When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up…and are you doing it now?
Most conversations I had with my parents (even as a child) had something to do with serving in the US Military….and I was able to do that. I don’t really remember wanting to be a princess, or a singer….or a housewife, or a dragon slayer. I loved sports, but wasn’t that great at them, so I knew being a professional athlete wasn’t in the cards…I hated doing the dishes, so anything culinary wasn’t going to happen either-haha.
For some reason, serving the nation in some capacity was all I ever wanted to do….maybe it was the way my fathers shoulders straightened and chin sprout up when he spoke of his father in the Army or the memories I have of visiting my father on his Navy vessel. I remember the world we were walking into…uniforms and order–salutes, “yes ma’am’s” and respectfulness across the board. I wanted to be a part of that; or at least understand the gratifying feeling of having my own story to tell.
My parents never had to talk me into doing something with my life that required me to earn a living…I just knew. I remember getting nervous about deciding what I was going to do for the rest of my life…the working class of people I grew up knowing all knew they had to do something with their lives that would earn them a paycheck…both men and women.
Over the last two years I’ve been talking with my oldest daughter about what she wants to do when she grows up. It’s been different over the years, but in the same basic field of history. However, over the same time period, the city we live in have changed their academic programs to include dual credit classes for college. So the school districts have fine tuned their curriculum so students can enter the workforce after high school. Her interests have turned more artsy this year….theater, guitar playing, and photography.
This past Monday, she tells me that she has decided what she wants to do with her life…she wants to be a photographer. Now, she had this bug over the summer and I tried to lead her on to photography as a supplemental career–Anthropology or History Professor and she can photograph her journey and travels, which she can publish later. However, any classes she takes in college would be one hundred percent liberal arts related in the field of photography.
My response to her was soul crushing, even for me….and it went something like this..
“Baby girl, me and you, we belong to a group of people that have to work for a living. We need our paychecks to pay rent, utilities, buy groceries and things that we need. We don’t have the same advantages as people who don’t have regular jobs…or people that are CEO’s of large well known companies. They go to schools with a smaller head count and they eat meals that don’t have most of the ingredients come out of a box or a can. Me and you, we belong to a culture that takes pride in having a job–no matter what it is. We can still have our dreams and think that one day we can do what we love full time, but right now, we need to be realistic with our career goals…so that I don’t have to worry about you having groceries in your cupboards or clothes on your back. I want you to do what you want, and you can still do that…..AFTER you’ve done what you have to do.”
After the water works finished for both her and I, I could see reality hit her hard and settle. I wanted so much to take those words back and encourage her more than ever to be the best photographer she can possibly be. I know that the picture bug will fade away or turn into something else before she’s expected to prove her responsibility to herself and society, but for now….was I wrong?