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When I Grow Up (essay)

Story ID:378
Written by:Edie Koch (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Organization:Basics2Bylines - A WNY Writers' Network
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Lancaster NY USA
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When I Grow Up...

"What will you be when you grow up?" It's the biggest question asked of children, from toddlers to teenagers. It's always asked with the best intentions, to get kids to think of their future. Or at least, to give parents some idea of what field to push them towards. After all, how many children really know what they want to do with the rest of their lives? Oh yeah, there are those lucky few who have a special calling. They know exactly what they want from the start and go for it. But how many of us as adults, when faced with the same question today, know what we want to do for the rest of our lives?

It's a difficult decision. Tastes change so dramatically, who's to say you’ll even like the same things when you grow up? When I was young I never said, "I want to work in the operations end of a bank, processing money orders and other payment products for more than half of my life." I was guided towards a business career in school because I was good with numbers. Parents, teachers and guidance counselors could all see an analytical aptitude worthy of development and pushed me into accounting courses.

Was it a good idea? Well, it didn't kill me, but I can't help wondering what would’ve happened if someone had noticed other hidden talents or desires; perhaps I'd be an artist now or maybe a concert pianist, although, some of my talents didn't even exist back then.

When I was in school, I couldn't stand essay questions. Give me multiple-choice questions with definitive answers any day and I was in my glory. To have to write, not only sentences, but paragraphs “in my own words” on any given subject was the most dreaded aspect of my entire educational life. The only thing worse than writing an essay, was actually letting someone else read it.

Now look at me! I'm not complete if I'm not equipped with at least one notebook and pen in my purse, ready to jot down lines of poetry at a moment’s notice. And I think I've turned into some kind of showoff, because now I love to have people read my poems and essays, and watch the expressions on their faces as they read my words and feel my feelings. That's the best thrill of writing, to see the reactions triggered by my expressions.

Where would I be now if someone had guided me towards a literary career when I was young? Would my writing have advanced further than what I’ve accomplished so far? Or, would I have told them, “Get lost – I’m not a writer!” Maybe I've arrived where I am in writing because of the subliminal messages in my upbringing. The endless vocabulary lists that were memorized and recited in elementary school seemed so useless back then. It wasn’t like we were asked to spell these words - just memorize them. But now, I realize the value of having so many words at my disposal. And, my parents were always reading, whether it was the evening news or books from the library. No Sunday was complete without Mom sitting in the kitchen with her cup of coffee, diligently working the crossword puzzle in the morning paper. How could I help but develop a love for reading too?

Nothing could have prepared me, though, for my love of computers. That evolved with a technology that we didn't even have when I was a kid. As technological advancements were made at work, my knowledge of and interest in computers also advanced. Add to that my newfound interest in photography, and my Canon 35mm was replaced by a Canon Powershot S30 3.2 mega pixel digital camera and all the software to boot.

So now, my hobbies are evolving and taking over a major portion of my life and it's making me re-evaluate my situation and go right back to that basic, age old question of, "What will I be when I grow up?" Do I really want to push numbers for the rest of my life or should I expand my horizons and explore the hidden me that seems to be appearing out of nowhere?

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

Originally published as a "My View" in The Buffalo News, March 30, 2003.