I am envious of people who have lifelong dreams and ambitions. One of my earliest childhood memories is playing with another little girl at recess in elementary school. At her behest, we were pretending to be anthropologists; we decided that an anthill was a heretofore undiscovered civilization that we were studying. She went on to study real-life past civilizations (though to my knowledge, she has yet to discover any new ones) and has spent a lot of time sorting through potsherds south of Mexico.
I wanted to pretend to be horses. I did not, unfortunately, grow up to be a horse. Or a wolf, which was another playground favorite of mine.
There has never been any point in my life at which I had a concrete, sustained idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was very young, for a while I wanted to be a veterinarian, and then I realized how terrible science was. I wanted to be a teacher for a little while after that, but I think I just kind of lost interest. For a little bit in high school I wanted to be a journalist until I actually joined the high school newspaper and realized how awful reporting actually was. Then I wanted to be a teacher for a little while again (I got a little more specific this time and settled on English as a subject, at least), and I think I might have lost interest again, I’m not really sure. I entered college as a declared English major, and then — I am totally serious — looked through the course catalog and realized how many papers I was going to have to write and decided that there was no way in hell I was putting myself through that. I thought for a couple of days about what else I was good at and landed on art, despite not ever having taken a single art class. I feel like it’s pretty obvious how thoroughly I thought that one out, considering that I decided a concentration in studio art would be a good idea.
I stumbled through college with my head blithely stuck in the sand, optimistic that I would find something to do with myself after I graduated, until that last semester of senior year hit (with the capstone class focusing on being a gallery artist), when I realized that being a gallery artist sounded like absolute misery, and so did going to graduate school, and those are pretty much your options with a studio art degree.
After working a few months in fast food, I decided I was going to give going back to school a try to get my teaching certificate. That did not work out because I do not multi-task very well; my grades were very poor and we needed rent more badly than I needed classes at the time. A couple of years later I tried again, this time shooting for English (I don’t learn very quickly), and then the mister enlisted and the house burned down and we moved to California and the final stake got driven into the heart of me even trying anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: ninety-nine percent of the time I love being a homemaker, and I count my lucky stars that I’m able to do that instead of shilling fried food. And the other one percent of the time it isn’t even than I’m unsatisfied with the life I live now; it’s that somewhere inside me still resides that ambitious teenager who applied to Harvard (and even got an interview), who was determined to “make something” of herself, even if she didn’t know what. Adult Laura usually comes back pretty quickly and reminds her of how happy she is now and that success is subjective, but won’t admit to Teenage Laura that she’s actually secretly relieved that she had an excuse not to attend her high school reunion.
Or that at the cusp of thirty, she’s still pretty sure she wants to be a horse.