Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I've been thinking about this a lot recently - how my dreams have changed shape over the years. I've always been in awe of people who just seem to have it together. Who have been able to answer the question of what they want to be, and they go after it. That's never been me. I've always been indecisive, a little wishy-washy about it all. Go with the flow. All of that. Here is my adventure to date:

An author

When I was younger, the thing I wanted to be the most was an author. I started writing short stories and things in middle school and it carried on through the first few years of high school. I'd have a notebook that I'd carry around with me where I'd scribble notes about plot and do character studies. I'd map out relationships and story arcs and then edit and revise when I should have been paying attention to classes. At this point in my life, I couldn't see myself as anything but a writer.

And then things went wrong. Or maybe they went right, I can never tell. One of the major reasons I stopped writing was the invasion of my privacy by certain members of my family. Then a floppy disk containing all of my (password-protected) stories, of which there were 20-30 was destroyed. Contents were never retrieved. And then after I met N, things just went a little crazy. Things were happening very quickly, with school and my family and with N. Before I knew it, I was living on another continent.

Work in a publishing house

I felt as though one lifetime had passed and I was starting a new one. I didn't feel the urge as much to write. I did have a journal that I wrote in occasionally, but nothing serious. After a few months, I was able to start work in the UK and I began thinking of going back to my university studies. I thought long and hard about what I'd like to study and also what I'd like to do with my life and the only constant interest in my entire life was reading. I thought perhaps I could go to work in a publishing house, doing something, anything.

I was put off by what other people said though. They told me publishing house jobs are competitive and hard to come by. They told me I'd have to go after what I wanted and be ruthless. I worried that it wasn't really my personality. But I think I was really just afraid to acknowledge that in my heart of hearts, I wanted it.

A solicitor

Instead, I ended up falling back into a different path. One that my dad had wanted for me. One that he'd pushed me towards since I was little, and after a fascinating dinner conversation with a friends about the work they were doing in law, I thought perhaps I should be a solicitor. Before my dad went to Vietnam, he was studying to be a lawyer. I thought it could be something that I would enjoy doing. I always sort of knew that I'd be the type of person who couldn't do the same thing day-after-day and would need to have varied days. I studied law for two years.

And I was abysmal at it. My head and law just don't work together. It's very tied into politics and I just wasn't interested in it all. I think at the heart of wanting to be a solicitor was this idea of helping people. I'd love to be a person who fights and works to achieve good in the world. But sadly, I will never do this as a solicitor. Phew.

Own my own bookstore

By this time, of course, I was working in Books Etc. I loved it there. I loved the people I worked with, the books, the customers who came in and talked to me about books. I loved opening the boxes of new books, I loved organising books on the shelves. I loved rearranging books and thinking of ways to make my displays more eye-catching. I loved the paperwork involved and the chance to choose which books to buy.

I started to daydream about having my own bookstore. Maybe a funky children's bookstore like in You've Got Mail. There was once a dedicated children's bookstore in the town I live in ... but sadly, just like in You've Got Mail, my children's shop around the corner closed down. It's a lovely idea though, isn't it? Owning a bookstore.


Because I've been back to university several times and have failed on three occasions to follow-through and gain a degree in any subject, I waited a few years before returning. I really needed to be sure that whatever subject I pursued next would be something worth sticking with. I needed a subject that could maintin my interest for six long years.

I knew I'd be studying with the Open University, so I requested all of the information that they had regarding undergraduate courses. I went through their prospectus and I circled every single course I'd be interested in taking. From there, I flipped to the back of the book and looked to see which degree was feasible taking those courses. I'd circled a load of courses in the social sciences section particularly but the psychology classes jumped out at me specifically.

That combined with the growing fascination that I'd had watching my Eldest growing up, learning to walk and speak and be very social made me very interested in learning more about child development. Which emphasised my growing interest in the subject of psychology. Because there's a subject that just never grows old. It touches on every aspect of life and how can anyone find 'life' boring, right? I've really hit on a good one, studying this. Three years into my degree course (which means I've lasted an entire year longer than either of my other attempts at university) and I think this one is going to stick. (..Though I don't know. I quite fancy doing a Modern Languages degree.)

I don't know that I will end up working as a psychologist when I've finished, but I figure it's still a good degree to have, one in which I could branch out with and work in nearly any field. And for now, I'm enjoying the job I have.

The best and most important job I will ever have: mother.

What did you want to be when you grow up?


  1. This is fascinating! I've actually wanted to do ALL of those jobs at various points in my life, but yes, I did always want to be a writer. Marine biologist was pretty high on my list too, but I was crap at biology. Sigh.

  2. What an awesome post!
    I wanted to be various different things. Even a policewoman at one point but I was told I'd have to be AWESOME at PE so that idea was thrown straight out the window!
    I love that you have got the best and most important job you will ever have already :) thats sweet! x

  3. Brilliant post!

    The first two things I can remember wanting to be were a librarian and a writer. Finally I'm pursuing both paths after being pushed to leave behind a degree and career I'm still not sure how I ended up with.

    Most of the fleeting job ambitions I had were inspired by books, for example I remember reading Sue Barton books and being desperate to be a nurse.

  4. When I was younger I really wanted to work in a library - and I would still be totally happy to do so. I actually studied Publishing at uni but couldn't bring myself to move to London to work in the industry (at the time, it was THE place to be if you wanted an in). Like you I've been studying Psychology with the OU but decided it wasn't for me and have transferred to a degree in English Literature with a focus on creative writing - maybe I'll try to be an author, maybe not....

  5. You've had a fascinating journey! When I was little I wanted to be an author and a vet. I loved writing and animals and James Herriot was my hero. As I got older I realized that I could never handle being around hurt animals or having to put them down. I also realized that my true love was still writing, but as a journalist. I became a reporter, then editor at a daily paper and loved it. Unfortunately the paper (like so many others around the country) folded.

  6. I wanted to own a book store like the one in You Got Mail too. You know I always dreamed of being an author but somewhere along the way I ended up as a restaurant manager, followed by a PA, then on to being a teacher. Now I have come full circle and hope to be an author again.

  7. a child at school (who I was teaching not when i was also a child) asked me what I wanted to do when I got a proper job - he looked most put out when I explained teaching was my proper job!

  8. I loved this post! I think about this all the time. Sometimes I feel lost, other times I think the best part about this is that an any given moment, we can reinvent ourselves. It just takes a little courage (much of which I need). I have a list very different than yours but still as varied and I still don't know what I wanna be when I grow up. But like you, I do know I love the job I have right now! MOM!

  9. This was a really interesting post - I think it's only natural that people change their minds about what they want to be (I know I certainly have - and I still might, who knows). You've had a lot of experiences though! I've wanted to be everything you have as well (except Psychologist - I'm still on solicitor at the moment :P. It's so competitive though and getting into university is becoming so's really putting me off :/. Even though it's something I really want to be.) Best of luck with your degree (you can always take up Modern Languages on the side :P).

  10. I loved your post! I go into it in more detail in the interview I did for you, but... when I was very young, I wanted to be rich and famous - a singer or an actress. But as I got older, the non-fantasty thing I wanted to be - despite actually an actress as I adored Drama (but wasn't very good at) - was a make-up artist. I had read various magazines and books on the subject and it was just so fascinating to me! Until I studied it, that is, when I found it bored me. I missed writing, so went on to Journalism, which I enjoyed writing-wise, but not subject wise. Now I want to work in publicity in book publishing. Going for lots of various work experience placements to try and get more experience and make myself more employable. But to date, the only two jobs I've had are an Oxfam bookshop volunteer (unpaid, obv.) and a project assistant in an office, for admin/office experience. But I guess I'm still young, I hope there isn't, but there may be changes.

    But I have always, always wanted to be a mother. And, if possible, I'd like to be a stay at home mum. That has got to be the best job ever. :)

  11. Wooow, long! Sorry about that!

  12. We have the bookstore, You've got mail thing in common :-). Is the unicorn childrens bookshop in Richmknd still open I wonder...

    I wanted to be an astronaut and pilot but as I'm short sighted was very sad when I out that it was basically impossible. Anything to do with books was my next port of call - which means we got to work together

    Still want to be a writer! And you know i'm going to become Sydney Bristow when I grown up

  13. When I was very very young I wanted to be a hairdresser... Really don't know why, cone to think of it haha. That turned into wanting to be a vet - but after a week of traumatising work experience on the fields and with the poor sick dogs, I realised you need to be strong(for chasing a goat -with a broken foot - around a hill, or manning sheep...) and not too emotional... The next one was psychologist and I have stuck with that /) I absolutely love psychology and am currently applying for masters (hopefully in behavoural psychology, working with kids with autism etc)

    Would LOVE my own bookstore too.

    Brilliant post :)

  14. I'm loving the response to this post! Thank you all :)

    Cat - I always thought marine biologists would have an awesome job. Same with zoologists and other people who work with animals. My problem was always that I was scared of science for so long!

    Raimy - Policewoman, really? I find that really interesting. Were you not awesome at PE then? :)

    Jenni - Thank you! That's wonderful, that the two things you really wanted to be are things you're going after now! Good luck to you :) I take inspiration from books as well for career choices, but never for very long.

    Sya - Still figuring things out, I see! I wish you the best of luck :)

    Avid Reader - I'm so sorry to hear about your paper :( And your failed dreams as a vet! I would have never considered those things.

    Viv - I'm sure you will be an author! I'll be able to say I knew you when...

    Kirsty - HA :) E asks me sometimes what I want to be when I grow up as well. Did you always want to be a history teacher?

    Christie - Thanks! It is a wonderful feeling, having the freedom to change the paths our lives are headed. I feel really lucky that the choices that I've made haven't been made for me with redundancy or health or anything! Motherhood is very rewarding.

    Liz - I don't think my husband could bear the idea of me studying for another 8 years on top of the 3 more I'm already set to do! But good luck with the solicitor thing and getting into university. I know it can be tough :(

    Jo - No worries, I love long comments! I think my job as a stay at home mother is definitely my best job ever and will continue to be, but I'm still looking forward to what else is out there for me. I find it interesting that you were interested in drama and make-up artistry! Paths I've certainly never considered (being hugely shy and having never worn makeup!) Lots and lots of luck with the publishing jobs, I'm sure you'll do great!

    Shadowfalcon - There's an independent children's bookstore in .. somewhere in London still open, but I haven't been in it yet. What a shame that astronaut was ruled out for you :( AND OH MY GOD, I SO WANT TO BE SYDNEY BRISTOW AS WELL!

    Caoimhe - Aww, what a fun adventure you've had with jobs :) Another psychologist, that's awesome! Good luck with your masters!

  15. Oh I was terrible at PE! I hated it, Forged notes from my mum the whole way through year 8 just so I wouldn't have to do it!
    I then went on to waiting to be an English teacher. I started with this fascination of teaching when I was 14 and it stuck with me until last year. I wanted to be a writer on the side too so at least I'm doing one of them! I never thought I'd end up in Journalism but I love it :D

  16. @Clover history teacher - no not something I've always wanted to do! Just didn't know what else do you with my life and ended up doing it! I have half an idea of a career change when my mortgage is paid off. I do enjoy it at present but there is an awful lot wrong with the education system that annoys me and makes my day job harder. Maybe something in books not sure what though.

    I wanted to be a sailor girl (whatever that is) when I was very young and a author - that'd never happen my writing is shocking.

  17. I hate to break the news to you, but what with the family and all I consider you to already be a "grown-up" who must "have it all figured out."

    Personally, I wanted to be a teacher a lot of the time as a kid. Now I think that this may have had a lot to do with the fact that I viewed school as a rather good social experience, but I still may end up as an educator if I grow up. Other fantasies involved various types of scientist; geologist was a young dream, marine and arboreal biology were also very interesting, and when I got older physics had some allure. I guess my current dream job is some sort of philosopher...

  18. Raimy - AWW! I actually really liked sports growing up, which lots of people have found to be really surprising. I've obviously turned into a lazy lump over the years!

    I always thought being an English teacher would be quite fun as well. Actually, I kind of wanted to be a Spanish teacher at one point. For one summer before high school (I think) I definitely considered journalism as well (my local university was a really great school for journalism) but it never panned out either. I think it's absolutely fascinating to see how people's journeys have all differed.

    Kirsty - When I saw the email notification from 'Mrs Connor' I swear to you, I felt nervous. I felt like it was going to be the principal telling me off for something! :)

    I am so curious to know about your half an idea! It's hard to make these life-changing decisions with a mortgage hanging over your head, that's for sure! A sailor!! :)

    Kenny - oh no, I definitely do not have it together! Very far from it, I feel like I'm just getting by at the moment. I have no idea where my life is headed, though obviously I do have some very major constants.

    Surely you meant 'when I grow up' right?! I think a teacher is a wonderful job, one I've always liked the idea of. Not because of the social environment at school (that was kind of a nightmare for me) but because I've had such great teachers growing up that I've really looked up to and admired.

    Sciencey jobs, hmm? I'm attracted to them as well, despite having horrible, irrational fears about being crap at science. I've never had good science teachers, which is probably why I feel that way :( Good luck to you. I've not really heard of a professional philosopher, but it does sound like something quite suited to you.

  19. @clover - oops - I was signed in on my school blog! I didn't realise lol if you're interested - it's not that interesting though!

    Umm half an idea - maybe book selling or something in publishing. maybe even school librarian

  20. I'm getting a PhD, you are building a family, neither one of us feels particularly grown up, I did indeed mean "if I grow up" ;)

  21. I had such a hard time deciding what I wanted to do, but it turns out publishing is exactly the thing. I'm in the first job right now that I loved anywhere near this much, and I want to stay at it forever.

    But if I weren't able to do this, I think I'd probably get a degree in social work and see where that took me. I think I could be good at counseling.

  22. Kirsty - Sounds like a lot of fun! My bookselling job was wonderful, and I think I'd still really like to work within the publishing industry somehow. Just not sure how/what though.

    Kenny - I see what you mean! I think in a lot of ways I really AM grown up, I'm just in denial. You should hear the things that come out of my mouth when I'm being mom-like. Exactly like my own parents growing up. But mostly I don't feel it!

    Jenny - I'm so glad you found such a wonderful job :) That's always lovely to hear.

    Also, I did consider social work before I started my psychology courses, but I feel like I'd get too weighed down in the people I'd be seeing's problems. :( Or I'd be frustrated that I couldn't help enough. Feels like a job that never ends.

  23. I was / am a bit wishy-washy about job choices. I've considered so many over the years and investigated things from ICT teacher - got as far as registering with the TDA after I got my degree and now they won't leave me alone lol (then remembered what I was like at school and promptly binned the idea).

    I've looked at working in bookstores, running an online business (still trying this one lol) and video editing - get put off by the need to move to London (and competition for jobs is fierce) for this one.

    So for now, it's data entry lol

  24. Jesse - Aww, I hope you find your perfect job eventually :) Well done to you for trying new things though.

  25. Write and have a book store soon :-)


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