I’ve officially reached the point in college where I can no longer be whatever I want to be when I grow up. I’ve committed, and it would be a waste of time and money to change it up now. I like my major. I really do. But I’m thinking about all the things I could have been that I probably won’t be now. Every day, a little voice in my head says something stupid, and every morning, I have to talk my head out of being crazy.
“But what if I wanted to be a doctor?” No, Stephanie. You don’t want to be a doctor. You’re squeamish, remember?
“But what if I wanted to be a spelunker?” No, Stephanie. You don’t want to be a spelunker. You’re claustrophobic and you only like it because the name sounds like the noise a rock makes when it hits water.
“But what if I wanted to train wolves?” Dammit, Stephanie. That doesn’t even make sense.
Lately though, my brain has been tricking me by tempting me with some of the career goals I had as a kid. So here, in chronological order, are the jobs I’ve considered in moments of panic.
Age 4 – 6: A princess.
Not in the way most little girls want to be princesses. As a kid, I had short hair that my mother persisted in labeling “cute” and waitresses persisted in labeling “mannish”. My best friend took advantage of this, and I was always cast as the prince when we were playing. I even had to be the prince during “Pretty Pretty Princess”, but I was afraid to point out how little sense that made because Kristin has been known to bite people in the back (and by people, I mean me). I fought long and hard to prove I had feminine wiles* to bring to the table, but as Kristin was about to waver in her conviction that I always had to be the Westley to her Buttercup, my mom scared me away from the idea forever. She’d read somewhere that children who pretended to be princesses or mommies didn’t grow up to be as smart as kids who had pretended to be doctors or lawyers. It turns out the game “law school” is a good way to lose friends in preschool, but I’m still convinced I could have been much smarter than I am now if I’d just let that princess thing go.
*Doesn’t “feminine wile” sound like a slinky ferret with long eyelashes? That’s what I think of every time.
Age 6 – Now: An astronaut.
I won the first grade science fair. My project was about eclipses and involved a flashlight and some bouncy balls. To be totally fair, I think the judges were just sick of the other kids cleaning pennies and dyeing chrysanthemums. That little foray into space was the beginning of a long, unhealthy obsession with astronauts. I’m not good at math and only OK at science. I’m too short to fly and my eyesight is unfortunate. There’s pretty much no way I’m getting into space, but that didn’t stop me from writing a short play about the moon landing in second grade and dedicating every school project to some aspect of space travel. I still haven’t cured this ridiculous obsession. In my Journalism 101 class, the fake obituary I wrote said I was a one-eyed astronaut trainer. I think part of this pipe dream comes down to the fact that I have a crippling fear of disappointing my grandma. My family is full of veterinarians, lawyers, government officials, and people with doctorates. At this point, there are only two careers that would impress my grandma’s friends if she brings it up at a party: President of the United States or astronaut. No one is ever disappointed in an astronaut. (Except this one.)
Age 14: A turtle.
I shouldn’t even have to explain this one. Think about it for more than two seconds and it becomes clear that the benefits really outweigh the drawbacks. No opposable thumbs, but no electricity bills either. A totally lettuce diet, but an adorable turtle face. It’s clearly a fantastic choice.
Age 17: A Physician Assistant.
This happened after I got a totally rad UTI. In between trips to the bathroom and being sent home from work because my facial expressions were freaking customers out, I managed to make it to a doctor’s appointment where I met the nicest PA in the world. I went home with a bag full of drugs and dreams of helping people. Then I found out that PAs get paid less than doctors, but have to do all the gross stuff. I quickly decided that it was mostly the relief the drugs gave me that made me feel such warmth towards humanity. (Also, here’s a free tip for all you potential UTI victims out there: If you’re recovering from one of those suckers, and your parents say, “Wheeee! We’re all going mountain biking in Utah this week!”, don’t go.)
Age 18: A Park Ranger.
Here’s the thing about me– I don’t like to go outside because if the sun comes out, I burst into flame. (Not really. I just get sunburned and grouchy enough that people wish I’d burst into flame.) Park Rangers are all about outside. When I really analyzed my Park Ranger wishes, I realized that it wasn’t the call of the wild that appealed to me. It was the hat. I’m a sucker for uniforms, and those Park Ranger uniforms are… wow. I want to wear one and say authoritative things about not walking too close to canyon rims, but that’s all I want to do. I don’t want to go without a shower or electricity, and I certainly don’t want my picnic baskets stolen by bears, smarter than average or otherwise.
Age 19 – Now: A turtle.
Maybe I’ll tie in my major and just be a turtle who’s really good at the Internet. Tell me you wouldn’t read a blog written entirely by a turtle. Plus, forget all the trolls online. I could bite people who are mean to me, and no one would think it was crazy at all because… you know. I’d be a turtle.