story and meaning

I’m doing some thinking… it’s still pretty abstract… but the current thought that just popped up starts here:

Think back. What did you want to be when you grew up? The very first one you remember.
Why did you want to be that?

I’m interested in what people might answer. It can be anything. Either a role (e.g. astronaut, firefighter, doctor) or a sensibility (kind, powerful, rich, etc.). It can be for any reason (role model, wealth, idealistic values, whatever). Anything. What do you say?

72 responses to “story and meaning

  1. Marine biologist. Always and forever, until I took my first science/bio class and realized my brain didn’t work quite the right way for that.
    But I always knew I was going to be a writer, too. Predestination runs strong in my family.

  2. Ooo, neat question. The first thing I remember wanting to be was a singer/model/actress. My sister and I had big plans. *g*
    Then I got my head on straight and thought, ‘mm, writer.’ (’cause, yanno, that’s not as hard to achieve *rolls eyes*). 😉

  3. Lawyer. No idea why, although it may have had something to do with the idea that I could be a history major and go to law school and make money afterwards.
    As an adult I’ve worked as a paralegal and I know I don’t have the personality to be a lawyer in private practice. It’s a job for people who don’t find it burdensome to hustle strangers for business, and that’s not me.

  4. I asked providence for wisdom at a fairly early age after reading about King Solomon. I thought that would be a cool gift.
    Also, always wanted to be a writer and a _____. Filled in the blank with lots of ideas, the latest being a writer and a professor.

  5. A horse (blame Walter Farley and all those damn Black Stallion books). And then a writer. I remember handing in some assignment in Grade 4 that nearly gave my teacher a coronary — it was something like “What did the fuzzy bunny say to the pretty flower?” but my paragraph was all about pirates and someone having the Sign of Death branded into the palm of their hand.
    Why did I want to be a writer (i.e. why do I write)? Because these damn voices in my head never shut up. Really.

  6. Vet — from before I knew there was a special name for animal doctor and right through my teens.

    • Lots of people are mentioning writer as something they wanted to be. For me, writer was something I already was — a given. It had nothing to do with career path; more like eye-colour or height.
      I ripped the guts out of schoolbooks to make my own texts, bound them with wool and numbered the pages. Then I wrote the stories. I took it all very seriously.

  7. Firefighter. I like climbing things. 🙂

  8. A kangaroo doctor. I was four and my father still remembers the way I bounded up to him, asserting that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
    Then teacher/writer/editor/journalist/politician/professor worked its way into the equation, and has stayed there ever since. Ah, but I’ll never forget my first passion 🙂

  9. Paleontologist. I remember seeing some fossilised bones in rock strata on my uncle’s property in Alberta, and asking what they were, and being told they were dinosaur bones, and had been there for millions of years.
    Then someone gave me a book about dinosaurs – mostly picturs, with simple captions, me being fairly wee at the time – and I remember thinking I wanted to write a story about dinosaurs.
    But I still get a yen sometimes, to go chip bones out of rock and put them together to make a dinosaur. I suspect most people have an Indiana Jones streak in there somewhere.

  10. I want to own a book/record store. I loved books and music and thought they would be a perfect combination. Since then, the dream has altered to owning a used and rare bookstore. I love the comfort of old books. I still buy new the books of the authors I love, but there is something about the aura of an old book that drags me in again and again.

    • I also wanted to be black and jewish at different times. Chiam Potok and “The Autobiography of Malcom X” were early influences in my life. As I am white and Greek-American,raised by a WASP step-dad, you can imagine these were a tad out of the question. I think it is more a commentary on how what I read influenced the way I thought.

  11. I think math teacher. So I could do math all day because I loved it That Much. It started when I was in fourth grade and they let me just keep going and going on math as far and as advanced as I could, as fast as I could. And it lasted until my senior year of high school when I realized that there was this huge difference between applied math and theoretical math. And that I loathed theoretical math.

  12. When I was little I always had long lists of changing things that I wanted to be, but writer was always on the list. Heck, I was writing stories before I could take pen to paper and had to dictate stories to my mother or nursery school teacher.

  13. I wanted to be a jockey–because I was short and loved horses. It didn’t work out, even though I’m still short. Well, not short enough.

    • I wanted to be a jockey, too–specifically, the first female jockey to win the Triple Crown. When my mom pointed out I was unlikely to grow up especially short, I pointed to Steve Cauthen and said I didn’t have to be.
      I’m now taller than Cauthen, and if I was light enough to be a jockey, at my height and build I’d be way too frail to control a horse.

  14. The very first thing I wanted to be was a ballerina, because I wanted to wear pretty skirts and learn how to walk on my toes. I think I was five or six. Somewhere around this time, and I can’t remember if someone was cruel enough to say this to me or if I just picked up on it that young, I learned that chubby little girls couldn’t be ballerinas. Besides, according to my mother, I was already too old to start seriously training. When she finally did cave in and let me take ballet (I was seven or eight), I hated it because I was overly conscious of how I looked in my leotard versus how the other little girls looked.
    I got my revenge: I grew up and joined the SCA, where I got to wear pretty skirts, and where I might’ve been the fattest girl on the dance floor, but I was also one of the best dancers. 😉

  15. In sixth grade, I remember wanting to be a combination dentist/food critic. Neither of those came to pass, obviously. However, by seventh or eighth grade I wanted to be a scientist, and I did end up getting my degrees in Physics.
    Wanting to be a writer…hmm. I did write a lot as a kid, and when I was 12-14 I sent stories out to a lot of magazines. But I didn’t seriously rekindle my desire to write until I was 21.

  16. *grins*
    I was going to be a horse vet. Best of both worlds, right?
    Then I tossed that because ‘math is hard.’
    Much later, when I took an interest test, I decided to try for architect. The reason I’m not an architect? Yeah. Math is hard. Sigh.

  17. Like many who have answered on this thread, I too have wanted to be a writer since I was very small, and specifically, a writer of science fiction and fantasy. I still have a very clear memory of the first thing I ever wrote, round about when I was eight: something called “Queen for a Day”, in which a child suspiciously like myself was spirited away by leprechauns.
    On the other hand, I’ve also nursed a very strong yen to be a musician in a symphony orchestra for about as long. It comes from having been hit with John Williams movie soundtracks from Star Wars, Superman: the Movie, and my all-time favorite, the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Which we did in fact play in middle school band, and which I adored greatly, even if the flute section had a very boring part throughout the entire piece!)

  18. The very first thing I remember is wanting to be an astronaut when I was six. This was the year of the Challenger–I can’t remember if the Challenger explosion triggered my desire to go to space, but it certainly reinforced it. But then when I was seven I wrote a story about dinosaurs and have been on the road to writerly perdition ever since.

  19. I can’t remember which came first, a geneticist, an archaeoligist, or a ballerina.

  20. Actress
    I wanted to be an actress. Specifically, a movie star, as opposed to a tv actress or live theatre performer.
    Movie stars got to play dress-up and let’s-pretend ALL THE TIME.
    Movie stars were loved and adored.
    Movie stars lived forever (immortalized on film).
    Then I discovered that:
    a) I’m not a particularly good actor. I don’t stink, but I’m strictly average ability.
    b) Acting involves lots and lots of sitting/standing waiting for other people to be done with whatever it is they’re doing, so you can do your bit, but you have to be ready at a moment’s notice.
    But, you know, aside from playing dress-up all the time, the rest of those statements work pretty well for (successful) authors, too. Guess that explains why I like going to the Romantic Times conventions — they satisfy my urge to play dress-up. 🙂

  21. The very first thing I wanted to be was a writer. From the earliest age I knew that people created stories (my mom was a fine storyteller), and that books came from people who wrote their stories down. This was clearly big magic and I wanted to be one of those special people.
    I suppose it helped that so many of the books I read as a child were written by female authors. Being born in the early 60’s, there weren’t many female role models other than teacher, librarian, nurse, homemaker, and secretary/clerk. I didn’t know any authors, but I saw their names on the spines of the books I read, and knew that they existed somewhere.
    As I became older my interests changed, and often my aspirations mirrored whatever books I was currently in love with. I was going to be an adventurer and travel the world, a detective, an astronaut, train wild stallions, and well, you get the picture.
    Never did I imagine that I’d grow up to be a certified project manager with a specialization in Information Technology Management. Luckily I manage to combine that with writing, so at least I have one cool thing to talk about during career day.

  22. A famous writer. It seemed a likely enough dream at the time.

  23. I always wanted to write, though as a young’un I was totally clueless about what sort of career path that would take. Simultaneously, I wanted to be an actress. That dream died after observing that actors get rejected even more than writers and realizing I didn’t have the stomach to be rejected THAT much.
    I did *not* expect to wind up spending years as a university administrator or discovering my present academic-related (not teaching) profession. However, I discovered I’m good at these professions. They pay me, and I can write in addition to doing them. So I guess net-net, it all works out.*wry grin*

    • That dream died after observing that actors get rejected even more than writers and realizing I didn’t have the stomach to be rejected THAT much.
      Me either. That’s why I’m in grad school for social work after getting my bachelor’s in theatre studies. 🙂

      • Theatre studies’ emphasis on being aware of body language/emotional cues probably works pretty well when transferred to social work, I’m thinking? Of course, I could be totally wrong.*grin*

        • No, you’re right. Acting training can be very helpful. One of my professors actually has a degree in acting, that he got before becoming a social worker. So it’s not unheard of… just unusual enough that when I tell people what my BA is in, I get a lot of raised eyebrows. 🙂

  24. I wanted to be a shape-shifter. Now I want to be a writer. More similar than different, perhaps.

  25. I wanted to be a writer from about age 6 or so. My brother, I distinctly remember, wanted to be a part-time train driver. The rest of the time he intended to be a burglar. He thought both were pretty cool jobs when he was young 🙂

  26. I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I was very little… the first thing I really remember is from middle school, when I wanted to be a sign language interpreter.
    Unlike most people, I never really wanted to be a writer. I liked writing, but I didn’t ever look at it as a viable career choice. Funny thing is, though, I have a book that I wrote in a library. 😀
    The story, since I know someone will ask: The library in Upper Merion Township in Pennsylvania runs a contest every year (or at least they did when I lived there) for elementary school kids (I think it’s just elementary) where they can write and illustrate a story, and the top three or five or something from each grade would get bound and put in the library’s children’s section. I got an honorable mention when I was in third grade, and so I have a book in the library. Cool, huh? (And no, I have no recollection what it was about. But since it’s entitled “The Magic Land”, I’m assuming it’s fantasy… I just had to look it up in the online catalog to even know the title…)

  27. I was always a witer, however I remember really wanting to be the first female Navy Seal. But that eventually changed to USMC, cause the uniforms didn’t have bell bottoms.

  28. I wanted to be a writer and make up Really Cool Stories like “How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin.” So much, in fact, that the first thing I ever wrote was “How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin,” painstakingly copying it out of my Golden Book and into one of those marble-backed notebooks, taking care to change “Rudyard Kipling” to my own name. My father did ask me what I was going to do about the whole tawdry “Rudyard Kipling” business, and I assured him that I’d thought of that. When I was finished writing, I had determined to hide the Golden Book under my bed.
    My father thought perhaps I should pursue another career path, and removed the notebook and pencil.

  29. Paleontologist. At the age of six, I noticed a mistake in the dinosaur issue of ZooBooks and sent a letter to them (actually, I probably dictated to my mom, who wrote and sent the letter, but still). Then it was paleoanthropologist, then Egyptologist. (Then I wanted to be a vet.) I guess I like careers that end in “ology” — and now I’m at school studying anthropology. (And linguistics, though, primarily. Too bad it’s not called “languageology.”)
    I don’t remember why I wanted to be a paleontologist except that I was obsessed with dinosaurs. It might also have had something to do with Indiana Jones; I grew up on those movies and at one time had all the dialogue memorized. I probably figured as long as I was digging up old stuff I’d be able to have adventures like his.

  30. I would stand on the arm of the couch at a very tender age (well under 5), announce I was going to be a teacher how to fly when I grew up, and would then fling myself off the arm of the couch in an attempt to gain altitude.
    Oddly, the only time this worked was one day when I was 12 and relating this story to a couple of friends while at school. I got up on one of the student desk/chair units to demonstrate the whole thing, and one of the friends kicked the chair as I launched myself off the desk.
    I in fact flew all the way across the room. Into the beanbags that were in the corner, fortunately, instead of into the concrete wall centimeters further on.
    As to why: primitive hind-brain belief that humans should be able to fly. I still believe this. There are many things I would willingly give up in exchange for the ability to fly unfettered.
    I was also going to be the first woman Senator from Alaska (because my family was very politically involved. I had no idea that most 5 year olds didn’t consider holding public office to be an ideal!), an astronaut (Star Trek’s early influence, I suspect), and a writer (honestly, I can’t concieve of a ‘why’ on this one. I look blank and sort of go, “Er, because.”) One of these things took. 🙂

    • Teacher how to fly
      That’s beautiful!
      I spent hours trying to learn when I was a kid, carefully jumping off the lowest step and then the next lowest and hoping, after I achieved sufficient hang time, to move up to the top. But I never thought of having someone who already knew how and could teach us, or teaching it to anyone but the girl next door who was practicing with me.

  31. Ballerina first, but I think I spent a lot more time wanting to be a nuclear physicist. The former because I wanted to twirl round and round; the latter because it seemed interesting to me.
    Always wanted to be a writer, but had the notion that writing could only be a hobby, and not something one could make a living at. Didn’t figure out otherwise until maybe late college.
    It helps if one is flexible about what one wants to write, tho’.

  32. Actor and police officer at different times. Or actor-slash-police officer. “I got a speeding ticket from that guy whose movie we just rented!” ;-D
    Ironically, it was my desire to be an actor that showed me I was focusing on the wrong thing. I had a theater class in high school and, since I’d been writing little stories all my life, it fell to me to write scripts for class assignments. I realized writing satisfied me a heck of a lot more than getting in front of people and acting out stuff other people had written.

  33. I was very much influenced by science fiction. I wanted to be Han Solo or maybe Spock, but the closest thing I could come up with was ‘astronaut’.
    My father took me to see Return of the Jedi at least ten times in the theatre and Star Trek III probably two or three times. We didn’t have a television until I was nearly eight years old, you see. When we finally got one, it was one of those huge projection TV’s with the lights and the mirrors. We got it so we could watch Star Trek.
    Not long after, I began reading science fiction. I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on, science fictin or otherwise. At some stage I decided I wanted to be a writer, which my father very much discouraged because it was difficut and you couldn’t make a living at it. He thought I should be an engineer or a scientist. So I went to college to study genetics and molecular biology… and very soon discovered that while I loved science, I loved science fiction even more.
    These days Dad and I are both frustrated writers (he knew what he was talking about way back when from personal experience). He’s got a couple of novels he is shopping around. I am in the planning stages of my first novel and working on some short fiction. He is semi-retired and I have an exciting career as sex toy lady (the money is good and it leaves me with lots of time to write).

  34. President of the American Civil Liberties Union. I was six.
    Which is sort of dorky and sad, I do realize. But I was the verbal child of a politician, and people were constantly telling me I’d be the first woman president of the US. Which felt, even at six, like too much pressure and not exactly me, but put the whole president of *something* concept into my head.
    I was obsessed with rights (started “Kids Rights” at two or three) partly because of some boundary issues — the whole idea of lines you cannot cross had great emotional appeal — and probably partly because it was a sufficiently abstract and adult-approved way to have my terrible twos. Not that I knew either of those things at the time. I just knew that rights mattered most to me, and the ACLU defended them for other people, and being the head of that was about the best thing you could possibly be.
    I still kind of think so. I’ve just realized, as I got older, that I don’t have the skills you need to do that job.
    Writer was the second — not until sometime in second-fourth grade. I don’t think I really had a reason at the time, or thought I needed one. In retrospect it might have had something to do with documenting experience so it can’t be lost or altered, or it might have had something to do with making your reader see your point of view. Or it might not, I just wrote hundreds of haiku and fell in love.

  35. A wizard, because I thought doing magic would be really neat. Later, a teacher, because I liked school and didn’t want to be an engineer, in business, or a doctor.

  36. Strangely, I was talking to about this last night.
    There wasn’t a question I hated more as a kid than “What do you want to be when you grow up?” because I didn’t know. I never knew.
    My grandmother bought one of those school memory books, with a folder page for every grade. For Kindergarten, grades one, two, and three I simply left the question blank. By grade four, I had scribbled the question out in ballpoint pen with such force that the dents went all the way down to grade six.
    And I still don’t know. Well, at least I’m consistent.

  37. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, or at least a storyteller. I used to have all these old stories I wrote when I was like 8. They got lost somewhere during a move, but I kept ’em for the longest time.

  38. Once I had to be human? A vet — because I’d spend all day making poorly animals happy. Then I read Buster Jones and discovered that vets got brought perfectly healthy animals by perfectly stupid people — and had to kill the animals not the people. So I switched to ecologist. That lasted until I was ten or so and realised that studying something didn’t always mean saving it.
    But I do recall a fairly long term ambition to have hair growing out of my ears :o)

  39. Batman. Then I read up on criminology and discovered it was reserved for men. And I had no talent at all for gymnastics. Reality bites.
    Then archaeology was a big interest. Followed by drawing comics. It took me a while to figure out that I didn’t have to draw in order to write comics. Then I decided I wanted to write novels.
    The thing is, I was reading sf, fantasy, mythology, comics, etc. since I could read, and I was drawing and telling sequential stories even before I could write. So I was born a storyteller and was always writing something or other, but it took me a ridiculously long time to realize that I should be doing it for real (as in a career).

  40. Really, I just wanted to be like my father, and since he was always “going to class” (he was getting Master’s and then Doctorate while I was a small child), it therefore followed that when asked, I said proudly, “I want to be a student.”
    I think my alternates, when pressed, were “potter” (which seemed like a way to play with mud for a living), and “poet” (because the word ‘sounded’ cooler than “writer”). And it remained with those three until my freshman year in high school when I went temporarily mad and thought being a naval architect would be cool. I wanted to design an aircraft carrier, but then I found out I’d have to actually join the Navy. There went that ambition… ;D

  41. Earliest recalled ambition that made any sense? Astronaut. When I realized I’d never make the cut physically, I thought I’d be a planetary biologist or some sort of space sciences geek (yes, I wanted to be Carl Sagan when I grew up).
    By then I already knew I was a writer. Stories happened in my head and needed to be written down lest my head explode. But that was something I *was*, not something I wanted to be. While “published novelist” was on the list of things I wanted to add to my resume, it wasn’t the main goal.
    Writing wasn’t a career option, to me. Writing was something I would do in between all the rest of that, because if I didn’t *do* something, what would I have to write about? I wanted to major in sciences or international relations in college, not writing. Anything but creative writing.
    But it turned out I lacked the math skills for hard sciences, and I couldn’t stand the grueling, cruel road that is a medical residency. Spy was also on the list, and I actually interned for the CIA before realizing that the world I grew up in wasn’t the world I’d be serving now. I drifted into computers. Now I’m disabled and unable to work full-time, so I’ve fallen back on “full-time novelist” as something I can still do. (Okay, part-time novelist; I’m not well enough to do anything full-time, and even writing is harder for me now. But it makes me feel better.)

  42. First dreams
    I saved a paper I wrote when I was in the first grade. It was all about how I wanted to be a ballerina. I loved the costumes and dancing to music and the toe thing. The toe thing just gets little girls, for some reason. I don’t remember wanting to be anything else until I was 10. That’s when I discovered that I could WRITE stories, not just read them. I was a bookworm, having waylaid my mother with my books, begging to be taught what the words were, when I was about three. Writing books is a much more viable occupation for a little girl whose genes didn’t give her the long legs and good feet a dancer requires. 🙂

  43. First thing I can remember wanting to be was an engineer, because I thought it was terribly cool that someone somewhere had to figure out how EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD was made.
    Instead I became a writer and a marketing guy. Go figure. So much for surplus value…

  44. Oh boy. When I was either four or five, ca. 1963, I’d announce to everyone that I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.
    My babysitter loved the soaps: Edge of Night, As the World Turns, General Hospital. My favorite was General Hospital–Dr. Hardy and Jesse, the uniforms, the drama. That was for me.
    I even had GH paper dolls, with the uniforms and everything. For my pocketbook, I wish I still had the paper dolls.

  45. I wanted to be an illustrator/comic book artist. Then I got unsatisfied with my art, but the stories still came to mind, so I decided I wanted to be a writer instead.
    Along the way, I think I wanted to be a singer, too, although that was short lived, because although I love to sing, I’m shy and don’t like to perform.

  46. Astronaut
    That’s the first one I *remember* wanting to be (I was Sally Ride for Halloween in kindergarten). Apparently I had an earlier incarnation as a vet, in which I very seriously examined all of our long-suffering animals, or at least the ones foolish enough to get within my reach. This I do not remember. My incarnation as dictactor was less a wish than a reality, coincidentally timed with my baby brother being born. He didn’t run as fast as the beasties.
    I also wanted to be black so I could sing like Memphis Minnie. My mother had to explain, very gently, that “black” was not a career choice as such.
    Why did I want these things? No clue (except for the dictator bit). I just did. Introspection and thinking-things-through were not things I was noted for in my youth….

  47. I wanted to be three things when I grew up: a geologist, an astronomer, and a Mad Scientist. I liked the Earth, I liked the sky, and I jsut plain liked the idea of being A Mad Scientist. Kuds. Mrph. >^~,0^<

  48. Yes I wanted to be an astronaut, really. All that sci-fi

  49. I never thought about this until I was five, and we had to tell the teacher what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said I wanted to be a nurse, but I only said that because that was what my best friend said.
    I secretly wanted to be an actress. I would practice by memorizing my little record of Return of the Jedi and reciting it for my parents friends. I think they just liked hearing a five-year-old say “evil galactic empire.”
    Funny how I ended up becoming an accountant. What I really wish now is that I had your job. That’s why I read your journal.

  50. I think it was a carpenter like my grandfather.
    The one that I remember better is an artist. Why? I wanted to draw all the nifty stuff that I had in my mind.

  51. At four I wanted to tell stories, to write stories, and to be an ambassador for the planet (I forget the name but I’m sure it had a lot of zs in it), but even then I knew I was different. Much later as an adult I realised what I had identified was a tendancy to observe. Very useful in writing and psychology, both of which became career paths for me later.
    I think there was also a time around 8 when I wanted to be Cilla Black, but fortunately this passed.

  52. I wanted to be Auntie Mame. We all need a little Christmas. Right this very minute.
    The closest I got was a part in the chorus of Damn Yankees.

  53. The very, very, very, very first thing I ever wanted to be was a scientist. And since I was too young at the time to know that scientist covers an extraordinary amount of territory, I used to draw pictures that, in retrospect, made me look like what I really wanted to be was a mad scientist, complete with test tubes and beakers full of bubbling, multicolored substances.

  54. re
    I wanted to be Catherine The Great. Because she always did whatever she wanted and kicked anyone’s arse if they had the nerve to object. I was a discipline challenged child 🙂

  55. A journalist. More specifically, Lois Lane. Because her job looked like fun.

  56. First, I wanted to be a cow. My Mommy said no. Then, I wanted to be Jesus Christ. My Mommy said no again, but not after making the sign of the cross.
    When I got older, I decided I wanted to play baseball. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hit a lick. I then decided I wanted to become a guitarist. That didn’t work well either.
    For now, I sell appliances at a local store. I also write.
    My Mommy still thinks I’m nuts. Some things never change.

  57. First a teacher.. I don’t remember why. I was very young.
    Then there was singer… for the glory.
    Then astronaut… because I loved to gaze at the stars.
    Writer came in 5th grade, I had a very supportive English teacher who praised my work. 😉
    Actress in high school because I did well in drama, but writing on the side, lol.

  58. first ambition
    The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a nurse. That was so far back I don’t remember why, except that it sounded like a Good Thing.
    In second grade, I read The Melendy Family. The oldest daughter, Mona, wants to be a Shakespearean actress. I decided that was really cool, so that was my ambition until I took up clarinet in the 5th grade. Besides, it impressed the heck out of grown-ups.

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