All my life I’ve heard people ask children what they want to be when they grow up, and the answers vary from race car driver to working the window at McDonald’s. That’s because children are fascinated with anything that seems exciting to them at the moment.
People used to ask me that same question all the time, and I never really knew the answer. I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall when my favorite thing to play was secretary. I would clip out little pieces of magazines and cards and fill them out at my little desk, and then, of course, I would have to file them. McDonald’s didn’t exist in my world, or I might have wanted to be that mysterious voice in the box, too.
Then I discovered science fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Wells and Isaac Asimov. They made the idea of space travel and time travel so vivid and exciting, I couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to be a part of something so adventurous. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a part of the space program and work for NASA.
I still held this dream by the time I reached high school, although I had decided that time travel was probably going to be out of my reach, but at least working with the space program might still keep me in touch with the stars. I even had it figured out what I wanted to do, plot the route of the ships whizzing through space. Yeah, it was a great dream, and then I had a meeting with my guidance counselor.
It was then I learned from my guidance counselor that math and science were a must. By this point, I had learned innumerable things to do with “x” and “y” and found Calculus a little on the goofy side and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what all those graphs had to do with life in any form or fashion. So the thought of more mathematics was depressing, to say the least.
To make matters worse, I had a chemistry teacher who met me and almost resigned on the spot from frustration. We never saw eye-to-eye on molecules, and why anyone needs to commit to memory that periodic table when it’s written down is a mystery to me. I think he switched to teaching math that next year, probably after discovering I was dropping out of the whole math program.
The final straw came, though, when that same guidance counselor told me I needed to take a mechanical drawing class. Still, I thought the woman had good sense, something I definitely questioned a short time later, and signed up for the class. So for an entire semester, I drew blueprints for houses and tried to figure out the correct way to use a T-Square. To show how pointless this was, my final exam drawing was a large comb. Of course, it was to scale, which is probably how I managed to pull a “C” out of the class. I wasn’t quite sure how this would help me with my NASA plan, but even though I did pick up the art of reading blueprints, I’ve never been called on to do it.
By the time I graduated, I had given up the idea of working with the space program, so I lowered my sights a little. But still I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. As tends to happen, as I got busy having a life, I pretty much forgot about it. Then a few years ago, I thought I can still decide what I want to be. I sat up one day and thought, “Who gets to decide when we grow up?” And as I’ve been known to do, I answered myself, “I do.” I think life should always have something “out there” waiting for us to experience. New adventures are what keeps life exciting, and even though space travel is not necessarily in my future, other things can be, and I’m having a great time trying to find some of them.
As far as deciding what I want to be when I grow up, I’ll let others know when I find out, but in the meantime, I think I’ll still just enjoy the ride.