And what do you want to Be, dear?

Daily writing prompt
When you were five, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I don’t quite recall what I wanted at five, although I know a few years later I alternated between wanting to be a gym teacher and a math teacher.

A friend of mine during my med school years recalled wanting to be a trash truck (not the person, the truck) when he grew up. It was the biggest baddest thing his young child self could imagine. His mother was not amused by this. He ended up becoming a gastroenterologist, which still has something to do with waste.

Such a common question we ask of children, and how often that desire is quashed or amended by those who “know better”. Often we are channeled towards prestige or achievement, or fulfilling other people’s dreams. And sometimes we are told to restrict our dreams, “you’ll never make a living doing that”, “you’re not smart enough”, girls don’t or boys don’t. etc. etc. In my ideal world, we would all be encouraged to explore and experiment and discover. Who knows where that might lead. Possibilities matter.

While I listed above my early thoughts of teaching gym or math, by the time I was in junior high, I had decided that I wanted to become a physician. In high school, following the issuance of a very heavy wool uniform and the understanding that all my Friday nights would be spent performing at football games, I decided to drop band. As I was in the counselor’s office to do this, he decided to ask me about future plans. I told him I planned to become a doctor. His response: “That’s lots of education and you’ll waste it when you get married and have kids. You should be a medical technologist” and he handed me a pamphlet on same. I reported all this to my mom, a homemaker by choice, and she told me that if I wanted to be a doctor, that’s what I should do. Well done, Mom. The guidance counselor was relocated to the vocational technical school the next year.

Fast forward 16 or 17 years from 1970. I’m now a family physician, practicing a few towns over from where I grew up. The senior partner in the practice is on vacation, so the rest of us are seeing his patients as needed. I pick up the chart for my next patient and there he is. The very counselor who tried to quash my plans, in for a blood pressure check. Delighted by this irony, I start laughing and go hide in my office. It took some minutes for me to compose myself enough to go in and provide professional care. The temptation was to put on the BP cuff, pump it all the way up and say, OK, Bob, we’re gonna talk. Another of my mother’s maxims played in my ear “be bigger than they are”. So he just had a blood pressure check.

Trust your dreams, follow your heart, believe in yourself. A message for everyone, five or seventy five.

12 thoughts on “And what do you want to Be, dear?

  1. My mother stood with me even though she was sure I’d NEVER earn a living as a writer. I did better than I would have as a teacher. I didn’t learn to play drums because “girls don’t play drums.” I was only 11. I couldn’t make them change their minds. I settled for piano and guitar which wasn’t so bad either.

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  2. At five, I wanted to be a Go-Go dancer (LOL). By 10, a pre-school teacher. By 15, a scientist, which is what I ended up doing (Materials Science). I did some high school and college teaching, so my pre-teen dream kind of was fulfilled; I never got that pair of red patent-leather boots, though …

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