What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

There’s nothing that makes you feel younger or more on fire than when you’re trying to decide what to be when you grow up. Or, if you’re already grown up, what you want to do next. It’s just pure magic.  I’ve been having a blast these days trying to decide what my next career will be – trying things on for size, without being wed to one single idea.

In my world, I love to deconstruct and reconstruct. I’ll never get tired of re-inventing myself – my only regret is that there are only so many times that I can do that throughout my life. When I was younger, re-inventing myself meant selling everything I had and taking my kids and moving across the country. I’d get tired in one place, or irritated with what I’d built, and to solve the situation, I’d move. Moving was my panacea. Now, I’m older and wiser. Running is not an option. Reinventing myself these days means a refinement, not a reconstruction.  To take parts of myself that aren’t working, or – more often – have just run the course, and re-imagining them.

I left a ten-year career one month ago. I did so for two reasons. First, I did it because Steph and I worked so hard to have these boys, and damned if I’m going to miss all the good stuff.

The second reason I left my career is because I wanted to do something new. I was terrified of time marching on, and finding that I was 50 – unhappy and unfulfilled. I wanted that fresh feeling you have when you’re 17, and browsing all of the college catalogs, looking at the majors, and trying to decide where you will go, and what you will be. Everything is up for grabs – nothing is out of reach.

When I went to Barnard back in the early nineties, we didn’t sign up for classes online. That was FAR too modern. We used what was called the “Pencil Book”. It was called that because you would circle all the classes you were interested in – classes like Major American Authors II, or Theorizing Women’s Activism, or <insert what makes you swoon here>.

I would spend HOURS AND HOURS devouring the pencil book. Broke and lonely in New York City, I would circle and re-circle classes that I wanted to take – subjects I wanted to explore, and possibly become an expert in. I dreamed of a huge life, filled with adventure, deep thoughts and meaning.

It’s weird to think that I’m already 40 now. That the choices I’ve made have kept some doors open, and closed others, forever. I have to be honest and say that I rather liked being 17 and having all the doors open!

But….the beauty of being older is that you’ve determined which doors don’t serve you. The ones that do matter start shining brighter and brighter. Your job is to discern. To figure out which are most important to you. To decide which doors – if left unopened at the end of your life – you will regret. Everything else is just fluff.FairyTaleQuote

Over the upcoming months, then, I’ll have to stay focused on what’s most important. To understand that when considering all the things I can be when I grow up, the “no’s” that I give are even more important than the “yesses”, especially at my age. If I don’t say no liberally, my plate will be full to overflowing, but with the wrong things.

Who knows what I’ll be when I grow up – I’m not sure anymore that there’s one *right* answer. But, as I try things on for size over the upcoming months, I’ll pretend that it’s my Barnard Pencil Book, and see which things make me feel most alive.



4 thoughts on “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

  1. Ashley

    Oh, I love the idea of a Pencil Book! I live in a college town and it’s a wonderful energy–all these people thinking about their futures.

  2. Amy

    You are a wonderful creature. I am proud of you. I really needed to read this because I am only now figuring out who I want to be.

  3. Steph Shaar

    Melissa said it – we do keep growing and evolving. It’s what keep’s like exciting – not to limit yourself to one mere thing, but to be exposed many different things and finding a good number of them that may bring you joy and fulfillment. So many people limit themselves to what they are most comfortable with. Our friend from high school, Sean Hendrix – musician-extraordinaire-turned-fantastic-swing-dancer. I’m sure he had no idea when he followed this “lead” that he would uncover something that he is so passionate about now!

    Very inspirational post Love, and I so enjoy growing and evolving and exploring with you. And now our boys!!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *