On Growing Up and Chasing Ghosts

Thursday, January 14, 2016

When I was younger, I wanted to be something big. I wasn’t sure what that thing was going to be, exactly. I just knew that I wanted to be more than ordinary. I didn’t want to grow up wondering what I could have been and how I could have gotten there. I’d seen enough scripted television showing all the outcomes of regret.

 I wanted to be one of those people that someone sees on television and immediately knows their name. I wanted someone to see me and admire some important quality about me that I modestly didn’t notice I had. I wanted to be someone that important magazines actively sought to be interviewed. In my dreams, I would be interviewed in some kitschy coffee shop immediately after a successful project had been launched. The reporter would look to me and ask, “Now that you’ve become the best [insert dream career here], what are you going to do next?” I would coyly look at the camera, or it would be vividly described in text that I was coyly looking at the camera, and say, “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

There was this play that every classmate had to participate in the 3rd grade, the major theme now lost to me, but at the end each kid had to say what they wanted to be when they grew up. I remember thinking this over for a few weeks prior to the big show. I always wanted to go to space. I could travel to places that no one else had travelled to. I could see the stars through a little window in the space shuttle; discern their true shape up close, instead of seeing them as little specks of light littering the distance. Maybe I could be a ballerina, feel myself dance through the air, almost weightless. Hear the crowd roar in awe at my movement. I thought for a second, I could solve crimes even. I could use fingerprints and science and filter my intelligence into a puzzle that could unravel stories beyond my tiny little world.

I remember turning these thoughts over in my hands, like pennies. I toyed with these images of my future self before I settled on the perfect occupation to reveal during the performance. Each kid was supposed to act out what they wanted to be at the same time they revealed their dream profession. A kid before me mimed him saving someone’s life and exclaimed: “A doctor!” The next one was shy. She wanted to be a writer so she gingerly opened an imagined book in her hand. My turn was next. I kicked the air in one giant motion from the bottom of the gym riser, leapt forward and shouted with conviction, “Martial arts spy!”

Now I’ve had many years of consideration following that moment. Many years of laughing at the thought of me doing serious roundhouse kick damage to bad guys in far away lands, sans credit for saving the lives of millions because no one could ever know my name. And as I’ve turned this thought over and over, a separate thought interrupted this one, like a break in the circuitry. 

I’ve been chasing my own ghost

Through high school and my college years I’ve created this sense of who I am and how that correlates with who I want to be. I’ve let myself second-guess myself because of all of these beaten to death “ideas” clouding me. It’s why I preface almost every sentence about myself with maybe. Maybe I’m smart and funny. Maybe I can become influential. The way I envision myself being is hindering who I actually I am.

I like to see myself as the kind of person who you can flip through their Instagram photos and each picture points to a person that dreams. Often and loudly. I scroll through my social media profiles as if I’m a stranger who just happens across the pages. I wonder how other people see me. What they perceive my interests to be, who they think I am as a person, a friend. How can you compartmentalize me? At a cursory glance, am I writer? Am I someone who intensely loves her cats (and future full home petting zoo)? Am I someone you want to look to for advice? For affirmation? Someone you would want to read an interview about? If this is who I really am or the image of myself I’ve artfully constructed for you to perceive me as being, I’ll never know exactly.

While I won’t ever know the answers to these, it’s something I find myself dwelling on. I want I want I want. I want so feverishly. Why can’t I just be? Instead of this coffee shop image of myself that haunts me and every decision I make, can I just be the little girl who sincerely wanted to be a martial arts spy in that moment? 

It didn’t matter then how I was supposed to get there. It didn’t matter then who was even listening. The only thing that mattered was that I believed, with all my little heart, that it was what I knew with utmost certainty. 

So I feel tremendous pride with who I am now, in this moment. Though I’m not gracing my presence on television screens at the age I anticipated, I think I’ve gotten less vulnerable about the idea of growing up. I am not big just yet and still very much ordinary. I’m not “what I want to be when I grow up” or do I feel particularly close to this dream, but I am willing now more than ever to let myself be exactly who I am. Then hopefully all the rest will follow.


1 comment:

  1. Nice. And this is the best part ".... I am willing now more than ever to let myself be exactly who I am." That is what I love about you.



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