When I was five I recall being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I immediately responded, “A lion.”
I was a bit upset when my teacher wouldn’t accept that answer and insisted that I pick something like, “Fireman or Policeman.” My five year old brain couldn’t understand why growing up to be a lion was unreasonable. After all my teachers kept saying, “You can be what you want when your grow up, even the president.” Well I knew that I didn’t want to be president; becoming a lion seemed just as possible as becoming the president. After being pressed for a “real” answer I finally gave in and suggested that I could be a fireman – kind of a let down from running through the jungle roaring at other animals but you do get to ride around town in a big truck with a siren.
Ever since then I’ve been plagued by the question, “What do you want to do?”
Most times I have no clue and I’ve often responded to the question with, “If I knew what I wanted I’d be dangerous.”
In my life I’ve struggled with the question a lot – What do you want to be? Or what do you want to do? or that really tough question: what do you want for dinner?
Choosing isn’t one of my strengths – never has been. My mother always told the following story about me. Now I’d like to refute every part of this story, but I was there and recall it very clearly. Here is how my mother would tell the story:
“Well Andy was never good at saying what he wanted. I remember when we were at May Lake (a small lake just off the Tigoa Pass in Yosemite) when Andy was six. We were about to leave and Andy was just staring at the lake. I asked what he wanted and he didn’t say anything. When I said it was time to go, Andy just started to cry. Then I looked out at the lake and saw a rowboat. So I said, “Andy do you want a go out on a rowboat.” He nodded and so we went over to the rental place and rented a rowboat. Andy was all smiles after that, but could he tell us that is what he wanted? Well no he couldn’t.”
How is that for weird – my mother’s been dead for five years and she’s still telling stories on me.
The really annoying thing about the story is that it is true. I remember standing on the lakeshore looking at the row boats going around the lake and it looked like fun. A lot of fun. I knew that my fourteen year old brother could row us around the lake, but I was afraid to ask. For reasons I still don’t completely understand I was paralyzed by fear – unable to say anything and when finally forced to leave the emotion broke through in tears. I was very lucky to have an understanding mother.
So about now you’re likely wondering what this is this all about? Well it goes like this: I sat down at the keyboard this evening and couldn’t think of a thing to write about so I asked Heather, “What should I write about?”
Her reply was, “I don’t know where this came from but the thought I had was, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Then I thought of being a lion and that day with the rowboat. It also brought to mind my career and so many things in my life. Some things I’ve missed because of indecision or failing to say what I want – well I’ve missed out on a lot of things.
Why do I have this problem? In part I believe it is just fear – fear picking the wrong thing, fear of failing at the thing I pick, fear of being rejected because of my choice (like wanting to be lion). Fear at so many levels.
I have missed many opportunities in my life because of giving into fear and not choosing or voicing my desires. But being aware of my tendencies I do, from time to time, make the effort and chose to do things I like, enjoy and value. I’ve been white-water rafting, I do my wood work, I write this blog and most importantly there was that day over 12 years ago that I plucked up my courage to ask Heather to be my wife.
That was a good choice and it’s made all the difference in my life.
Choosing what I want to do and be is still a work in progress for me but I do feel like I’ve made some progress.
and I still don’t see what’s wrong with wanting to be a lion.