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Pull Up a Chair

When I grow up...

When I was a youngster I sometimes was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answers were, “a ballerina” or “a fairy princess” when I was very young. I was horse crazy for awhile, and dreamed of owning a show horse. I became more practical and less fanciful as I got older, of course. I loved art and music, and was reasonably good at both, but never entertained dreams of being an artist or singer as a career. I began college as a French major with the thought that I might be a translator for the United Nations. I thought about studying interior design. But somehow those never seemed like something I’d ever DO.

My mother didn’t work outside the home until I was in college, when she got a series of part-time temporary clerical jobs to earn the required credits to be eligible for Social Security. She had only a year of college, and my father never attended college at all, because he was the youngest, and by the time he was college age, what little money there was had run out. So his career was as a low-level office worker with the same employer, staying on through several mergers, until he retired. They were good, caring, hardworking people, but not especially role models for a career.

Although my parents always assumed I would go to college, they never spoke of a career, of my hopes for life after college. As was customary in the 50s and 60s, they assumed I would leave college with a Mrs. degree. And so I did. I raised two children, worked as a bank teller for several years, and then in faculty technology support at the college where I finally got a degree at age 43. I helped run my kids’ swim teams and drove the usual parental taxi. I divorced, changed jobs and moved a couple of times to different cities, and had a nearly 25-year mid-life career in information technology management. Quite a long distance from the United Nations!

I was reflecting recently on how we continue to grow throughout our lives. My answer today to the childhood question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” would be that I don’t plan to ever grow up. Growing up implies being settled, being permanently what you are at the time you decide you are “grown up.” I know from conversations with friends, both in person and online, that we don’t ever have to grow up. Now that I’m retired, I ride my bicycle (1,300 miles last summer!) and sew, and sing in a choir, and do volunteer work, in addition to an occasional part-time paying job with my former employer. I plan to learn to bake sourdough bread, and I’m still searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. Some of my friends are thinking of joining a choir or learning Pilates, or are becoming activists in local politics or the Occupy movement, or even running for office. Others are finding new volunteer opportunities or are making serious efforts to learn about economics or Mideast affairs.

What about you? What do you do to keep growing and to keep life interesting and meaningful? What would you like to do that you’ve never attempted? What’s holding you back, and is it surmountable? What’s on your “bucket list”? I’ve put on a fresh pot of coffee. Pull up a chair, and let’s talk about what you want to be when you grow up!

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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."