When I grow up…

I would first like to apologize for all of the “Oh wow, life is changing. I’m graduating. I’m on the verge,” stuff. I’m just trying to clear my head of some of it. It’s getting a little distracting, and writing helps.

It’s really amazing how retrospective one can become at turning points in life. I’ve found myself becoming increasingly so in the past months with graduation looming ever nearer. It’s not particularly a sentimental retrospective. It’s more of a reevaluation of life. It may be a bit early for one, I guess, since I haven’t hit my “quarterlife crisis” yet. Still have a couple of years to go on that one. I guess I just like to look back on things to see the change. It’s interesting.

As I have mentioned here before, I will be starting graduate school in museum studies in the fall. I’m incredibly excited to start my graduate work. I really think I am passionate about museums, and if I’m not passionate, it sure interests me immensely. Well, let me rephrase, I am passionate about engaging the general public with history and promoting appreciation. Yeah, that sounds right, and museum work will let me do that. What’s beyond interesting is this new driving ambition that is steadily making its presence known in me. In general, I am a rather relaxed, even-keeled person who has always sort of gone with the current. The only real all-consuming ambition I ever had was the one to get out of my home state, and I’ve done that. I’m still in transition between places, but there will be time for settling later. I am discovering this budding career ambition, though, that’s really very motivating. It’s like this nagging voice in my head saying, “You want to be tops in your field. You WILL be tops in your field.” It’s very forceful, and I’m so averse to confrontation, that I dare not argue against it. It’s all a very strange feeling. Does this mean that I’m becoming a grown-up? (Ok, I think I may have just made myself sound like I have a mental disorder. I do not. This is all metaphorical).

Anyway, as I have been exploring this new facet of my personality, I’ve been thinking back through the years at all of the things I ever pictured myself doing as an adult. Practically everyone goes through multiple phases as children and young adults trying to figure out what paths might be nice to take. I am no different, although, maybe my aspirations were a little unconventional for a while. I thought I would write about them because I felt like having a good past dredging.

The first time I can remember actively making a career decision, I believe I was about four. Yes, I was a very serious child, and I took this idea very seriously. My parents were both park rangers for a time (in my dad’s case many years), and my first homes were in the woods in state parks. I was a child of the wild surrounded by flora and fauna being raised by a biologist and a geologist. By four, I could discern the difference between quartz and calcite, knew the proper way to feed a three week old orphaned flying squirrel, and could tell you the class to which earthworms belong with perfect Latin pronunciation (it’s Oligochaeta, by the way). I had a pretty cool existence in my first years. I spent my days in creeks, on trails basically in my backyard, and visiting historic sites all within walking distance of my house. I liked the way I lived, and it seemed natural to my four year old self, that I should follow in my parents’ footsteps and become a park ranger.

I told you it started early.

I think I spent the majority of my time during this period in rubber boots

I was done, set, sorted, no agonizing for me. My life at least in that respect was planned…until…my dad told me about the police academy. (Yes, park rangers have to go through the police academy just like other law enforcement officers). Did you know, at least in those days not sure about now, they would actually spray you in the face with pepper spray as a training exercise? I was suddenly thrown into a crisis. There was no way I was letting anyone get near my eyes with mace, but what do I now do with my life? I was lost, thrown into uncertainty until…

My first swim with the manatees down in Florida. Yeah, that’s right, I swim with manatees every few years, and at the risk of seeming like a jerk: you should be jealous.

That's me in a tiny wetsuit with my dad who is directly responsible for my love and appreciation of marine life.

I had already formed a lasting love affair with the big water earlier with my first trip to the beach. I remember combing the surf with my mom while my dad, a scuba diver who had come very close to a career in marine biology had big oil not provided the majority of jobs for mb’s in the 80s, went out with snorkel and mask to find me cool sea creatures at which to marvel while he gave me an impromptu biology lesson. Anyway, I did not decide that I too might want to try marine biology until I saw my first manatee up close and in person. Magnificent creatures, manatees. I don’t care what anyone says, manatees and dogs are proof animals have souls. I believe this first trip occurred when I was five or six, and that solidified my plans to become a marine biologist.

Here I am dressed as a marine biologist for a "When I grow up I want to be..." themed birthday party. The party was horrid, but I had the best career goal. Sure as hell beat the little girl who was dressed as an Avon lady. (Very special thanks to my mom who spent an hour digging through albums, drawers, and boxes trying to find this for me).

I kept this ambition for quite some time, but it eventually fell to the wayside for some reason. There is a stretch of time from about second grade to fourth in which I can’t remember actively knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m sure I went through phases. Probably wanted to be a Jedi at some point or other, but fourth grade did bring change. Great change. In fourth grade, I discovered Shakespeare. Shortly there after, I decided I was going to Broadway. The irony (or absurdity) of this decision cannot be fully appreciated for those of you who did not know me as a child. I was shy, painfully shy. I, as I said, was also very serious and not flamboyant in the least. Something clicked with acting, though. I always had a vivid imagination, and spent most of my young life dreaming myself as different people in different places very far away (who am I kidding, I still do that). I didn’t actually get my first taste of the real stage, though, until sixth grade. It was in my first production (well, one that was staged, directed, and starred in by myself without an audience). I may have been shy in real life, but when I got that first taste of the high of going out in front of an audience as someone completely different, I was hooked. I was also good.

I took lessons, read plays, worked on audition monologues. I even knew which university I would go to after high school: Carnegie Mellon just like a Tony-award winning family friend did (not a name dropper, sorry). I decided I would start on Broadway then try my hand at Hollywood. I was going to be famous. I did community theatre and school plays through middle school and high school, took theatre classes in high school, and dreamed big. Yes, you may all laugh at my expense.

My grandparents and me after a performance of my first play. I think it was A Christmas Carol.

The only time I have ever had overlapping career goals, though, was my sophomore year in high school. I think I’ve mentioned how I have a secret dream of being a rock star. This was during my punk phase. Yeah, I got in a band, which I fronted of course, and decided we were going to make it. We didn’t last long. Creative differences, you know. We sounded good, though. Pity we couldn’t cut the arguing so we could cut albums. By the way, you will not be seeing any pictures from that phase in my life. I’m pretty sure they’ve all been destroyed. Thankfully this was before Facebook and tagging became a thing. Let’s just sum it up by saying: too much eyeliner and black clothing, oh, and screws don’t make good earrings.

I returned to my plans to act exclusively. By the time I hit my senior year, though, I was changing again. Acting was losing its appeal. I had had some bad experiences with theatre people. I couldn’t deal with the backstage life. This threw me truly into a identity crisis. I had wanted to act forever it seemed, and now that I didn’t, well, I wasn’t sure what to do.

I changed a bit when I got to college. For a little while I wanted to be a philosopher. That didn’t last long, no money in it. Then I wanted to be an art historian. That didn’t last long either, too pretentious. For the majority of my time here I thought I wanted to be a historian and a professor. I realized that I did not have the patience or desire to write academically and teach, and, thankfully, just as I really began to realize that life would not be a good one for me, I took my first museum internship. Click. Perfection. Destiny. And that brings us back to the present. I think this one may be the one too. At least I hope it is.

I hope you have enjoyed my walk down memory lane as much as I have or at least had a good laugh at my youthful silliness. Although, you probably got bored and stopped reading pretty quickly, which I understand completely. I just needed a look back. I feel a little less cluttered now.

(A week and a half to graduation as well. Just thought I’d throw that in).


1 Comment

Filed under Just Me, Miscellany

One response to “When I grow up…

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, Betsy, and seeing all the photographs. The idea of where we come from, and what it was that made us who were are today, is something I find endlessly fascinating. This is a theme I’m thinking of visiting in my own writing in future. I’m glad that you found out what it is you really want to do so early in life. And you’re so sure about it, and so motivated, I’m sure you WILL be tops! Sophie.

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