Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I've had two conversations in the last few days with two different people about career aspirations.

One was with a late 30s-early 40 something while standing in a bar -- all I did was ask him how business was going and he was off to the races about how he needed to get out of retail, that he really didn't have a direction and it was probably time to realize the rock star thing wasn't going to work out and grow up. "What do you want to do?" I asked. "That's the problem, I don't have any idea". "Hmmm...", I said. "What did you want to be when you were little?" Immediately, without even time to finish the question he says "Fireman." To complete this picture I need you imagine said guy with essentially a white man's afro/mullet wearing a tie dye t-shirt. 'Cause that's what he looks like.

The other was today with my current Ms. Thing (see previous post for details... I'm still absolutely in love with her, by the way). Her job was to fill-in the blanks of some MadLibs with as many "s" words as she could think of. She asked me if I knew what a statistician was (and she said it perfectly! hurrah!), and when I said "yes, do you?" she informed me that her dad was one and she wasn't sure what it meant but she was pretty sure he had to count some things. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and of course her answer was "I want to design clothes. And dance on Broadway. And if that doesn't work out, I could be a parole officer". Awesome, I thought. Plan A, B, and C at the ripe old age of 9.

I lucked into what I do. I didn't know anything about it when I declared Speech Pathology and Audiology as a major as an incoming freshman, but I knew I wanted a major. Turned out that Miami University has an exceptional undergraduate program -- one of the few that actually puts you with clients before graduate school. I knew the first time I observed an aphasia group that that was it for me -- adult neuro rehab was what I wanted to do when I grew up. I heard from someone I did an observation with when I was 19 that Vanderbilt had a cool graduate speech program, particularly if you had an interest in voice. Graduate school was exactly what I had been aching for -- forget Rocks for Jocks and Classics, give me apraxia and aphasia all day long. I hung out with a lot of kids to get my clock hours, but I also spent an amazing life-changing summer at a VA hospital. I knew I had ended up in the right field. The last 10 years since then have been unbelievable.

Someone whose opinion matters greatly to me asked why I didn't become a doctor. I thought about it, and from time to time still do, but when it comes down to it, I really think I'm just not supposed to be. My speech path experience has made me a better hospice volunteer and helped me be comfortable in a caregiving situation with someone who grew to be a great friend despite having significant difficulty being understood. I've never had to look hard to see a sense of purpose. I love that about my work, I really truly do. But I really think I didn't choose speech, I just happened into a path that I was supposed to be on. Corny, but true. And I fully recognize that this makes me a very lucky person.

I also recognize that there are a lot of people still on their road well past the age of Broadway dancing/fireman dreams (of course, not all of them have mullets). I wish you travelling mercies and fun stops to look at giant rubber band balls along the way. I also have great faith that you'll find what you're looking for, and that it will never really feel like growing up.

I can't find a reference for this picture, but I love it. Here's where I pulled it from:

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