Duffer... When I grow up, I want to be…
What do you want to be when you grow up?
It’s a question we were asked countless times by family members, teachers and others throughout our youth, and the answer tended to change from one year to the next and even daily.
Rarely does one announce his career calling at a tender age and then see it through. A typical kid experiences so many new things as he works his way through elementary school and then high school that there are many options worth consideration.
In my case, I started university still not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. There were several career options I pondered throughout my youth, but they turned out to be nothing more than passing fancies that I chose to dismiss after a few months.
Let’s see. My career ambitions included:
Age 9: school teacher (Specifically, I wanted to teach high school geography. While other kids my age were reading comic books, I was reading the Rand McNally world atlas.)
Age 10: pro hockey player (This was more of a pipedream, really, and I realized soon afterward it was never going to happen when house league hockey was destined to be the furthest rung I’d reach on the ladder.)
Age 11: pro wrestler (Addicted to watching wrestling on TV on Saturday afternoons, I was fascinated by the equal amounts of violence and showmanship. But I was crushed to learn none of it was real. And the thought of being clad only in a bathing suit had something to do with my change of mind.)
Age 12: dancer (OK, this can be filed in the “What was I thinking” folder, but for a while I was captivated by the synchronized steps of the male dancers on the Carol Burnett and Jackie Gleason shows. I made the mistake of sharing this information with friends, only to be told, “You’re not…one of them, are you?” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I changed my mind quickly.)
Age 13: artist (Drawing was a genuine skill I possessed and one that I regret having cast aside. Who knows where I’d be today if I chose to stick with it.)
Age 14: professional golfer (This was another pipedream. With a handicap so high that it was off the scale, it was never going to happen.)
Age 15: rock star (It didn’t occur to me at the time that maybe a prerequisite was to be able to play an instrument or at least have a decent singing voice. I had neither qualification.)
Sometime just prior to high school graduation: dentist (Again, we’ll file this in the “What was I thinking” folder. Motivated by the healthy salary I could expect, I applied the brakes when I thought about having to look into mouths still littered with leftover food particles and the cloud of bad breath. I want to puke right now just thinking about it.)
Needless to say, I pursued none of the aforementioned. I won’t reveal my ultimate calling, but it’s been fulfilling and I have no regrets.
I think if the Internet had been in existence at the time I was nearing high school graduation, I would have Googled a list of the top 20 highest-paying professions and then taken a hard look at those for which I was qualified. Some I would have stroked off the list immediately, such as surgeon. First of all, I didn’t have the necessary grade point average to get into medical school, and, second, I would have passed out the moment I stuck a scalpel into human flesh.
Lawyer was out, too. Again, I probably didn’t have the marks to get into law school, but I also had a conscience and couldn’t see myself defending an obvious felon who I knew was guilty as sin.
I’m not suggesting I was too stupid to pursue some of these lofty career paths. My high school marks were good, just not great. I thought briefly about chasing down the original career ambition I had as a nine-year-old, enticed mainly by the two-month-long summer vacation, the two weeks off at Christmas and the weeklong spring break, but I didn’t walk to have to put up with a bunch of smart aleck teenagers on a daily basis. That would seemingly be the least of one’s concerns who might be thinking about teaching in the United States. They’re more apt to wonder how they can get through a full day wearing a Kevlar vest.
If a youngster were to approach me for advice on what career path to pursue, I’d be inclined to suggest he pursue a career that doesn’t involve living out of a suitcase for half the year, unless he happens to have a nagging wife at home that makes the travel aspect of his career seem more like a vacation.
Honestly, who as a kid said, “I want to clean out septic tanks for a living?” Or, “When I grow up, I want to be a carny.”
I’m nearing retirement and still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up. At this stage of my life, I’m going to have to think about my post-retirement profession. Let’s see, Walmart greeter? School bus driver? School crossing guard?
Rod Perry, aka Duffer, is a Niagara-based freelance writer.
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