When I was three, I wanted to be a ballerina. Later, I wanted to be a nurse, an architect, a college professor, a lawyer, an actress, a writer, a theatre manager, a journalist, a lobbyist, a Congressional aide, a Constitutional rights activist, a feminist scholar, a full-time mom, a missionary Bible translator, a theatre historian, a burlesque star, and probably a few I can’t remember right now.
My sisters were easier. The Hippie has wanted to be a daycare teacher since age 5. She is. The Yuppie wanted to be a makeup artist (or as she put it in second grade, a cosmopolitician). She is a financial analyst of some variety and intends to do so indefinitely.
I, however, keep changing my mind. I always worry, what if there is a dream career out there that I haven’t found yet? What if I could look forward to going to work every morning? What if I am not as happy as I could be, and I’m just too lazy to try for something bigger? I am 31 and still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
I’ve been thinking about all of those “coulda beens” a lot lately. According to this article from the New York Times, I am focused on “lost possible selves.” If I had kept up with dance, if I had spent more time on my creative writing, if I hadn’t gone to law school, if I hadn’t changed my major…. all those coulda, shoulda, wouldas out there hanging out in the back of my brain. The article claims the best way to handle this is to think about the positives- what I gained by not following those courses.
The issue? Well, I’m starting to feel a little old to still be looking for a career. So many people around me seem so sure that they have made the right choices, that they will have to work to get to the top, but at least they know they love their field, or employer, or can live with it for the life it provides. Me? I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin sitting in my office. I think that might be a sign I need to move on, yes?
I went to “I Made It Mine,” a local funky craft show, this afternoon and walked around looking at all the booths, talking to people who made jewelry, stationary, letterpress cookbooks, screenprinted tees, scarves, pottery, and at one booth- crocheted eyeballs filled with catnip. It reminded me of a woman I met last year. She taught a writing workshop one weekend and talked about paying her bills as a bellydancing instructor, creative writer, novelist, journal maker, and writing teacher. And I was green- how would it feel to get up an do something different when the mood struck? To have that many parts of yourself to explore and the time to do it?
I still think about it. What if I just did it? What if I saved up for six months, traded in some of my stocks, and created a life I could live with? Freelance writing would be a big part of it. But what else? Maybe working in a small store- I actually miss retail sometimes. Finishing a masters degree so I could teach at the local community college. Crocheting, and journal-making, and collaging, and glass etching. Working with children in some way.
It sounds dreamy. It sounds like sleeping in until 10 am, and staying up late at night. Tapping away in the coffeehouse on my next masterpiece. Making things by hand. It also sounds terrifying- no regular salary, no health insurance, no guarantee of anything. But along with those guarantees, I am also guaranteed that caged animal feeling.
My fellowship is up in September. I need to figure out whether I want to stay. Seven months to decide which direction my life will take from this point forward. It’s scary. But all the woulda, coulda, shouldas don’t help. In the meantime, maybe I’ll give it all up and go back to the original plan.
Do you think 31 is too late to start my ballet career?