I bet when you were little you had an answer to that question right away?
When I was little I read A LOT. Like if I was at breakfast and I didn’t have a book I would read the back of the cereal packets. My Parents took me on a day trip to France when I was small and I was heartbroken that the road signs made NO SENSE.
My ambitions in life were largely coloured by the books I read. I read a lot of Enid Blyton, her Malory Towers and Anthony Buckeridge Jennings books made me want to go to boarding school and have midnight feasts, carry a satchel and play lacrosse. I’d wake my little sister up in the middle of the night and force her to eat crisps she didn’t really want (not as good as in a book), I was ecstatic back in 2011 when I finally got a satchel (I now have 2, I rock, this ones a win) and when they finally got us to play lacrosse at school, once, I was horrified to discover it was just as rubbish as netball and hockey and all the other team sports they made me play. The WouldBe Goods and Swallows And Amazons made me want to be adventurous (not as much fun as it sounds, too many bugs, not enough books) and Cadet Nurse At St Marks made me want to be a Nurse, an ambition I took as far as starting my nurse training till I discovered modern Nursing uniforms are nowhere near as cool as 1950s ones, they didn’t even give me a cape and hat!
I also read a lot of detective mysteries like Nancy Drew, more Enid Blyton like the Secret Seven and one called The Tiger Gang that I was very fond of. Even I realised at 8 years old that I was probably unlikely to stumble upon a local jewel robbery that I could solve with my 8 year old wit and skill. So I decided I wanted to be a writer instead and bored my parents with constant Enid Blyton rip offs where children, often called things like Peter and Susan, found clues, solved mysteries and then boxed the perpetrators ears before heading off home for tea and sponge cakes.
Can you spot me?
Obviously when faced with “I want to be a nurse or a writer” school careers officers latched onto nursing like a drowning man grabbing onto a piece of driftwood. A career choice with a set training plan and clear entry path! We have pamphlets for that! So after dropping out of Nursing, not just because of the uniforms, I pretty much failed to achieve my childhood dreams, did a Media Studies degree instead and ended up in a series of office jobs.
Now, 28 years later I realise that I actually did achieve one of my childhood ambitions. I’m a writer. I might not be writing detective stories and lining up the paperbacks on my bookshelf, but I make a living from people (that’s you, hi!) reading things I wrote. When that finally dawned on me, which took a while as even though I went to Grammar school I am *quite* stupid, I felt kind of excited, like “Hey, my life has meaning, I achieved a childhood dream!”
I mean, being a writer isn’t quite as romantic as I thought it would be. I thought I’d have a typewriter, possibly a pair of glasses to perch on the end of my nose and be spending my days in my study being all arty, and possible a bit wafty like Ariadne Oliver in Poirot. Turns out there’s a lot of deadlines, and invoices, and waiting to be paid and that typewriters aren’t great for the digital age. Also I hate wearing my glasses.
Then, in a fit of introspection, which you get lots of time to have when you’re a writer and you work from home and some days the only person you see is the Post-Man and the bloke behind the till at the corner shop, I started to think about how many people I know who define themselves by what they do for a living. When people ask children what they want to be when they grow up why do they say “a writer” or “professional footballer” or “train driver” rather than “happy”? I spent many long years being really miserable and unfulfilled by my boring office jobs. The last job was the job from hell, it’s fair enough that one made me miserable and finally propelled me into a job I find fulfilling, but most of the others were just a bit dull really. I could have had plenty of time to find other activities outside of my working hours that would have left me happy and fulfilled, like knitting, or baking (just joking!) or running or Roller Derby or volunteering somewhere, but I didn’t, I felt like a failure because when people asked me “What do you do?” I said “Oh I just work in an Office”
So, I might have technically fulfilled a childhood dream, but seeing as I’m not grown up yet I think I have time to rethink what I want to be when I grow up. I’m officially deciding, right now, that when I grow up I want to be happy, I won’t let other people disagreeing with me have a negative effect on my peace of mind, I won’t worry about things that are out of my control and I’ll try find good things and positives in all situations. I want to be healthy, I want my body and mind to support me through activities I find enjoyable and finally I want to be a Princess, because that was another of my childhood ambitions that I still reckon would be pretty cool actually.
When I finally achieve all those things then I’ll finally be a grown up.