Growing Up Me

Like most parents, I have tons of stories from my son’s childhood. My most favorite and the one I repeat the most is from when he was five. I usually use this story to proudly demonstrate the level of my kiddo’s language development or what happens when a child is subjected to an intellectual mother. I think this tale has another impression to make so I will share it here. 

I had gone to pick up my son’s best friend, Robby, age four, at his home, I don’t recall where we were going, but I had allowed for the moment of meeting between these two boys. Even though they had likely seen each other the day before, each new meeting was a fun-filled event that included high-pitched screaming, running in circles (as the space allowed) and more screaming. It did not matter if we saw Robby at home, school, or at the grocery store. Any parent present had to watch helplessly as the two boys threw themselves with abandon into a frenzy of screeching, rolling on the ground, or spinning in circles. You just had to wait it out. The meeting ritual was not to be messed with; they just had to get it out of their systems.

Addison and Robby were now in the back seat of my car, securely strapped into their toddler seats; the fever had subsided into eruptive little boy noises. They probably had a toy or two they would show each other and “discuss,” making farting noises or other gross things that boys do.  It was a normal drive.

Out of nowhere, Robby announces in a very loud voice, “When I growd up, Ima gonna be a BUG Man.”

Addison, somewhat condescendingly but always helpful replies, “You mean an entomologist?”

Stifling laughter, I looked into the rearview mirror to see Robby’s reaction. He was in awe, mouth open and nodding furiously. “Yeah, that!”

I love that story.

What made me think of it today though is how Robby did not grow up to be a Bug Man. He doesn’t even work for a pest control company. I would bet Robby doesn’t remember that momentary flash of excitement over an idea that probably stemmed from a bug found earlier in the day. Robby went to college for a completely different area not even remotely connected to entomology, and I would guess he is happily living a non-Bug Man life.

No Pressure

At four years old, no one expects you to know what you want to be when you grow up. No one expects much from a child that age, yet there is a pervasive question that lurks in many self-help arenas, “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” I hate that question. I find it silly and nonsensical. What I wanted to be when I was a kid was a horse. Yes, I wanted to check out on the whole humanity bit and just become a four-legged-non-verbal-beast-of-burden. Anyone who knows me would laugh and nod in agreement, but it’s the truth. Other little girls played with dolls; I had my Breyer’s (toy resin horses). I made equipment for them (bridals, halters, lead shanks, etc.). I made blankets and leg wraps and created stories for them. I wrote about them. They all had names. I always had a favorite that I wanted to be, the dappled gray or the black Arabian or… well, you get the idea.

Not a logical career path is it?

A Better Question

Let’s ask a better question. What did I DO when I was a child. Aside from having a fertile imagination and a healthy adoration for the Equus ferrus caballus (the scientific name for the horse), I loved writing and was incredibly curious.

I told stories and was always asking questions. It doesn’t seem like much of a vocation, but let’s pick it apart a bit. When I was younger, the tales were mostly about horses, but I also kept a journal. I wrote about trips and trying to figure out myself and others.  The journal was my place to process thoughts and emotions long before it was fashionable. Occasionally the content would be about guys or boyfriends and the nature of a relationship, but most commonly, the substance of my writing was about figuring things out, diving into my intellect and actions in an almost analytical way. Things that confused me or perplexed me were processed externally in my journal or in a story. I figured out what I thought when I wrote.

 

 

Breaking it down

The inquisitive part, well, I loved knowing what was going on with people, places and things. I investigated everything! I didn’t just want to listen in on my parents’ adult conversations; I wanted to understand. I wanted to watch and read their faces, feel their emotions or understand how they felt. When my parents had a party, I would risk my mother’s wrath to listen. I can recall many a night, up past bedtime, eavesdropping from the top of the stairs, and sometimes sneaking downstairs. Coercing my sister out of bed to join me, since crime is better with a partner, creeping down the steps. Once downstairs I would slip amongst the adults for a time before my mother would find one of us (usually my sister) and make my dad take us back upstairs to bed. I would wait for a short while then return to my place at the top of the stairs.

I also loved traveling and going to new places. My most vivid childhood memories were from family vacations. When not on vacation I satisfied my wanderlust by roaming the neighborhood, my mobility restricted to a bicycle (no public transportation), I would ride all over our town, finding places that looked like hideouts and pretend to be camping or on some strange quest. Usually, I stayed close to home, and my main “fort” was behind the neighbor’s bushes. One way I could gain the most “exploration value” came from reading. Adventures of the mind!

I have always read books. To give you an idea how much of a geek I was; in 6th grade, our reading requirement was ten books to get an A. I read over 30 and was told to stop. True story. My book list, back then, included Walter Farley (The Black Stallion), Jack London (Call of the Wild), Marguerite Henry (Misty) and other random authors if they wrote about horses or adventure. Now my tastes have changed I prefer exploring the mind of others so I read mostly non-fiction but I still have a deep love of a well-written fantasy or sci-fi, it remains my most favorite escape when life gets complicated.

Not far off

If I were to analyze my childhood activities and compare it to adulthood one could suggest that what I did as a child was reasonably comparable to who I am today. I could have taken several professional directions, journalist, travel blogger, tour guide, horse trainer or author.  Yet, life always presents choices, and I didn’t always make the right ones. I may have had the affinity to do any or all of these jobs, but I didn’t. “Life” had other plans. At some point I stopped listening to myself and doubted my gut, I looked to others who said they cared about my life and followed their advice. I was left feeling empty.

Choices

But, then I remembered the other thing about life and choices. You can always change your mind.

A little over a year ago, I decided to honor myself and stop following other people’s rules and ideas of whom I was supposed to be. I left a stable job to take a leap into a world I wanted to create. I chose to let go of the safety-net, comfortable living, and consistent pay. I decided to be me. Leaving my comfort zone wasn’t a simple one-day decision, it took me approximately five years to complete the process from start to finish. It hasn’t been easy and will likely continue to be challenging, but I no longer feel empty.

And yes, I do wonder if someday Robby will wake up and realize he always wanted to be a Bug Man.

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