What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

To provide an update to my last blog to my thousands (or two) readers…                    
Most of my friends whom I brought the ‘is this or is this not a date’ conundrum to informed me that last Friday night would indeed be a date. I remained steadfast in my opinion that it would not be. Well readers, you are about to see something very rarely conceded by me…I was wrong. They were right. I shan’t go into the gory details, but, even if the night started off in Friendshipville, it was clear to even boneheaded me that by night’s end, we had relocated to Date City. Date City is not where I’m looking to permanently relocate to with this particular person, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a good enough time. The drinks and conversation were all nice and light and free flowing. We sampled beers and wines and discussed common places we loved from our college town and our favorite movies and sports teams. It was all fun enough. Until I was hit with this question…


“So, if you aren’t in love with your job, what is it you are in love with? What is it you really want to do?”


Whoa, buddy. What happened to the nice and light?! Needless to say, I was stumped. I had no clear answer. After hemming and hawing for a few minutes, I came up with this gem in reply;


“I guess I just want to do something that makes a difference.”


Well, slap me with the cliché award of the year! Who doesn’t want to make a difference? Who wants to work their life away only to be forgotten because absolutely nothing they did made any difference? Likely no one. While it is true; I really do want to make some sort of difference, make my mark on the world, I seem to have done little to accomplish this in my six years in the real, professional, working world. I could attribute this to laziness or being bogged down by The Man and needing to focus all making-a-difference-in-the-world time on working-9-to-5-to-keep-the-bills-paid, I think it mainly boils down to this…I have career ADD. How can I get started on making a difference if I can’t figure out what the fuck I want to make a difference doing?


I think I was about four when I had my first big career dream: Movie star.                         
I know, I know, what girl doesn’t grow up wanting to be a movie star? But, my movie stardom goals went a little deeper than the typical ‘I want to be beautiful and famous’. I wanted to act. Like really act. I wanted to be in dramas and invoke tears from movie goers and win awards and thank my mother for passing on her acting talents. I wanted to go to Julliard and get my start in indie films then do major blockbusters then renew my street cred by doing gritty indie flicks again (yes, I had a very vivid imagination at four). I would make a difference by donating boat loads of cash to inner city school’s arts programs. Girls of all ages would look up to me for trading on my skills and not just my looks, for defying Hollywood’s ridiculous standards of beauty (Botox? I pity the OnabotulinumtoxinA-fool!).


This dream stayed alive and well for quite sometime. It was fueled by acting classes, dance classes, singing in the school choir, anything to let my inner superstar shine. But slowly it morphed, as ideas are prone to do. First it was to be a Broadway star, singing and dancing my heart away every night. I imagined the opening nights, the matinees, the standing O’s. I imagined music teachers bringing their kids in to see my shows and them being inspired to pursue their own musical dreams. Eventually this dream too shifted. While I loved the idea of being in New York and living out all my Broadway visions, I began having other New York dreams. More specifically the “Live from New York!” variety dreams. Yes, I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live.  


For literally as long as I can remember I have watched SNL. When I was younger I used to spend Saturday nights with my mom, eating spaghetti, drinking RC Cola out of an awesome Disney themed thermos, and laughing at topical jokes that were probably far over my head. But, regardless of my comprehension, I knew that every week the actors on this show got to be all sorts of different characters. Is this not an actor’s dream?! And then, in my teens, as I began writing more in school, Tina Fey came along and became the first female head writer of the show, proving to all the Jerry Lewis’s of the world that yes, there are women comedians and they are funny! It was 1999, right as I was getting to the point in high school where all any adult can ask you is ‘What are you gonna do with your life?’ and my only reply was ‘make people laugh.’ What would be better than living in New York and doing it every week?! 


Well, it was also right around this time that I was told I’d better get a back up plan. The odds of ending up in Hollywood and being a movie star are slim to none. Then odds grow even less in your favor when you switch coasts and set your sights on Broadway or becoming a comedy writer/actor. ‘You may have these goals, and you may go and pursue them, but be prepared for a life of rejection and waiting tables’ is what one of our school counselors hit me with. I was deflated. How could dreams so long lasting and wonderful be so hard to achieve?! Surely it could not have been true. News flash: It was. I did the research. My goals were nearly impossible. I was almost 17 and had no clear path in life, aside from a lifetime of servitude at Dean and Deluca, if I was lucky (yes, I base my New York food service jobs off of the show Felicity).

At that point, the career ADD really set in. I was a peer counselor in high school, hey, why not be a child psychologist? Wait, I also wrote for the school paper and literary journal, why not be a journalist? But hey, I was also a teacher’s assistant, and I come from a long line of teachers! Surely teaching must be the way to go! Then, in college, it only got worse. My major jumped from Psychology to Spanish to Art History to Social Work to Creative Writing to English Literature, and unfortunately for me, the English Lit degree is what I left with (no hate for the Lit coming from me. I only say unfortunately, because, let’s be honest here, an English degree {without a teaching certificate attached to it} is about as worthless as a Philosophy degree. Sure, employers may love that you have a strong grasp of our language and its history, but where’s the Business Degree they specifically required in the employment ad?).

So no here I am, 29, nearing my 5th year at a job that has nothing to do with any of the six majors I pursued in college (how is that even statistically possible??? Surely with all my flip flopping you’d think I would have ended up at least finding something even slightly related to any of the things I studied.). It’s a great job, and I do mean great, and in this economy I know am blessed to have it (and it’s benefits. Thank you, baby Jesus, for benefits.). I can give no reason to say any differently…except this one pesky thing…I’m not making a difference. My work here will not be work that kids for years to come can look at it and say ‘Wow! This has inspired me!’. Not even my own (at this point, imaginary) children will understand, much less strive to follow, what I do. And even allowing myself to be less grandiose about it, my work here won’t even make a difference on a one on one level. Had I continued pursuing Psychology or Social Work and worked in those fields, there’s always the possibility your work is overlooked, as mine is, but there is a greater possibility that there will be at least that one person whose life changes for the better because of the work you’ve done on their behalf. Even with my writing/lit degree, writing a book can do that for any number of people (because I can say with absolute certainty that there are books I’ve read that have impacted me and will stay with me forever).

Maybe this goal of making some sort of impact on the world is inherently selfish. Shouldn’t a passion be followed merely for the joy of it? We’re constantly told to do what you love and you will love what you do. And who knows, maybe that is how your mark is left on the world, people looking to you and saying ‘Wow, she truly just loves what she does. The money, the accolades, the reward for all the effort really just doesn’t matter, she just loves it.’ and you are an inspiration for others to follow suit. Maybe this is just the bigger picture I have yet to fully see. Either way, that is still my only answer to what I really want to do. I want to make a difference.

But, the question remains, how?






(Editor’s note: If you made it through this whole blog, wow…you are a trooper. When I first started writing this I had no idea I’d get so wordy! I imagine if I had pulled my thoughts together quick enough and given this answer to Mr. Friday Date he’d have quickly hauled ass out of Date City and retreated back to Friendshipville…)
 
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