How many of us can remember our childhood aspirations for our own futures? How many of us have actually grown up to be astronauts or rock stars or pro baseball players?
Most of my childhood friends were adamant they would grow up to be the next Whitney Houston, and the boys all wanted to be Michael Jordan.
I’m dating myself by saying that, I know, but still.
If you’ve read my previous post about the worst ever career day, you might already know that when I was still young, I was thinking about my future character and considering what kind of person I wanted to grow up to be.
Did I want to be a world-famous pop star? Hell no! Even at nine years old, that looked like a whole lot of trouble and not nearly as much fun as my girlfriends were sure it would be.
Did I want to be a professional athlete? Well, watching that gymnast break her leg at the Olympics cured me of any ambition in that direction – besides my general klutziness.
But of course I was just like all the other kids dreaming about my future and wishing on stars. My wishes were all just a little different than my peers, I quickly learned; and it’s created a different trajectory for my own satisfaction with myself over the years.
What did I want to be when I grew up?
When I was young, I thought about what I wanted to become as an adult, and what I wanted in my life. I actually spent an inordinate amount of time doing this, and my list was fairly short. Now do me a favor and imagine a nine year old girl daydreaming this:
- When I grow up, I just want a peaceful life, where nobody hits me, and nobody yells at me, and nobody plays with my feelings like a toy, and nobody hurts me, and nobody touches me, and nobody treats me like I’m nothing and they own me.
- When I get to be grown up, I just want peace, quiet, calm and happiness. Maybe even someone who will really love me.
- I don’t care about being famous, or about being rich, or about being president or sitting in a fancy corner office.
- Will I have kids? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe just one. But IF I have kids, I know one thing for sure: I will NEVER abuse that precious child. NEVER.
Pretty depressing coming from a young kid like I was at that time, huh?
Well, it turns out that wishing for a life free from abuse really is a big wish, and took me quite a long time to achieve. I’ll not get into the sob story about the father I had, or about the various bad romantic choices I made early on. Nuh uh.
But I had other aspirations, more on the lighter side of things. So, back to the nine year old voice here:
- I want to be the kind of person that other people respect, appreciate, and value.
- I want to be the kind of person that does good deeds and makes a difference.
- I want to be the kind of person that other people will want to hear what I have to say.
- I want to be the kind of person that people want to be introduced to, will want to know, and will want to be friends with.
- I want to be the kind of person that people call when they need answers, or good advice, or guidance.
- I want to be the kind of person that’s good under pressure, calm in a storm, and finds solutions to problems that appear unsolvable.
So here’s what I did:
At the age of nine, and then ten, and eleven, and throughout my teen years; as I was reflecting and being introspective and self-centered like all teens get at one point or another, I was constantly mulling over this theme of trying to shape myself into being the kind of person I aspired to be.
The schoolyard platitude about how I was supposedly beautiful on the inside, and should never change who I was? Yeah, I decided that was bullshit. For of course that’s what a kid needs to hear when they’re facing bullies denouncing their appearance or race or perceived sexuality; but it’s not actually true at all. If one has major character flaws that are making you unhappy, why not attempt to modify one’s behavior patterns to improve your own happiness? Never change who you are?!? Why the hell not?!?
I seriously looked at the habits of the people I admired, and attempted to emulate those habits. (This was long before the books about habits of successful people, mind you.) I watched, I listened, I internalized everything I could and did my best to apply that information into my own daily habits and behaviors. And over time, this started to have an effect.
I gradually transitioned from being an extremely anxious and neurotic child into being a relaxed, alert, aware and capable young adult. I realized that excellence is not something people are necessarily born with; it’s a personal choice in one’s daily actions that creates a pattern of excellence that feeds upon itself.
In the same way that bad habits are so hard to break, being excellent is a positive habitual pattern that is really hard to drop. Not so much from that sense of how easy it would be to simply slack off for a day or two, but rather that once you’ve created a pattern of awesomeness and others know you as such, as soon as you slack someone’s bound to notice and ask what’s up with you, why you’re not acting like your normal awesome self.
When I was a young child, I was not any of the things I aspired to be. Calm under pressure? Try panic attacks and cringing weeping at the drop of a hat. The kind of person others listened to? wanted to befriend? Called for advice? Hardly. It was all too easy for my childhood friends to dismiss and ignore me. I was not a leader, not resourceful, not anything like what I wanted to be.
But I’m quite serious about the fact that I thought long and hard about my own character, my own behaviors and habits, and did consciously attempt to change who I was; because as I looked at myself I found myself to be so sorely lacking of every good quality I wished to embody that I could not tolerate myself or go on being the person I was at that time without taking drastic steps to reshape myself.
Now, as an adult considering all this, I can see that if I hadn’t attempted to reshape myself, I certainly wouldn’t be satisfied with myself as an adult, as I am now. I can honestly say that I am supremely satisfied with my adult self; my life is free of abuse, I am relatively accomplished, relatively affluent, socially desirable in the ways I had wished to be, very stable and very happy and very content with who I am; which is more than a lot of people can boast of. How many people think of themselves with dissatisfaction? I for one do not. I worked through that dissatisfaction a long time ago, and changed myself for the better. *Yay me.
The point I’m trying to make here, I guess, is that because my childhood aspirations were more modest than other kids, I’ve had a much more satisfying time of it because I’ve been able to do most of the things I wanted to do in my life. I haven’t had all that many massive disappointments; probably because I never sat there dreaming of becoming the next Madonna and getting my hopes all out of whack. As I consider what my childhood self would think of me now, it ranges from a satisfied smile to a bold declaration of MISSION ACCOMPLISHED accompanied by awesome fireworks. Because my life is awesome!
So, what would your child self think of the person you’ve grown up to be? Ignore the silly stuff like how you wanted to grow up to be G.I. Joe or whatever, and shoot me your answers! Contact ThaliaBrandon.com with your story. We’d love to hear it! You might even see it posted here on the site sometime soon.