childhood

Thought I’d Something More to Say

Lately, Daniel has been curious about whether he is bigger than us. He’ll ask when he’s standing on the floor and once again when he’s on his stool at the kitchen counter.  He’ll ask about his hands or his mouth or his head, and each time we answer some variation of, “No, sweet pea, you aren’t. You will be one day, but please don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Please enjoy being little while you can.”

I tweeted earlier in the week, “being an adult is bullshit.”

I don’t really think being an adult is bullshit. Not really. Mostly. But I contrast how much I chafed at the endless restrictions and how eager to grow up I was as a child with the anxiety, stress and responsibility I have now as an adult. My mind is never quiet. It is always thinking about what comes next: planning dinner, getting out clothes, do we have clean uniforms which means someone needs to do laundry if we don’t, is tonight a bath night, is it time to get the bedroom prepared, do we have homework, what are we sending back to school, is tomorrow hot lunch or do I need to pack lunch, each thought a staccato beat in my head, drumming relentlessly.

I think the holidays are where I see the biggest difference between a carefree childhood and care-heavy adulthood. As a child, I basked in the magic of the season. I dreamed about gifts and Santa. When it was time to eat, I sat down at the table. I performed in chorale performances, musicals, plays, blase about the audience. What I wore for the holidays was a priority: velvet, lace, satin, something festive and adorable, hair rolled, a living doll.  On Christmas Day, the focus was on me and my reaction to gifts, keenly watched to observe a gasp of delight or grin.

As the adult, I am the maker of magic. A festive holiday dinner means that I must cook it if I want it to happen.  I research and identify gift ideas, doling them out to family requesting them. Christmas Eve means long hours of assembling gifts and putting them out after Daniel is in dream land. We are the bleary-eyed ones in the morning when he pops up, rested and raring to go.  We are the ones hoping for the delighted gasp or a grin as he sees what Santa brought him.

Then there are the other holiday tasks: making cards, addressing them, mailing them. Deciding whether we schedule a family portrait. Putting up decorations. Buying more decorations when the ones you bought last year no longer work. Trying to make memories via watching holiday specials, going to see light displays, attending special performances. Baking cookies. Listening to holiday music.

No wonder I feel so exhausted and stressed.

I love being the maker of magic for Daniel. Truly. I want him to feel and experience the magic of the season. I want to fire his imagination and see him become excited as he counts down to Christmas. I love seeing his face as he notices his gifts for the first time, and I want him to feel that he is special and that this is a special time of year.  But there is no denying that it is a lot of work!

I don’t think I realized until recently how you shift to the periphery as an adult. You’re backstage, the director. Pulling the strings, choreographing the steps and routines while the child is the star. If my work is good, it’s invisible.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

I spent so much time wanting to grow up that it came as a surprise to realize I was grown up.

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

I think I always thought I’d get a memo or something: KeAnne, you’re an adult now. This is your life. Your one life. You’re living it, doing it. There are no do-overs.

So it comes as a shock to realize that I am in the middle of the only life I’m ever going to have. What I want to do is hit pause. Imagine having the ability to freeze your life, to stop the world from spinning.  You could take a breath and assess, catch up, regain equilibrium and make plans.  I could feel in control of my life instead of feeling like my life is either out of control or in control of me.

To live deliberately.

It’s funny because I only now truly understand what that phrase means. Bad English major!

To live deliberately, something that seems impossible to do when all the responsibilities and must-dos and should-dos are hammering away inside my brain.

Or maybe I’m a weirdo. Are there people out there who have it together, have no worries or anxieties and blithely live their lives, confident that they are living the best life they can?

So my darling boy, please stay young as long as you can. I want your thoughts to be only on playing and having fun. On how many sleeps there are until Santa comes and whether Mommy and Daddy bought a special treat for you. On the love you have for your cuddlies. Enjoy it. Because one day, all to quickly, the world will be too much with you.

Career Paths Not Taken

 

Careers I Abandoned by the End of Elementary School

  • Singer – my family used to call me “Juice” for Juice Newton because I loved the song “Queen of Hearts.” They did not necessarily mean it as a compliment.
  • Artist/Chef – I think I was going to cook during the day and paint at night.  The fact that I have no artistic ability did not deter me.
  • Family Doctor – No specialty for me.  I wanted to be a simple general practitioner.  I think that I had played one too many games of Life and was lured by the high salary and respect a doctor commanded.  I abandoned it when I realized I didn’t have a burning desire to heal people (at least physically).

Careers I Abandoned by the End of Middle School

  • Lawyer – I was disillusioned by a meeting with a bona fide lawyer during career day in the 8th grade.  He told us it didn’t matter whether he thought his client was guilty; it was up to him to defend his client and for the prosecution to prove their case.  I was shocked.  How could he defend someone who might be guilty of the crime for which they were accused?  Oh, 13-year-old naivete and innocence.
  • Advertising Account Executive – Wow, dreaming big here.  I pored over the career books in the local public library and kept returning to a career in advertising.  I liked to write and liked the idea of helping create influential campaigns.  Or something like that. Or maybe I was presciently tapping into the creation of Mad Men.

Careers I Abandoned by the End of High School

  • President of the United States – I briefly thought about being the first female President.  I would be a benevolent dictator and the country would reach a new golden age under my careful, wise governance. And then I realized I didn’t really have the stomach for politics or the fact that I’d need to lead a squeaky-clean life.  This was 1992, and I was 15-years-old.
  • Actress – I started participating in community theater when I was 8 and also performed in school and church plays.  Of course I would at some point fantasize about becoming an award-winning actress, a stunningly-beautiful and talented movie star.  I eventually realized that I liked to eat and didn’t really have the mentality or the drive to be a starving artist.

Careers I Abandoned by the End of College

  • School Psychologist – I was awarded a Teaching Fellows scholarship and when I entered college, my ultimate career goal was to be a psychologist, and I hoped I could fulfill my Teaching Fellow requirements by being a school psychologist.  That plan was foiled because at the time, school psychology was not one of the approved jobs.  Wouldn’t you know that a year or so later, school psychology was added.  By then it was too late though because…
  • Psychologist – I eagerly took my first psychology course and couldn’t wait to learn all about the mysteries of the mind.  I was disappointed, though, because everything about our personalities and feelings seemed to be reduced to chemicals and mis-firing synapses.  I wanted to be a therapist and help people using words, not drugs.
  • Teacher (Theater, ESL, English) – Oh, I tried so hard to find a teaching path that worked for me.  I thought about teaching theater.  After a class project, I thought about teaching ESL.  I finally settled on teaching high school English because I was an English major, loved literature and wanted to become a professor eventually.  Small children were not for me, so I thought high school English would be fun.  I completed student teaching and all the requirements for licensure but admitted to myself shortly after graduation that my heart wasn’t in it. 
  • Professor – Once upon a time I dreamed about being a comparative literature professor.  My languages would be French and German. I had been accepted into the MA program in English at NC State and planned to pursue a doctorate elsewhere.  After I decided not to teach, I realized that being a professor was kind of like teaching and it seemed silly to pursue it.  Plus, I was tired of school and wanted to work.  I also liked the idea of, you know, making money. One day when I retire, I plan to return to grad school to earn a graduate degree in English for fun.  Yeah, I’m weird like that.

Careers I Abandoned by the End of Graduate School

  • Public librarian – I entered grad school thinking I wanted to be a public librarian.  I wanted a job that wasn’t very stressful and didn’t ramp up my anxiety like my current workplace did (keep in mind that my anxiety was self-induced. My job was in no way stressful).  I was tired of what I was doing and thought that being a librarian would be fun and a change of pace.  Keep in mind that I knew nothing about actual librarianship at that time.  After a few courses, I decided that I was interested in other things and hated cataloging.

Career Paths I Am Likely to Abandon in the Future

  • Business intelligence developer
  • Lady of leisure
  • Information broker
  • Market Researcher
  • Benevolent despot
  • Web developer
  • Social media researcher
  • Lottery winner

In short, I’m 34-years-old and still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

What was the most surprising job you wanted to have when you were younger?  How do you feel about what you are doing now vs what you thought you would be doing?

PS

  • People are starting to find my blog via searches for “Trixie and Jim fan fiction.”  I am highly amused by this.  My work here is done!
  • I’m having a touch of writer’s block (obviously-see above post).  Inspire me – suggest a few topics for me.  Anything goes, even if it’s silly.  Or, questions?