What do you want to do when you grow up? Does that question make your skin crawl and your mind wander? It does mine. Am I grown up? Don’t I still have time to decide? Do I like what I’m currently doing? Did I make a mistake?
I’m 33-years-old. Probably around 28 years ago I was first asked the standard “What do you want to do when you grow up?” At five, I don’t recall that statement striking fear into my heart. I had the perfect job in mind. I wanted to be a Garbage Man, er…Garbage Person (I was five, give me a break). It meant I’d get to ride around on these awesome four-wheelers the sanitation department guys used to collect (now old school) garbage bins. Fast forward…didn’t realize I would be a germaphobe, OR that I have hoarder tendencies which likely would have kept a few things from actually going to the garbage and instead coming home with me. You can imagine I’m glad that one didn’t work out. Hooray for small miracles!
At 15, still no anxiety over what I wanted to do. I was WAY into John Grisham novels and knew I’d be a lawyer for a couple of years and then become the person who helped with jury selection because I read people well. Side note: being a good people-reader is both a talent, and a curse. Although I still think helping select a jury sounds fascinating, I never fully committed to logic classes (barf!), taking the LSAT (though I “studied” for it when I got laid off once), or the thought of being the person people depended on in life-changing moments. Yep, I’m grateful that one didn’t work out either.
Around age 18, wondering what to do with my life started to give me a little anxiety. After all, “growing up” was right around the corner. I flittered around majors, exploring psychology (until I was about to get a D and dropped the class and the major), briefly considering vet school (which I quickly decided contained too many math and “mathy” science courses), and thinking over a few others before finally deciding on journalism. This made sense. I had always been a writer, and this particular major focused on “electronic media. Basically, it qualified me to work in the television or radio industry…which I didn’t realize paid squat! Great research, JS. See, it’s good about the law school, really.
But, I had bigger plans for that degree. I dreamed of owning a record label. I even had a name picked out and a logo idea. “Evil Records” was going to be huge, and I was going to love every minute of it. But, then I graduated from college and “real life” got in the way. I moved home to live rent-free with my grandmother and work at Victoria’s Secret (glamorous!). I sent dozens of (PAPER!) resumes to record companies in NYC….but they didn’t see the value in getting an entry-level, University of Oklahoma graduate into their company… though I can’t IMAGINE why. I’m pretty sure I even applied to be working in a mailroom, or two. And, I’m pretty sure I never heard anything, or perhaps I blocked out the (PAPER!) rejection letters I received. Lame.
What I should have done was move to New York. I could have figured out how to survive there long enough to make it into the mailroom, and anyone who wanted to could have come with me. At least, this is what I’ve decided with 10 years of wisdom. Of course, maybe moving is an easier prospect today because no one feels very far away with our technology options. I don’t know, but I still wonder what 23-year-old Jessica was doing. I toe the line on feeling regret for not making the move, but I feel like it is less regret and more wonderment. What would have happened if I’d just gone for it? Would I have met my music icons? Would I have signed the next big thing? Did I have the ear for music that I thought I did? Would I be living my dream?
I don’t regret the path where life has taken me. I enjoy the profession I’m in and most of how I got here. I surrender to the idea that things happen the way they are supposed to, and that it all has a way of working out. But sometimes it’s hard to silence that 23-year-old who still has record industry dreams from asking why I didn’t take the plunge, just as it is silence the Jessica who wants to be a vet, or even the one who still thinks those four-wheelers would be fun stuff. To them I say, perhaps, if not in this life, in our next one.
There’s your piece of me,