I watch my daughter dancing like a lunatic to my Monkees record in the middle of the living room. I find myself wondering if she’s going to aspire to be on stage like I once did. Then I notice how much she loves playing the piano with her father. I wonder whether she will perform as a musician rather than an actress. But she’s also so obsessed with typing on the computer that I think she will be a designer, a writer, or a programmer. My mind starts to race. She likes to help cook. She likes airplanes and fire trucks. Maybe she’ll be a chef or a paramedic. She could be a lawyer; she’s already so good at arguing.
My daughter is two. I have no idea what she will be when she’s twenty or thirty. I hope she tries a million things, changes her mind, and follows a curvy path until she’s one hundred and two before finally taking a break.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of planning our futures (or our children’s futures) and believing that once you’ve established the plan and plotted the course, you can’t stray. Although I occasionally find myself overplanning, I believe with everything in me that until your last breath, you can be anything.
Of course, some jobs require years upon years of training. But just because you can’t pick them up immediately doesn’t make them an impossible goal later in life.
I get so frustrated around people who place limits on themselves and others.
I grew up with parents who have had different careers at different times in their lives. They have owned businesses, worked in offices from 9-5, gone back to school, and changed their minds. They have triumphed, and they have failed. Through it all, they always told my siblings and me that we can be anything and it’s not too late to try something new.
My mother’s mantra has always been, “Life isn’t linear.” She said it to each of her children during moments of confusion and failure, moments of excitement when new opportunities seemed to have come out of nowhere. If I told my parents tomorrow that I wanted to do something wildly different, they wouldn’t flinch. I am so grateful that I learned this from them and that I married someone just as flexible as I am.
While I flaunt my multifaceted persona of writer, designer, actress, director, coffee drinker (I consider this a skill) with pride, most people wouldn’t know upon first meeting my husband that he’s a chef, musician, gardener, contractor, and electrician. He learns a new skill with an ease that I wish I possessed. But beyond that, like me, he sees no limits to change when it’s necessary or desired.
I want our children to know and love this way of life as well. I’m not suggesting that I won’t encourage them to find their passion and work hard to succeed at it, but success can mean so many things. I might not ever get millions of followers on social media, write a best-selling book, or be in a Hallmark movie. But I will not consider everything I have accomplished as a writer and actress to be less than amazing.
And the truth is that I still don’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up.
I love so many things. I’m good (maybe not great) at many things, and I hope each day brings me closer to learning, creating, and discovering new avenues.
I will write a book. I will stand on a stage again. And I will continue to be so grateful that I get to make a living doing something I love.
Most importantly, I will teach my daughter to dance, dream, change her mind, dance some more, and believe that she can do great things.