The Daily Bongo

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be...

As I ponder what I want to do with my life career-wise, I think back to my childhood days. I think the problem in picking a career started then because I changed my mind several times about what I wanted to be when I grew up. My family members were all sexists, and they had definite notions of what I should be when I grew up. "Don't you want to be a nurse?" my aunt asked. It was the type of job for a female, and it was what she wanted to do. Unfortunately, my aunt didn't get an education and was a waitress, but thought that I could live her dream and be a nurse. It just didn't appeal me to though. I was very anti-social as a child, and dealing with sick, cranky people, coughing, sneezing, and heaven forbid, puking on me, just didn't seem like the ideal job aspiration. My mother thought that I should be a secretary or a housewife. In my mind, both of those jobs were bad ideas. I didn't like the idea of being given orders and having to fetch a cup of coffee or of cleaning dirty diapers and mired in the thankless drudgery of housekeeping. Yeah, I know, being a housewife is supposed to be more than that, or at least that's what housewives keeping tell us in those yearly announcements of how much it would cost to pay someone to do their work. I had bigger dreams as a child.

When I was so young that I didn't even know my age, my first thought was to be a veterinarian. Well, I didn't know that word. All I knew is that I wanted to take care of sick dogs. I wanted a dog desperately as a child, and still do although the allergies and rental lease prevent it. What better way to get access to a dog than to take care of other people's sick animals. For some reason, a dog sneezing, coughing, or puking on me didn't bother me at all. The only thought in my mind is that somehow as a vet, I would have this herd of animals all to myself. Dogs, cats, horses would all follow me and obey my every word. I would be a modern age Doctor Doolittle. As I grew older, the only problem that I could foresee is that I didn't want to have an additional eight years of school tacked onto the 12 that I was being committed to by the wonderful state of Pennsylvania. Maybe being a vet wasn't all it was cracked up to be. There must be something that I could do that would be neat, fun, and didn't require an education.

My career decision was made when I saw the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. I was glued to the television set, watching the driver maneuver around the course and each other at breathtaking speed. I could do that! After all, wasn't I a champion tricyclist who could fly down the slope in our alley way and careen around the corner back onto the sidewalk so I didn't fly out into the heavy traffic in front of my house. I watched my dad drive. I mimicked it all the time. Of course, I could be a race car driver. Then I saw an accident. It was one thing to scrape the skin off my knees and another to break bones--maybe die. I decided at the age of nine that maybe race car driving just wasn't my cup of tea.

Another sport caught my attention and my heart, horse racing. I could be a jockey. Wow! I could still be around animals, and I did love horses at this point. Granted, being in the city meant that there weren't alot of horses around, but that didn't stop my fantasies. I could learn to ride at some point, and I had the right size, bony thin and small. I felt that I had found my true calling. Although horses weren't readily available, the racing schedule for the local racetrack in West Virginia was. I would handicap the horses and pick the ones that I thought would win, place, and show in each race. Listening to the results late at night on one of the AM stations, I would analyze my wins and losses. The librarian must have wondered what my mother's problem was when she started taking out the handicapping books for me. Kids weren't allowed to borrow adult material, but I had a mother who was malleable to my every demand.

So what did I do when I grew old enough to make the leap into adulthood and having a job/career? I returned to my original thought and became a vet's assistant. I still hated the idea of school or college, but the program was only two years. It would give me a change to be around the animals that I still loved. The turning point came when I found myself hardening my heart to the animals because it was emotionally hard to see Spot being put to sleep by his owner who thought Spot was getting nippy in his old age. Without a degree, the only thing I could do was clerical work, but even that required experience. Fortunately, I was able to get a job at the local library--loving to read and being in the library all the time helped get my foot in the door. From there, I became a cataloger, classifying the books so others could find them, and putting the older collection into the computer system. I needed an education, and found a library job at the University of Pittsburgh. Because I wasn't afraid of computers, I wound up getting pulled into computer support. After getting my degree in Physics and Astronomy, I realized that I had reached the fork in the path. To have a career in Astronomy would mean graduate school, but I had to support myself. I stayed with computer support, but my satisfaction in it diminishes every day. The anti-social element in me rolls its eyes at the computer users who seem vested in continuing down a path of computer illiteracy. Besides, do I want to be 68 years old and still crawling under people's desks to move computers? I think not!

Where will my path take me? Now I am working in the user documentation area. Reading has always been a love, so perhaps I should try my hand at writing. Do I have the ability to write, to paint a picture with words? I don't know, but it is something that I enjoy, and gives me a chance to be the vet, race car driver, or jockey of my youth--at least on the printed page.

May 8, 2006