Someone asked me not too long ago what I wanted to be when I was growing up. It baffles me that I am actually considered “grown up” and am expected to answer this question reflectively, but I’ll try.
I don’t remember wanting a specific career when I was very little. Not in the sense that I imagined myself as a stay at home something, I just don’t think it ever occurred to me to think about it. I had loads of time back then; adulthood was way too far away to think about.
The first time I remember thinking about it is when I was a freshman in high school. I had always been a big reader, but that was when I really got into writing. I started to wonder if I could be an author someday and so I would scribble out all these ideas I had for books or snippets of dialogue. However, one thing that never occurred to me is that I would just be an author. I have always loved reading dust jackets, and about the author blurbs almost always tell you about the author’s day job. If I became a writer one day, I always assumed I would do something else too.
Towards the tail end of highschool I toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist. This was at the height of the “print journalism is dying” debate so I had terrible timing, but I had taken one journalism elective in school and done well and it was a potential avenue to a full time writing career. I even applied to my university directly through their journalism school. I was rejected (but accepted to the wider university) and that turned out for the best, but it was definitely something that piqued my interest at the time. I’ve been reading the news consistently since I was probably about 15, and if a paid writing gig wasn’t enough of an incentive, the idea that I could write about politics, my other passion, was definitely a draw.
I didn’t end up declaring my major until the end of freshman year, but being rejected from the journalism program revealed to me what it was I really wanted to study: political science. My favorite class in school, and the one I was best at, has always been history. And when you look closely, history classes are all really a combined study of what can be broken down into many other fields of study including (but not limited to): sociology, political science, anthropology, theology, economics, etc. You can interpret every historical situation through each one of those lenses. My lens was politics. At first I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with this deep interest in politics – I didn’t want to actually run for office or work for candidates – but after numerous episodes of the West Wing I got it into my head that it would be really freaking cool to work at the White House. It would be the perfect place to help turn the wheels of government and I wanted to be right in the middle of making change happen. I no longer just wanted to write about it.
Where I’m headed now isn’t entirely off track. I realized later that my interest in White House work was too narrow and that what I actually wanted to be was a Civil Servant. It’s a broad category that covers the work of pretty much anyone who works with or for the government. The most obvious civil servant jobs are the ones with public faces – president, representative, senator, etc. – but the bulk of the work is really done behind the scenes. Sometimes that work is in the West Wing, but it happens in lots of other federal, state, and local government agencies.
And that’s pretty much where I’m at now. I work on a contract for the federal government and the things that I do benefit the daily lives of other Americans every day. It has little to do with writing or even politics (at least not directly), but it’s something that gives me a sense of purpose and that I’m proud of. It wasn’t exactly a childhood dream, and it definitely didn’t have a straight path, but I enjoy having a career that lets me help people and that fits my skillset.
I haven’t given up on writing though! This blog is proof enough of that. I’ve just been focusing on getting my day job in order before diving into the next Great American Novel. When I finally become an author, (which is something I want to be whether I’m ever published or not) I hope my other experiences just make my dust jacket more interesting.
So what did you want to be when you were growing up? Let me know in the comments down below.