Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

When I was 9, I made an announcement to my parents that I was moving to Hollywood and becoming an actress. I also said I was going to have 10 kids and become the first female President of the United States. I guess I sort of fancied myself as the Angelina Jolie/Sarah Palin type. This wasn’t the first, or the last time, I would make declarations, sometimes just for the sheer amusement of shocking people.  Once in high school, I came home and proudly told my mother I was becoming a Jew. I went to Temple with my friend Sarah, and her dad gave me a book called “Why Be Jewish?” which I would read in the kitchen while attempting to make matzo ball soup. I eventually became Catholic again, though I did have a bit of a resurgence in college when I tried to get into the Jewish sorority.

While I was genuinely interested in learning about other religions and cultures, I’ll admit there was a part of me that was a little tickled that I might shock my devout Catholic parents. But my mother was unfazed. “I don’t care what you believe as long as you believe in something,” was all she would say. She said this again three years after I moved to LA and told her I was becoming a Scientologist, though this time I could tell I definitely shook her up a bit.

I know my mother didn’t mean she didn’t care what I believed in. She obviously wanted me to believe in something good, not become a terrorist.  Generally her response with any sort of hair-brained idea I had was to tell me to go for it. I wanted to write a letter to Reagan to change the voting age to 12 and she typed it up. When I wanted to try out for the high school softball team having never picked up a bat in my life she commented that stranger things had happened. And when I wanted to move across the country to pursue my dream of being on the silver screen, she flew me out, set me up in my apartment, and waved goodbye with a proud and hopeful smile, not the guilt-ridden hug of a mother not wanting to see her baby so far away from home.

I now find myself leaving LA-LA land and moving back to Chicago. Part of my hesitation for not making the move sooner was fear. Fear of change. Fear of looking like a failure. But it was mostly the fear of feeling like I was giving up on a dream. We all grow up dreaming about becoming doctors and teachers and astronauts. Some of us now find ourselves in those exact positions we imagined being in and some of us are on completely different paths. I would imagine a good portion of us have all had a moment of sitting at a desk or taking somebody’s order or trying to soothe a screaming child while thinking, “How did I get here?” And then there are the moments when the business you started from the ground up becomes successful or you discover a hidden talent you never knew you had or you meet the love of your life and you think, “How did I get here?”

So as I begin my new adventure, I’m starting to develop new dreams.  Just because one didn’t quite go the way I planned doesn’t mean I need to wake up every day not believing in something. After all, part of life is going after goals and having something to look forward to even if it doesn’t turn out as you hoped. Who knows? Maybe in the pursuit of another, I’ll end up on Broadway or in the White House. The only thing I know for certain is that I did not fail, I did not give up, and that same proud and hopeful smile that left me in California 9 years ago is waiting to welcome me home.