What Do You Want to Be

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Remember when adults asked this question? What did you say? If you were a little girl, was it something normal and expected or did the adult asking stare at you dumbfounded and wonder what in the hell was wrong with you.

Usually I got that dumbfounded look. Eventually my parents’ friends stopped asking, afraid I think either I would continue to give them answers they didn’t understand or they were embarrassed by. Too often, my answers also humiliated my mother; I paid for these later when there was no one was around to stop her.

Some of my more interesting answers, all given prior to my tenth birthday:

Gypsy Rose Lee in her heyday

Gypsy Rose Lee in her heyday

  • I want to be a gypsy, live in a wagon and travel the world.
  • I want to be Gypsy Rose Lee; I had seen a poster of her in a friend’s basement and thought she was fabulous.
  • I want to be a courtesan. I didn’t really understand this one but we had recently toured some castle in either France or England, it had been built for a Kings favorite. This seemed like a good occupation.
  • I want to be an artist.
  • I want to write books.
  • I want to dance.

Some fine adult shocked by my list of what I wanted to be finally asked the question, “Don’t you want to get married?” Of course, others would ask in dismay, “Don’t you want to have babies?”

As a side note, I never played with baby dolls and tended to abuse Barbie’s. I simply wasn’t very girlie.

“No,” I said wisely with a shake of my head, “married isn’t for me”. Oddly, I would marry three times before I was forty, none of them took. Perhaps I was correct at the time, marriage truly wasn’t for me at a young age.

“Don’t you want to be a nurse or maybe a fairy princess?”

“Silly there isn’t any such thing as fairies,” I sagely counseled the adults who asked, “and I don’t like sick people,” I shamelessly added.

I was not a normal little girl at all, introverted and with a rich inner life, I had little desire for friends and found most the adults around me slightly silly. My dreams tended to be fed by the books I read or the landscapes I was exposed too. The two and half years we spent in Europe provided fodder for an imagination that built worlds peopled by those who loved me and led me on adventures too feed a starved soul.

Then I grew up, harshly and with little transition time between childhood and adulthood. No time to feel my way gently through those awkward stages of pre-teen when we discover who we might become or might wish to be, instead I was just forced through to the other side. My heart faltered, froze to be honest. My imagination took to darker roads.

150px-Huntress_0010

Huntress, DC Comics

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

  • I want to dance.
  • I want to write books.
  • I want to be an artist.
  • I want to be a stewardess, I want to see the world and never stop traveling.
  • I want to be a masked avenger and kill those who hurt others, especially children and girls.

All these were told to those fine adults when they asked me between the ages of 11 and 12. Just one year, during that year of course something terrible had happened to me. Because of the last answer, a school counselor suggested to my parents I had a ‘slight’ problem and perhaps they should get me some help.

I attempted to burn down the playhouse at the child physiologists’ office when he asked me to demonstrate how I felt about my home life. I rescued my brother and the dogs first. He concluded I had deep seated problems, he didn’t ask why I did that. I concluded he was an idiot and refused to return.

I learned one thing after this adventure. Keep my less socially acceptable thoughts to myself; they could get me in trouble.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis

  • I want to dance.
  • I want to write.
  • I want to be an artist.
  • I want to travel and take pictures to show the world as it is.
  • I want to be an attorney and argue before the Supreme Court.
  • I want to be a politician and change the world.
  • I want to change the world.

The last time someone asked me, what I wanted to be when I grew up I was nearly 15. It was just before I ran away for the last time. It was just before my world would change and my life would change forever. What I wanted to be? I wanted to be all of those things, not just some of those things. Even then, even at that age, I was locked into the world around me and I knew there was something desperately wrong, horribly incompatible with equity and fairness.

I wanted to change the world.

Now, forty-one years later I think the world is more wrong, the world needs more positive change. I ask myself, “What do you want to do before you are too old to do it?”

I find though, I am afraid. I am scared to death of lunatics with guns. I am scared beyond reason of just how much my life, my world, my history could be exposed and thus those I love could be harmed if I stepped outside of this small arena, the world of blogging. I am afraid I have lived a life full of potholes, mistakes and terrible pain and even those things over which I had no control over could be used to do great harm to those I care deeply for, could be used to destroy futures. So now, when the world most needs masked avengers, activists willing to use their powers for good I am brought to my knees in fear and I am both afraid and ashamed of my fear.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you doing it?

Making of Me

What if someone asked you today to define yourself, all that is you, who you are and what makes up the core of you. Could you do it?

One of my favorite bloggers, Rebecca “Sweet Mother” Donohue, did just that the other day in her three hundred and fortieth post (I am half way there and in awe of this number), What Made You (#340)? Her post got me thinking, even as I read and sometimes giggled I was thinking about what made me what I am. Rebecca asked a question, “What made you?”

My answer to her question was simplistic, it was also the only way I knew to answer on someone else’s blog, it was this.

My history forced me to make the best of me. My future forces me to see what is possible for the rest.

I look at that answer I think, what does that really mean? Big picture, little picture all of us are cobbled together from so many different experiences, so many different sensory inputs and so many  choices we make through the course of a lifetime. What really sticks?

So, I thought to myself, I want to take that answer and expand it. I want to try to pick apart what is important and trace the roots back to what made me.

scan0028My Parents Made Me: all of them, each in their own way contributed to how I view relationships both inside and outside of family. Most people only have one set of parents, I have three and half sets each individual added to who I am over my lifetime. Of course, my biological parents contributed my DNA but more than this, when I met them in my twenties they gave me a sense identity. My adoptive parents showed me the world and expanded my opportunities, they also taught me survival instincts and unfortunately hate. My adoptive father and my heart mother taught me the most important lesson of all, don’t settle for anything short of real love. My heart mother made me more compassionate, she taught me to see others with empathy and to forgive shortcomings, she taught me to heal.

Travel Made Me: exposure to the world made me, it broadened my horizons from a very early age. Travel made me more willing to accept what wasn’t exactly like what I had at home and even welcome what020 Venice San Marko 6504 was different. World travel made me look for adventure, excited by new stamps on my passport and miles in my airline bank. Travel wiped out the jingoistic attitude we Americans so often have that cause our “Ugly American” reputation worldwide. Travel seeped into my blood and spirit at a very early age, I have had a passport since I was six and never let it expire. Travel taught me there is wide-world out there that think and do differently than me.

Dance Made Me: as a very young child, I was Pigeon Toed, drastically so. I wore really ugly corrective shoes (when anyone could get me into them). Finally a doctor suggested Ballet might help to correct both my posture and my Pigeon Toedness (is that a word?). Off we went, beginning Ballet at barely five (5), even before I saw my first Nutcracker Suite. I was lost forever after, even when the teacher hit my toes to point them out. I was lost, linda2even when she cracked my knees to bend them properly. I loved dance I specifically loved ballet. I loved the discipline of it. I loved the movement, I would move furniture in the living room and dance when no one was home. I would practice form in my bedroom using the window as my barre. Dance taught me self-discipline and beauty.

The Men in My Life Made Me: not telling who or how many, not important. The men in my life both those I married and those I didn’t made me who I am. This is true whether we ended well or on the other end of the spectrum and ended nightmarishly. The men I have chosen to partner with over my lifetime have taught me enormous lessons about myself, life, forgiveness and obviously love. Whether those lessons were how to walk away and rebuild or how to love someone who failed me, all of these lessons made me. There was a time when my heart was set behind a steel door, the key was in a bottomless sea and I had no space in my life for love, no patience for fools in love. Over time, the men in my life including brothers, fathers, lovers and husbands have taught me better and thus made me who I am today.

The Women in My Life Made Me: I have been mostly fortunate in my friends, blessed in the longevity of my friendships. The women in my life have enriched me in more ways than I can ever say. Though cautious in who I let in I have been uncommonly privileged; when I am unlucky even then, I have learned lessons I apparently needed at the time.  All the women in my life have made me, from mothers, sisters to heart sisters, friends and mentors.

The Convicts in My Life Made Me: sounds strange doesn’t it, for nine years I have walked a road I never thought to walk, speaking about what happened to me twenty-one years ago to offenders. Speaking in a program intended to teach Empathy to Offenders based on the experiences of real victims, like me. When I started down this path, I was so angry still my fury was white hot I could not imagine how I was going to stand in front of a room of Convicts and not lash out. I made it through that night and many more since then. I have expanded speaking to Juvenile Offenders in the Sex Offender program, because it is important. How do they make me? Because they have stories, because their humanity exists right alongside mine and I have learned compassion and empathy as I stand up and tell my story and listen to theirs.

There is more that went into the making of me, I know there is more, some of it terrible.

  • Violence made me. I have let it go, I will not allow what was done to own my future.
  • Rape made me. I have let it go, my past does not own today or my future.
  • Pain makes me even today, it does not own me though.
  • Divorce and abandonment made me, it does not own me it does not convince me of my worth.

Writing makes me today, I am learning a craft I thought I had no talent for but I am finding my voice and my heart in it.

What makes you?

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