Remember when you were young and adults were always asking you what you wanted to be when you grew up? I remember one answer I gave when I was about 10. I had just been to the pediatrician where I saw a nice woman instead of the normal male doctors and I answered, “I want to be a Child Health Associate,” which I think was a position similar to today’s pediatric nurse practitioner (this was in the mid-1970s).
In college, I chose my major, in part, because my grandmother, whom I adored, told me I would be good at politics and, in part, because I always read the TIME magazines we had lying around the house. It wasn’t until about twenty years later that I recognized that I had really always wanted to study the natural sciences (I would have been a terrific meteorologist, forecasting epic powder days!), but I hadn’t had the confidence to choose what was known as a more “difficult” major.
Not that my life hasn’t worked out just fine. For the first five years of my adult life, I actually was able to combine public policy with the natural sciences. But then we moved to a town where my husband found a great job, and then we had kids, and then one day, quite recently, I awoke to the sickening thought that I have lived about 1/2 of my life and still don’t know what I want to do.
Rather than choosing a path from “here to there,” I had let others buffet me as I drifted along, listening to their well-meaning advice, following it, often without much reflection and trying to please everyone.
Now I am not a total wimp. I have made three excellent decisions in my life: I chose the right man to marry and I chose to have each of our two fabulous offspring. If I were given the choice between having these three fine examples of the XY chromosome in my life or having picked a fulfilling career in which I could excel, I would still choose my family.
But that still doesn’t help on days when I wonder “what am I going to accomplish with my life?” Yes, I love to ski and I get to ski as much as I want to. Yes, I am raising two very nice, intelligent boys, but is this enough? What have I created or contributed to the larger world, the world beyond our home? How am I going to get from here to there? What will I do?
One of my goals during this new year is to keep trying to figure out what I do want to do when I grow up. I took some new steps last year, working to learning Spanish and writing this blog. Those steps were good. They got me moving. But I know there is more.
So, here is my New Year’s Toast for 2011: To the “baby” steps we each will take and to steps that get bigger each year. Or in skiers’ parlance, to the first turns we take and to moving onto some really wicked lines. Jump in. Come join me and take some turns.
Happy New Year!
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