I quite frankly don’t remember what I wanted to be at that age. I remember at various points in my childhood wanting to be an architect (inspired by legos), a filmmaker (Jurassic Park III), a historian (the History channel), and otherwise I had a rather absent vision of my future. While I recall various economic pressures in my childhood, my parents always attempted to provide for us all that we could need or even ask for. In that way, I never felt an abiding pressure to do anything particularly lucrative or aspirational, and indeed I probably lived an accidentally bourgeois lifestyle, instigated by a specifically lax ambition set up for me by a perhaps overly affectionate parent who encouraged me in all ways except pragmatically.
I had a rather privileged childhood and that failed to changed for many years; indeed it wasn’t until my mid-adolescence that I started to gain a more comprehensive worldview or understanding of what a profession really means. I tend to look back rather dismissively at my formative years, flinging platitudes of disgust at my unevolved, uncultured, undistinguished, and unmotivated eight year old self (as well as nine, ten, really through fourteen or so), and I do see it as the result of an overly privileged lifestyle, one where I was always taught that there were people who were worse off than I, but never made to understand the actual degree to which that was true. Or perhaps I was made to, and simply failed. I’m more than happy to heap the blame upon myself. There’s (probably) no better scapegoat than someone who has ceased to exist for twelve years.
When I was eight, I thought I was going to be a novelist my entire adult life. I don’t remember if college entered into the picture or not at that point, but I do remember that for a while a little later I thought I wanted to go to a college in Iowa because they supposedly had a good creative writing program. (I don’t remember the college’s name or who told me they had a good program. When I was young, I believed everything unskeptically.)
I probably thought I could just start being a novelist and getting paid for it because I’d read interviews with writers who talked about getting their “break” – when their novels were picked up by publishers, then became bestsellers. It didn’t occur to me that these weren’t “ordinary” people; I was reading their interviews because they were famous writers. They didn’t talk much about the times they were eating crackers to stay alive and working in dive bars. They wanted to talk about their success, their status, and I wanted to believe that that’s what writers always got.
As I aged, I found out how difficult it is to sell a novel to a publisher, let alone become a bestseller; acceptance by a publisher is no guarantee of publishing or of income (as Jane Austen must have realized to her chagrin or ironic unsurprise). I stopped thinking of writing as a skill to be learned through creative writing programs and more as a skill to develop through reading and writing on my own, as much as possible. I still believe that: Jane Austen didn’t take a creative writing class; she read and wrote on her own and with her family. Classrooms aren’t always the best learning environments.
Now, though I think of myself as a writer and want to be paid for it, I don’t maintain my dependence on becoming a bestselling novelist. There are other ways to write and to have an effect: journalist, editor, reviewer, publisher, etc. I wanted to be a famous writer the way children want to be ballerinas: without a full understanding of what it entailed or how much work it would take.
I still am a writer. Now, though I don’t expect the glory-dream of ending up on a bestseller list, I’ve expanded my understanding of writing. I can write in any number of ways, across any number of media, and still be read and heard (and paid): I’m not limited by the dream of bestseller fame. As a writer, I can make my voice heard in any way.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I think I decided that that was career that I wanted strictly because I knew it was obtainable and I like animals, so I figured it was the perfect match. As I got older though I realized that being a veterinarian wasn’t the job for me. Other than saying I wanted to be a vet I didn’t really have expectations for the future. I didn’t really care about getting married, I hated playing with baby dolls, and I didn’t really think that a home life was for me I had adventuring to do. My parents didn’t try and force me to do anything, they just let me do the stuff I liked to do. I don’t know who pointed this out to me (quite possibly my mom) but someone asked me why I would want to be a vet because they sometimes put animals down and that would be sad. Now that the career of a vet had this dark tint to it I wasn’t sure it was for me.
I didn’t really have a career I wanted after that. I just went with the flow and learned because that’s what I liked to do. I liked my teachers and succeeding in class. I guess I didn’t really have a direction, but I was young and happy and that’s all parents cared about. They really allowed me to be myself and a kid, but made it very clear that life wasn’t sunshine and rainbows and I would have to understand.
I started to not like school my sophomore year of high school however and that’s when books became my own little escapes. Books also re-sparked my curiosity and they really opened my eyes to a lot of different perspectives and different human experiences. I feel like they taught me the lesson my parents had been trying to teach me for years; life is hard, but its not all bad. I decided that I wanted to be a novelist and help people through my writing. My parents were actually super supportive of that career choice and still are. My dad is convinced I’m going to be some great novelist, which is flattering but not the most realist of his dreams. Now I just want to work for a publishing house and edit other people’s novels. I think I would feel most accomplished helping other writers get there works published. I feel like my efforts would be more wide spread that way too. Maybe I’ll get inspired and write my own book too, who knows?
My dream job tended to change a lot when I was younger, but somewhere in the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to do something that involved writing, which differed greatly from my parents who both work in the medical field. I was always really into reading books, and in Kindergarten, I was even given the name “Rafi the Reader” because I would stand in front of the class and read books aloud to my classmates. In elementary school, when we had to write sentences based on new vocabulary words we learned in class, I would write these little paragraph-long stories that had dialogue and multiple characters, when in reality, all we were supposed to write was something simple like “The dog fetched the bone.” Around fourth grade, I became really into writing my own stories, and I remember my mom buying me little blank notebooks that I would fill in with my own stories and pictures. Most of them were probably about horses, because I was obsessed with horses and horseback riding at the time, and I think they’re still lying around somewhere in my room today.
When I was about thirteen or fourteen, I started to become really interested in food and cooking, especially baking. I think this is mainly influenced by my parents – my mom is from Germany and my dad is Italian, and I always grew up eating really good German and Italian dishes. My dad, especially, has always been really adventurous, making things like “duck confit” and dry-aged steak. He’s currently in the process of building his own pizza oven outside, despite the fact it’s practically freezing up in Massachusetts, where we live. There was a phase where I was convinced I wanted to open a bakery when I grew up – however, as I got older, my dream eventually shifted towards food writing. When I was about sixteen, I was really into reading food blogs and even started my own baking blog, which proved to be much less successful than I had envisioned. However, my love of food writing continues today, and I am currently a food columnist for the Dickinsonian. I also still really enjoy creative writing, especially fiction, and often write short stories in my free time. I would also like to attempt to write a novel at some point in my life, I think.
When I was younger I wanted to be a teacher. Ever since the time I could remember I had always looked up to the teacher standing in the front of the room and wanted to be that person in my future. When I was in 4th grade we had to do a project on “what do you want to be when you grow up”. Everyone made a board of pictures and different things like that, however I made a lesson plan and asked my teacher if I could teach the class for about 25 minutes. She agreed and I was able to live out my childhood dream. In addition, when I would go to my friends house and we would play “school” I would always insist on being the teacher. I would always re organize the basement into a classroom and put stuffed animals at desks and have my friend sit and I would teach her.
However, as I got older that dream started to fade out and I began to become interested in higher education. Still in the education bubble but I wanted to be either the dean or a principle and eventually work on a college campus. I always enjoyed being around the academic world and helping other people at the same time. Coming to college I enjoyed getting to know the administration and the people that work in higher education and seeing their work benefit and impact so many people.
My childhood dream job changed constantly, and I think that was partially influenced by the “This is America! You can be who you want!” type of patriotism surrounding me, as well as my parents’ own careers. When I was four I declared to my preschool teacher that I wanted to be an entomologist. I was always the type of kid to mess around in the mud looking for weird bugs, so my parents brought me to an annual event for entomologists held at Penn State called the “Bug Fair.” I was so excited that people could have jobs finding bugs.
By the time I reached Ichiro’s age, my dream career changed constantly. The list included soccer player, cartoonist, astronaut, National Geographic photographer, surgeon, a trombonist, and many other random interests. This is partially thanks to my parents, who took me to trombone lessons and soccer practices, let me use their camera, bought me a little microscope, and just allowed me try whatever my new fascination was.
They also made me aware at a young age of some of the gender politics at play in some of my career choices. Before I entered 6th grade, my dad told me that as I got older, boys might raise their hands more than girls in math and science classes, so I should work hard not to be intimidated if they acted like they were smarter than me. Therefore, when I told classmates that I wanted to be a surgeon, soccer player, or astronaut, it was partially because I had genuine interest, but also because I wanted to fight against the stereotypes I’d been warned about.
I also never saw any sort of hierarchy in terms of the plausibility of these jobs, probably due to the fact that both my parents are music teachers. In my mind, being a successful cartoonist or photographer was just as reasonable as any scientific interest. I’m sure this influenced my current goal to work in film or television, or really any aspect of media production. A large portion of my family works in the arts, so I’m lucky in that my interests in the arts and humanities are supported by my parents.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had this wooden book where you could place fabric onto a painted girl, and close the stencil wood frame on top. As I got a little older I began collecting popular celebrity magazines, and would make cutouts of the clothes they were wearing, and enter them into a scrap book. I would also draw models with colored pencils in a drawing book, all relatively similar in appearance. In my sixth grade play, we created a sixth grade musical, and acted as ourselves and the teachers. I played myself, always breaking the dress code and adding necklaces to my drab school uniform.
From kindergarten through 6th grade, my elementary school had a fairly strict uniform. In the classroom we wore a yellow and navy blue jumper with a blue belt, and knee high stockings. During gym class we wore a bright yellow t-shirt, with long unisex cotton shorts. I think this is where my interest in fashion came from, because whenever we had a “dress down day” the students would get to wear any outfit they chose, and were able to express themselves. I had always picked out my outfit days in advance. It was something that all students got very excited over, but for me especially, it was a day where I could express my interest in fashion that was normally silence during the school week.
The first memory I have of wanting to have a particular career was in third grade. In science class we were learning about the solar system and how stars are made. I became fascinated by the idea of studying something as undiscovered as the universe. I remember taking out books from the library and trying to learn the names and shapes of different constellations. By the end of the unit I decided I wanted to become an astronomer. I think part of my thought process was that this was one of the first times I had been genuinely excited by something I had learned in school. I had always enjoyed school and learning, but this was the first time I had the impetus to continue learning beyond the classroom.
For my birthday my parents gave me a small telescope. At the time, it was probably the best gift I had ever received, as it seemed to be a milestone in my career path. However, my passion for the universe only lasted a year or so, and I remember using the telescope only a couple of times before it got lost somewhere. As an incoming freshman to Dickinson I actually decided to take the introductory astronomy course to see if I could rekindle my interest in the subject. Alas, it has remained my least favorite class I have taken here. Despite the fact that my initial academic interest was in the sciences, I have been almost exclusively interested in humanities and social sciences since.
When I was younger, I wanted to be either an artist or a writer. In first grade, my teacher asked my class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I remember telling her that I wanted to be an artist. I loved art class in elementary and middle school, especially painting. I would come home from school with whatever I had drawn or painted in class that day eager to hang it on my bedroom wall. I still have some of my childhood paintings. When I grew older, I realized my artistic talent was weaker than I had thought as a young child. I still enjoy learning about art and one of my favorite classes in high school was art history.
I also wanted to be a writer as a child. Growing up, I loved to read and it was my favorite pastime. I would go to the local bookstore as often as possible and read any book I could. As I grew older, at about eight years old, I decided I wanted to write my own book. Since then, I’ve always liked to write. Today, I still love reading and want to pursue a career involving writing in some way. I don’t know if I necessarily want to write a novel anymore but I hope I always continue to write.
The first thing I ever wanted to be was a scuba diving doctor. I don’t know what inspired me to want to be a doctor, but the scuba diving interest came from an episode of Scooby-Doo, which was my favorite show as a child. I don’t think I wanted to do them both at the same time, I just wanted to be a doctor with a hobby. Now though the insides of bodies or anything that comes from them freaks me out and I really hate any recreational activity that involves getting wet.
After I got over the scuba diving doctor phase the next thing I remember ever seriously wanting to be was an author illustrator. I spent a lot of my childhood telling myself stories and drawing pictures to go with them. The only thing I’m capable of drawing now though are cartoon-y walruses. However, the idea of being a writer in some capacity is clearly a bit closer to something that as an English major I’d want to do as part of my post-grad real world capitalist experience.
I often times think that what people end up pursuing in adulthood is usually related to a childhood interest on some level. It’s a really unresearched theory of mine, but anecdotal evidence currently supports it. It seems kind of funny now to think back to the kid that bound many a handwritten book at the elementary schools publishing center and think that I had ever been able to convince myself that I wanted to be a doctor or a scuba diver or a psychologist or a neuroscientist or anything else I ever told myself I wanted to be. Thinking back to my childhood, it seems so natural, so obvious, that I would be where I am today.
Also for reference I have attached poorly drawn comic I made for a friend a couple weeks ago, based on an inside joke that would be pointless to try to explain, but yet adequately demonstrates my mediocre cartoon walrus drawing abilities. (Based on this comic.)