Thursday, May 27, 2010

When I Grow Up

It used to be so simple. When I pupated my way into adulthood, I was going to be a famous writer - slightly less prolific than Ann M. Martin, and much more awesome than Jack London. My books would be about funky tweens who lived on the same block, communicating by flashlight out their windows at night. They would have, for plotting reasons, minimal parental influence (maybe something along the lines of the glamorous orphaned Boxcar children), and, of course, there would be mysteries.

Sadly, I've outgrown the Babysitter's Club (gasp!) and most of my writing tends to be either really self-indulgent messes about apocalypses and falling in love, or this humble blog. I've done a little published writing, but even "professional" is a stretch there, since I interned at a magazine and hence was not paid. It's strictly amateur hour over here, vis-a-vis the written word.

It sort of sucks to realize that your childhood dreams are probably not going to flower the way you thought they might. How many fairy-tale weddings are there? How many people end up working their dream jobs? No-one had the perfect family growing up; we were all messy and horrible, with the stomping and the screaming fights, the silent treatment and the sibling rivalries. Why do we always expect the future to be a shining, golden place, when the here-and-now is often disappointing?

I know this is coming off as a total bummer. While I do struggle to be the glass-half-full kind of gal that seemingly comes naturally to many of my friends, I'm not really sad about the demise of my never-created young adult series, although I do sort of wish I had the cash that a board game tie-in would have brought in. I'm more fascinated by the way my dreams have grown up with me.

Fifteen years ago, the answer to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" would have been a snotty eye roll and a sneering "A writer," because I was a shitty little brat. Ten years ago, I wanted to graduate high school and be a mom, an option that now fills me with horror - I would have never moved to Toronto, gone to school, grown out of my unflattering high school wardrobe or become the person I became. A year ago, I was set on being an urban planner, which is still intriguing in a distant, dreamy way. It's amazing how things shift and change, how we grow as people.

My parents and I sat down tonight to talk about my job search - what do I want to do with my life? As a recent university grad, I think I've got some sort of three-month window where I get to eat raspberries off my fingertips and swan around, but that seems self-indulgent. Since I got involved in co-op housing six year ago, I've been fascinated by the dynamics of communities and communal living. Artists' colonies, hippie communes, co-housing projects: they seem both retro and revolutionary.

I'm not going to write about the ins and outs of housing co-ops; there are other places to go for the inside track on that. But I realized over the last couple years that I like being involved in this little life-slice. I want to work here. My dream jobs are the jobs I'm applying for now.

That's a weird thing; I feel like a lot of my parent's generation stumbled into their careers without thinking about what they wanted. Maybe that was just my dad? Anyway. My father happens to be very good at what he does, but I'm not sure that, at the age of 26, he sat dreaming of one day becoming an IT consultant and project manager. But a lot of my friends have thought very critically about the jobs they take. Where will they lead? What will they learn? Does it go somewhere, or does it dead-end at a call center in Mississauga? My friends aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty, career-wise. We take out loans, construct spaces, and go back to school. We're trying.

This summer was originally going to be very laid-back: escape to my family's cottage on Lake Huron, work as a waitress, call people "hon" all day long. Then I realized that there's no reason to delay the inevitable: my dream job, my right-now, I'm-getting-there, grown-up job is out there somewhere. Waiting. And who knows, maybe I'll end up writing a wildly successful series of young-adult novels on my days off; that'd be nice.

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