When I Grow Up

When a child is still very small and still developing into a person of their own, with their own personality, likes, dislikes, wishes and dreams, they often cycle through what they want to be when they "grow up". As a child, I cycled too; my first "dream" job was that I was going to grow up and be an attorney. I was going to be the girl version of Matlock, arguing my case in court, and of course I would always win. I would become rich and famous and everyone would want to hire me - and at night, I'd sink into a relaxing bathtub as big as a swimming pool, full of beautiful scented bubbles, surrounded by music and candles. And I'd drink wine and celebrate my amazing success.

Eventually, my parents got divorced, and I switched my legal focus. I didn't necessarily need to be famous, but I'd still get rich, helping little kids win in custody battles, instead of it always being one parent or the other while the child was unheard and stuck in the middle. In my parents' divorce, I stopped being a child and began to feel like a pawn. It seemed like no one listened to what I wanted, where I wanted to go, or who I wanted to go with. I spent most of my childhood shuffled back and forth from parent to parent, as one would win one court date only to lose the next. Or worse - win the court date and the custody that came with that win ... only to decide that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I decided then to become a "lawyer for kids," someone who would hear them and help them get what they wanted.

There were a lot of awful things happening in my life at that time so I don't remember the timeline exactly, but at some point the court was petitioned on my behalf to award me a guardian ad litem, which was basically the reality of what my career dream was at the time. I spent time sitting with my "lawyer," the person who was assigned to help me, to hear me, and to make sure others could hear me too - though I was still very young at the time. When she failed (in my opinion) to speak adequately for my needs, I changed focus again because I lost faith in what "the justice system" meant for the people depending on it.

In my early teen years, I was sure I was destined to be a singer! My cousins and I memorized and sang every song we liked on the radio, from pop to alternative to country, and we "performed" at nearly every family gathering. We set up a concert program, we chose our songs, and we "rehearsed" as often as possible with our tape player. We'd record ourselves, each girl singing her part alone, so that we could listen back to critique and fix our errors. Then we'd sing together, recording that too, making sure our harmonies were just right (probably horrible, honestly, but our family humored us). Somehow though, we never made it big at the Memorial Day barbecue - and this was before American Idol became a good place for the youth of America to humiliate themselves.

After that, I wanted to act. I thought long and hard about acting, about whether I could emotionally handle the struggle of constant auditions, being passed over for parts, and always holding out for the big one. I didn't want that, and I also didn't want to have acting jobs that took me far from home for long periods of time. I knew I wanted a family of my own by then, so I'd decided big screen acting wasn't for me ... I wanted to be around to take care of my kids (and give the nanny a break, of course - because of course I would have one). So I kept my acting dream small and thought quite a bit about how much I'd like sitcom or soap opera acting. To me, that looked enough like a regular nine to five job - but with lots of money and security, and just enough glamour to keep things interesting. If I worked on a soap opera like the ones my mom and step-mother watched, I could go to work and wear sequined dresses, have my hair and makeup done.

I would be a fancy woman who spent her time kissing beautiful muscular men, and I'd get paid for it. Then I'd go home and be the kind of mom who could afford to give her children everything. Since I grew up pretty well below the poverty line, this part was very important to me.

It wasn't long before I got more serious, and as I got older I became a bit more cynical. I lived in a fairly small town and didn't have the kind of stage parents that create careers - I had the kind of family that generally thinks kid's dreams are cute but isn't shy about telling the kids their dreams are not really feasible. So I thought of other ideas.

I'm good at lots of things, and a lot of different types of things tend to come naturally to me, so I naturally have extremely varied interests. I thought about being a doctor because medical things and the inner working of the human body fascinates me, but the schooling and the bodily fluids turned me off of that. (I do love my current role as "Dr Mom" though, and I'm pretty good at it - I'm usually able to diagnose my children and family fairly accurately, which is fun and fulfilling, and has also saved us a bit on medicines and doctors from time to time. I guess if I were alive a dozen centuries ago, I'd train myself to become the local herb woman, and content myself with that. I'd be useful and necessary to my community, and I'd have something valuable to contribute.)

Another easy interest for me was psychology. Empathy comes naturally to me, and I am usually one of the people my loved ones turn to for help or advice. I'd have liked - maybe - to be a therapist or counselor of some kind. I might really have had fun as a marriage counselor, helping people to find again whatever it was that they'd lost together.

I'm pretty good with a camera too; I enjoy playing with portrait photography and design, and I'm actually pretty good with editing in some ways, too. I've even had a few paid gigs over the years, and I've turned out amazing photos that left me very proud. I loved doing that, and given the right type of opportunity/financial ability, I might have liked making a career of that, too.

There are other things as well (see? I told you I'm varied), but the one thing that has always been inside of me, rising up here and there to take hold of my entire being, has been writing. I have always loved reading, so as a little girl - and throughout the years as I've grown into a woman with little girls of my own - I've always had this fantasy of walking through a bookstore and seeing books that had MY name on the covers. I dreamed of a rich publishing contract; I dreamed that people would know who I was.

I wanted to leave the trailer park behind; I wanted to grow up to become a rich and famous author, wanted to write dozens of well-loved books. Maybe hundreds. I wanted to travel to the kinds of beautiful places a poor kid like me could only imagine. Book covers were where I found my heroes; Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, Nicholas Sparks, Johanna Lindsey and James Patterson.

In the course of my life, I've dreamed a lot of dreams. I've always been a creative person - the kind who spends 22 out of every 24 hour period with my head in the clouds. I have strong and frequently changing emotions, a deep-seated sense of how different I usually am from other people in my life, and a strong desire to live what I've always thought of as "the life." The only dream I have brought to fruition thus far is that of being a mother, and though I have days when I say to myself, "What were you thinking?" I generally love being a mother.

My friend circle is populated with a mix of mothers and women who desperately wish to be blessed with motherhood. Among the mothers, I find understanding on the days when I think I was insane to give up my fancy-woman dreams in exchange for telling little people to "stop picking your nose," or "leave your butt alone." Among those who have not tasted motherhood, I am reminded daily of my blessings - little children who make too much noise and too frequently argue with my motherly wisdom, little children who live and breathe and give slobbery kisses and clumsily perfect hugs.

Still, I want to be more than a mother. I don't want to leave the world having only touched my own home. I want to leave a mark, and I want my kids to remember more than the poverty I grew up in. I want to leave them a legacy. I want to leave them with money, I want to leave grandchildren who can hear "no" and "you don't need that" without having to know what "I know but we can't afford it" really means.

Yes, I know that ultimately, if I have loved my babies and raised them to be good and productive people, then I am successful - as a mother. But I need to meet my own dreams, head on. I need to see my name on a cover, even if it's only one, and even if it doesn't shoot me into the fame and fortune I dreamed of as a child. I still want to be an author when I "grow up", just as I have during all my years since childhood.

By the end of this month, I suppose I'll be "all grown up" then ... my first novel is nearly finished. I also have a story line forming in my head for the next book, but we shall see if I am able to finish a second novel, living under the stress of watching whether my first succeeds or not.

Anyway, I suppose all this means that in 2013, I shall be "grown up" in a whole new way, and I am excited. I can't wait to see what happens next.