Wednesday, 3 November 2010

When I grow up, I want to be...

Prompted by this post by Dean Dad, in which he discusses his son's fourth-grade class' goals (boys=rich, girls=married), I thought I'd briefly wax historical on my own goals as a child. I think in the first few grades, most of the boys wanted to be firemen or policemen or astronauts, and most of the girls wanted to be horses. Yeah I don't really understand how that works either, but there was definitely a cadre of young girls at my elementary school who spent every recess pretending to be horses. Not to ride them. Be them.

My best friend was a girl (though not one of the horse-girls) who used to build forts and run around doing stupid sh*t with me. I don't remember what we used to do. Maybe we played house? Well, we probably used our imaginations a lot. All I can really remember of the first three grades is a general feeling of well-being, a few still embarrassing instances of being a temper-tantrum-throwing little freak, reading a stunning quantity of young adult novels (I think I read the entire catalogue of John Bellairs' books, as well as a fantastic number of Famous Five novels), and watching the Van Damme movie Bloodsport when I was over at the house of a friend whose parents were more lenient than mine regarding what he could watch on TV.

When asked what I wanted to be, I think my answer was usually paleontologist. You show a kid one too many shows on dinosaurs and he'll pick up the lingo, even at that age. I specifically wanted to be Jack Horner when I grew up, but anybody who worked with dinosaur bones would've been okay. I might have wanted to be an astronaut, too, because I can remember learning all about the planets and the moon missions and space in general. Now I just love science fiction -- is that just a sign of the times, maybe?

But this whole "be rich" thing? I don't know. I can't remember ever thinking to myself that when I grew up I wanted to be rich. It just wasn't on my radar. I wanted to do cool things, interesting things -- something to do with space(!) or dinosaurs(!!). I'm honestly not surprised by the students in Dead Dad's son's class not thinking about finishing school (high school, college, or otherwise) because I'm pretty sure I had no idea how much schooling was required to do the cool things. I just wanted to do them. But what gets me is the money thing. What kids want, when they grow up, is to be happy and successful. Everything else they say is about what they've internalized about that. So for some of the girls "horses = happy" and for me, "dinosaurs/space = happy" (maybe I wanted to be a dinosaur at one point, rather than someone who studies them?).

DD's son has internalized (probably because of what his dad does) that "university = success"
and so he wants to be successful like his dad. But the other kids have learned to equate money with success, at least the boys, and the girls have learned that having a family is the ticket to happiness or success. Setting aside the disturbing gender divide there (because I can't remember at all what even my best friend wanted to be when she grew up, but I bet it was something cool. I remember her as being pretty cool.) I'm just a little weirded out by the "money = success" thing, I guess. And at such a young age.

So what did you want to be when you grew up? Don't say "medievalist" unless that was actually the case -- wanting to be a knight is something else entirely :D Did you want to be rich? Married? Both?

9 comments:

Tom Elrod said...

Believe it or not, I also wanted to be some combination of paleontologist and astronaut (an astronaut who studies space dinos?), which I think was due to Jurassic Park and the many, many books I read about astronomy. I never really thought about being rich, which either means I was an imaginative kid or completely sheltered by my comfortable, middle-class upbringing.

Wanting to grow up to be "married" is more disturbing to me, though, and I can't help but blame Disney somewhat for that, what with the whole "princess industry." But then I manage to blame Disney for most things.

Whyte Fairy said...

My little brother wanted to be a Duck when he grew up. I was much more boring: I wanted to be a Librarian, so I could sit in a building of books ALL DAY and read them all! ^_^ (My Dad decided that I would do better as President. Luckily for my sanity, that never really got off the ground)

I always assumed I would get married and have a family, but it was never something I intended to strive for. I guess I just sort of understood it as something that would happen to me when I grew up.

ehalvey said...

Peanut roaster (yeah I thought eating peanuts all day was awesome), fashion designer, the person who swims with Shamu, an academic in some shape or form, and an FBI forensic psychologist.

I always loved art and history, but I never met professors or curators so it never dawned on me until high school that people actually did that.

Bardiac said...

A Lion.

Simon Thomson said...

I think paeleantologist might become the most popular answer here! I definitely strove for that, with a maniacal dinosaur focus. By the time I was 9, I wanted to be JRR Tolkien. But I didn't know he was a medievalist at that point. (Oh, and briefly a footballer/soccer player. But quite a large part of me knew that was never going to happen.)

Vaulting said...

An artist, an explorer, a professional pianist, Laura Ingalls Wilder, an actress, and primarily an author. I was writing epic stories by the time I was 8. I have a particularly vivid memory of being assigned to write a Halloween story in 3rd grade. While my classmates handed in stories scribbled on one or two pages, mine was 18 pages.

I'm with Whyte Fairy - I'm pretty sure I viewed getting married and having children as something that happened to you when you were old. Then again, I knew plenty of unmarried folks, so I'm not sure I ever bothered to think about it.

Whyte Fairy said...

Vaulting, I think you and I are on the same wavelength. In high school we were told to write stories for english class, but my partner and I missed the "1-1 1/2 page limit" and handed in almost 20 pages! >_< Someday I'm actually going to get some fiction published though. And then they'll make it into a movie and Hanz Zimmer will do the music.... Oh dreams.... They're fun! ^_^

Eigon said...

When I was five I decided I wanted to be a librarian, because that was the only job I was aware of that involved being with books (the books themselves just spontaneously appeared on the shelves - it took me a few more years to realise that real people actually wrote them!)
When I was eleven, I had a wonderful history teacher (Hi, Mrs Carrier!) who spent her holidays walking Hadrian's Wall or collecting stone hand axes on Langdale Pikes in the Lake District. Because of her, I wanted to be an archaeologist.

I got my degree in archaeology, and spent four years as a professional - and I've spent around 20 years working in bookshops in Hay-on-Wye, the Town of Secondhand Books.

Diana said...

This is my first time commenting, so perhaps an introduction is in order? I'm a former medievalist myself, who did my undergrad at New England Collegiate-Gothic U. and grad work at Midwestern Big 10 Powerhouse U.

I don't remember ever wanting to be anything in particular when I grew up, other than Away From Home and On My Own. I never, ever wanted to have kids and I'm pretty sure I wasn't going to get married either.

I was writing stories and poetry and drawing unicorns and spaceships (mostly from Star Wars), and I adored the ballet and ballerinas. And I read tons of books and loved Arthurian legends and fairy tales. And sci-fi.

But none of that translated into any kind of career aspirations. I think I had the idea that the things I enjoyed weren't the kind of things that people did in their jobs, so I didn't bother to think about what job I would have. Which is perhaps how I ended up in grad school.

I never wanted to be a horse.