Driving past a snowy, bendy creek late this winter, I noticed a pair of cross-country skiers winding their way along the frozen water's edge. I recognized in myself an old, familiar voice that reminded me that my ideal self loved cross-country skiing along the edge of creeks.
Here's the thing: I like the idea of that person. I like the package. I don't actually ski.
Which got me thinking about all the ways we berate ourselves for not turning out more like the picture we'd grown in our minds.
It's even more vague when there's no clear picture in the first place. I was never one of those kids who lined up worksheets in a row and played teacher all day long; or knew just what picture to draw under the caption: "What I'd Like to Be When I Grow Up". At grad when my smart and clear-minded friends headed off to university to pursue the carreers of their choice; I was pretty sure that my judgement day had come. No more hiding my lack of ability to become anything; anyone at all.
What followed was many years of jobs in a variety of caregiving roles; which I enjoyed quite a lot and felt largely competent in. At one point, I was working on a hospital ward with severely disabled children. I felt honoured to have been hired into this role; and valued my relationships with the patients.
But what stands out in my mind during this part of my working life is the afternoon that I got caught up sewing up a tiny quilt; just for the fun of it. I didn't want to go to work when it was time to do so. I just wanted to stay in my cozy apartment and watch the pieces of stripe and polka dot take on a brand new shape.
I'm not eighteen anymore. I'm in my forties, and I still find myself wondering what I would like to be when I grow up. Not that I'm unhappy in my current life. I think I'm well suited to where life finds me now.
But I'd like to be surprised by a lack of mundane in this life. By directions that thrill and amaze me. Challenge compacancy. Promote social justice. I'd like life to morph into continuously interesting directions and never relax into a predictable routine that is comfortable; but kind of boring.
Sometimes I feel like that seventeen year old grad, looking around and wondering.... what now? When will my stage manager show up and hand me a program or a flashlight or something?
In any case, I don't think I'll take up cross-country skiing any time soon, although I still love the image. I may indulge myself in daydreams of a huge room to spread out in; full of colours and patterns and books and papers and buttons and lots of sunlight.
But the who that I think I wish I were isn't discontent. And this dream of a large sunny work studio doesn't coincide with my picture of social justice; because I'm aware of how ridiculously wealthy I already am. And to afford a large peaceful studio would require lucrative work hours; which negates the whole "peaceful" part of the fantasy.
The who I wish I were is content. Grateful. Doesn't get bored, irritable, and grumpy. (Not even when there are roughly eleven and a half months of winter in the longest year of Manitoba history).
Maybe I should take up cross-country skiing after all.