I refuse to put a video player in my vehicle, because the most profound conversations with my children occur when the rhythm of the road lulls them into a state where they willingly share their most intimate hopes and fears and dreams. We had such a moment last night. At 12:30am, well past any normal bedtime, they chattered away behind me. I expected them to fall sound asleep to the lull of the road, but not this time. Instead, their imaginations sparked, and I enjoyed a window into their souls.
One of them asked my husband - "Daddy, how many jobs have you had?" and he began to count, listing each one in chronological order. He arrived at the number 10, not counting his high-school efforts to have a bit of cash in his pocket. "Wow, that's a lot of jobs, Dad" - my oldest responded. And then the little one piped up with a list of things she wants to do, to be: dog groomer, school counselor, pastor, police officer in the K-9 unit, mother, cashier at Target and a donut shop, soccer coach and maybe one or two others that have slipped my mind this morning. This list does not include options - her intent in the moment was to be ALL of these things. She has big dreams - and last night, we did our best to encourage all of them.
Did I have dreams like that at six years old? If so, I certainly don't remember them. And if I had somehow found the courage to articulate such a list, I suspect the reaction would have been one of narrowing options and discouragement from impossibilities rather than an encouragement to explore and embrace. I am 38 years old. And I am just beginning to recapture a bit of the enthusiasm of my six year old toward the possibilities my life holds. Just beginning to see that maybe I can be a mom, and a technician, a healer, a lifelong student, a writer and more - all at the same time. My life has been channeled by the idea that I only had enough for one thing at a time. And that mom had to be at the top of that list. My older daughter has internalized that thought; her response to her sister's list last night included a caveat that in order to be a mom, she might have to reconsider her other dreams. I tried to assure them that there is room for both, for all - but they need to see that in action to believe it. Breaking out of my assigned role has been a slow process - but a completely necessary one.
I spent my 30th birthday mired in depression because I had no idea how to fill in the blank of the title question. As I approach 40 - my life has a different dimension, a new energy, purpose and direction of a much less singular sort - and I'm beginning to finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up.