When I Grow Up…

May 6, 2007 at 10:49 am (Education, Life Observations, Personal)

It seems like the eternal question that adults are always asking little children, from the time they can speak, until the time that it seems a little ridiculous to say “grow up” (and then it just morphs into another form): What do you want to be when you grow up?

I went through all the normal phases as a young girl. The earliest I remember was wanting to be a veterinarian. Then I realized somberly that if a poor sick cat was brought in that had to be put to sleep, I just could never do it. Then I wanted to be a marine biologist (title compliments of my mother, who defined the field for me). Then I thought I might have to do too much math and complex science and I wasn’t sure if I liked boats that much. So I changed to a zoo keeper. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to actually work with tigers, after all? Then I realized I’d probably have to start at the bottom cleaning poop out of cages and work my way up to the really cool jobs of getting to work with the animals.

Then somewhere around 8th grade I changed my focus from animals and decided I was going to be an interior decorator. I don’t know where that one came from. I liked pretty things. I thought I could help people design pretty rooms for their houses. It was either that or I was going to be a counselor and help people feel better. This continued through 9th grade, then I realized that for both jobs, I really didn’t like people and they were difficult to work with. Most likely they wouldn’t take my advice in either venue and do what they wanted and make a wreck of things.

So then I think somewhere right before my 10th grade year I decided I was going to be a Christian singer. I was pretty resolute here. I could sing, surely I’d make it. That lasted all of a year. A fool’s dream. We moved again. For the first time in my life, I went to a public school, and I felt like my life was spinning out of control as I tried desperately to hang on to faith and hope that all would be okay. Somewhere during my tenure at “that place,” my heart softened and I decided I wanted to help teenagers. My collection of lunch table friends by the time I graduated consisted of the experimental Wiccan, the druggie, the liberal Methodist, the agnostic, and a few more to boot, and I loved them all dearly. Oddly enough, I never proselytized any of them – somehow I just got included in the group. I think I was just the token Christian at the lunch table. I don’t think I ever helped any of them, but I decided I was going to marry my then boyfriend Calvin, settle down and be a youth pastor’s wife.

So off I went to Bible college, naturally. Where suddenly my world was drastically, suddenly, yet not so suddenly, changed again. Everything I thought I knew about God and the Bible was turned upside down on its head, and who I am today is not the person I was when I began. And once again, my plans for life went haywire again. Who would have ever thought a casual, almost flippant (on my end) conversation at the end of my sophomore year, when it was time to register for classes, with Dr. Snyder could have changed my life so radically? I think it went something like this:
SNYDER: “You should really take Hebrew.”
ME: “Sure, okay.”
So I did. Casually, noncommittally, just because Dr. Snyder said I should (and had been for some time), and I respected his opinion.

I already had stirred in me from my first two years a great love for the Old Testament – so it seemed somewhat natural to take a little bit of Hebrew. But what I didn’t realize that somehow taking Hebrew would make me absolutely positively fall in love with the language, the Hebrew Bible, and anything to do with it. I knew I had to have more, or I’d never be at rest. I took another year, and it still wasn’t enough. Somewhere I realized that I was so heartbroken that regular people didn’t know Hebrew, and didn’t have an appreciation for the Hebrew Bible. Oddly enough, my desire to help teenagers didn’t really go away, and somehow I fought within myself over these two seeming conflicting things. Needless to say, I married my then boyfriend Calvin, but have no intention of settling down and being “just” a youth pastor’s wife (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.)

Now here I am, going for a M.A. Old Testament, and people are always asking me, “So what do you plan to do with your life?” (Another way of saying, what are you going to be when you grow up?) And I come up with some lame answer like I’m going to teach, because hopefully I will, because I have to make money, and because what else does one do? And certainly what else does one do once one gets a Ph.D, which I hope to do? How can I explain some sort of weird paradoxical desire I have to help the church – specifically teenagers – with ANE studies? And while doing this be a help to my husband? People look at me like I’m crazy. I am crazy.

Like a veterinarian, I see lots of things that I may have to do that I really don’t want to do. Like a marine biologist, I see difficult things to learn that I’m not really good at. Like a zoo keeper, I see working my way up through ugly, nasty work that isn’t really satisfying or where I want to be. Like a an interior decorator or counselor, I see working with people, who neither care about my ideas nor want to be helped. Like a singer, I feel like I’m reaching for some unattainable goal.

All of the hardships of my childhood career dreams are rolled into one big mass waiting to explode in my face. I have no idea what’s going to happen in my future. I like to pretend I have it all laid out, but I know I don’t. Somewhere along the line, it’s all going to go haywire. And somehow, my husband and I have to walk this track together while looking for a church to fit into and minister to teenagers, if that’s even how life leads us – “traditional ministry” context. I know he’s facing similar issues, but I’ll let him blog about that. I’m getting a M.A., I hope to get a Ph.D, and you know what?

I’m doing this because I am compelled by a passion that will not rest inside of me. But I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to be when I grow up. And sometimes, I’m just terrified.

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3 Comments

  1. Earl said,

    amazingly encouraging. keep reaching for the stars. glad to see I’m not the only one who won’t give up on their dreams sometimes, despite the scoffs of others

  2. wezlo said,

    But I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to be when I grow up. And sometimes, I’m just terrified.

    “Growing up” is just a code-phrase for, “Becoming a contributing (financially) member of society.” It’s over-rated.

  3. eliana said,

    Thanks for the encouraging thoughts guys – each in your own way (Wes!).

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