at them as if they were Magic 8-balls. Answer the questions – and then after the computer scanned your bubbles your future would be laid out before you. Carefully I considered the implications of each answer. Studiously I filled in each little bubble. Making sure there were no uncolored spots, yet that the pencil led never escaped the bubble boundaries.

Result after result disappointed me. There was no one thing I excelled at. I had no outstanding gift or talent earmarked for a future occupation. Oh sure, there were things I did well – partially. I stared with envy at those that excelled at math, or singing, or writing – or anything. Their lives were all laid out before them – just waiting for them to round out their natural talents with a few more lessons.

Well, if tests couldn’t point me in the right direction, God could! Earnestly I pray to him:

“Just tell me what to be/do, and I’ll do it!”, I told him.

Ps: “Don’t let it involve children.”

“If you give me a career or talent God? I will totally follow you where ever you want me to go”, I swore.

Ps: “Except missionary work, ok? Because I don’t want to live in a grass hut, eat rice, and be poor and dirty all the time.”

Apparently God wasn’t too impressed with my pleas (or sincerity). He stayed just as unhelpful as the High School guidance councilors and their tests. Of course, during this time it wasn’t as if I didn’t have any aspirations. I wanted to be a San Francisco socialite who was asked to serve on the Symphony Board. It didn’t matter that there was no symphony in my home town (and we lived 130 miles north of the city) or that my family was clearly middle-middle class in a small town – I was sure I’d make a glittering addition to the Bay Area Bon Ton.

I toyed around with the idea of becoming an auto mechanic – but got tired of washing my hands off with Goop every 15 minutes – and struggling with the equations for boring a cylinder, gapping a spark plug, and setting the timing on an engine.

Although I loved history – I certainly didn’t want to teach a bunch of kids. And how else did History Majors earn a living?

In college I fell in love with Political Science. It was a chance to examine the way organizations, laws, and rules, worked within society. I considered combining my love of Political Science with Agriculture and worked toward earning a spot in law school. Unfortunately I also worked on "Group Interaction 400", "Socialization with Liquid Refreshments", and "Small Group Activities 500"(2 or less individuals). This coursework eventually led me to a college degree – and educational loans, but not law school.

Yet all the time I was making lists about non-professional skills too. I liked the casually elegant way this person moved from one realm of society to another. I was impressed with the way another man threw an effortless party. He just opened up the refrigerator, artfully arranged a few vegetables, added an unique dip, two chilled bottles of wine and viola! Crudités and drinks for a pool party in Beverly Hills. I was astounded with how another woman artfully arranged just a few disparate knickknacks on a shelf and it looked completely original and pulled together.

Longingly I gazed at the personal spaces and public lives these people created and wondered what to do with my own “not jelling” life. For a while I decided I would do what I wanted – since it was clear God wasn’t going to hand me a road map. Yeah, that worked out REALLY WELL! At some point it hit me that had He actually handed me that map, I would have looked at it and argued with him over each and every twist and turn.

I went on about my life – fitting in here and there – and doing a “good enough” job in my chosen career path – but never quite doing “the job” to my satisfaction or dreams. Always I wanted just a little bit more. More responsibility, more authority, more voice in decisions, more money, more independence. More – without risk, mind you. More without facing rejection. More without exposure.

So, yeah, I was very, very, successful. At keeping the little parts of the dream alive – but never achieving the big bits.

Then, not long ago I was sitting in my house. (yesterday afternoon) It was one of those out-of-body experiences you have occasionally. Where you kind of leave your body and stare at your life through a strangers eyes. Here’s what I saw:

This very comfortable, eclectically furnished home. The walls in the house were painted bold colors that were somehow harmonious and yet distinctive. The artwork on the walls and trinkets on the shelves were unique and original. Sitting in the living room were women of various ages – all very smart and enthusiastic – and sharing a dream and plotting the path toward the goal. On the table and in the kitchen were small enticing morsels decoratively arranged on a mish-mash of intriguing plates and bowels. In the background speakers spilled the sounds of a jazz piano compilation adding the finishing touch on the scene.

That’s when it struck me. Without realizing it – I was “there” and I am doing what it is I am supposed to be doing. Where is “there” and what am I to be doing? Well, you see – it’s still bits and pieces – a mosaic I guess you could call it – and the wide angle camera view hasn’t been called for yet – so it’s hard to describe to you the big picture. But I can tell you what the little pieces are. Some of the pieces revolve around writing, some around entertaining, some pieces plug into sharing my life with others, and a few other pieces involve being (obedient) to God. (Sshhh, I don’t want to fess up to that part yet, ok? So we’ll just keep it our little secret.)

There are many interesting things happening in my life right now. As I told a friend tonight, I can see how most of them are interrelated and working towards one “big thing” – although I still don’t know what that is yet. But I’m happy to be here, right now, with all these activities going. Happy that my current career has become the background focus and is no longer holding center stage in my life. Eager to embrace this writing/critique group that coalesced last night and to see where the discipline and commitment will take me. I know the picture isn’t complete, but for the first time in a long time I’m beginning to see the design and I like what I see so far!

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