When I grow up

FREIGHT TRAIN

You know you’re getting older when you find your birthdays barreling down on you like an out of control freight train….and you can’t get off the tracks.

When I was a kid, I loved birthdays.  It felt like a national holiday just for me.  Lots of presents, maybe your name would be mentioned on the P.A. system at school, and you had amnesty from your parents for those things that would get you in trouble on any other day of the year.

Pretty sweet!  You just had to avoid the ‘Patty-Whacks’…that part sucked!

Overall, I still like birthdays, but the amnesty thing doesn’t work so well anymore, and you NEVER want your name called out on any P.A. system.  Flying under the radar is the key to birthdays when you’re old enough to remember life before microwave ovens and computers.

The trouble is, now I spend more time thinking of what I dreamed of as a kid and just how far from that path I wandered.  That sounds more morose than it is….I wanted to be either Spider-man or Bat Man.  I probably would have ended up as some sort of mutant 8-legged bat super hero thingy.

I don’t think that would have worked out very well.

I do spend time thinking of what I really want to be when I grow up, though.  I know, it sounds stupid coming from a guy past the curve of his working life.  I guess I just never really gave it a lot of thought.

I always envied those people who just knew what they wanted and went after it.  It didn’t even matter if that’s not what they ended up doing – just the drive towards something they could see down the road always left me in awe.

My plan was probably a lot like a fugitives – stay one step ahead of trouble.  If I could do that, I’d be doin’ all right!  It also meant that I’d probably never reach any sort of destination.  Not sure if that’s good or bad.

But I think I finally got it down.  I think, that after 40 50 something years, I can say with some conviction that what I really want to be when I grow up is….rich.

That sounds pretty shallow I’ll admit, but honestly, I think I’d be really good at it!  I’m a fun-loving guy, and I’m generous, at times, to a fault.  I’d totally share in my riches….tithe, volunteer, help my fellow man and all that – even throw pool parties and invite people over, or have huge barbecues and feed the whole neighbourhood.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking Warren Buffet rich.  That’s too much pressure.  In fact, I’m not even talking ‘personal jet’ rich.  Just rich enough so that I don’t have to worry about prioritizing work over play. Doesn’t that sound great??

I don’t want to have to go to the grocery store in disguise, though.  I will – I just don’t want to have to.

bad disguise

Frankly, I don’t know why everyone else hasn’t thought of that as a goal for life.  I guess that’s what happens when you have enough time to contemplate your options, and have worked long enough to know what you NEVER WANT TO DO AGAIN.

Now that I have that figured out, all I need to do is get rich.

Who wants to help me?

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When I grow up…

There’s a commercial on TV right now, with a little boy dressed up as a pirate.  He runs around the house, chasing a turtle with his sword or doing ‘pirate things’.  He ends up in a grocery store with his mother, and sees an old man with an eye patch.  As he prepares to do battle with the unsuspecting old guy, his mother quickly rushes him out of the store.

It’s very cute.  We all love watching kids play out these fantasies in their everyday lives – little girls riding their tricycles around my neighbourhood dressed up like fairy princesses, while dad patiently walks behind them holding their wand, is adorable.

When we’re little, we dream of what we’d like to be when we grow up, and it’s usually something none of us will ever aspire to; astronaut, movie star, super hero.

You sometimes hear about famous athletes or celebrities announce during a speech or after winning a trophy of some sort, how it’s been a dream of theirs since they were a little kid.

I can kind of get that when it comes to athletes, but for actors?  Did they really lay on the grass in their backyards as little kids, daydreaming of sitting in makeup at 4am for 3 hours only to find out that the catering truck didn’t show up, so they had to wrap for the day, or taking wild swings at the paparazzi that swarm them like mosquitoes?

Something happens to us as we get older.  Belief in things like the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny disappear, and along with them, other fantasies that sit in our memories.

We learn that Superman isn’t real, and the closest thing we have to real heroes now are random strangers who happen upon an accident, running into the dangerous situation that we run away from.  No capes or tights, which is probably a good thing, but nothing obvious to tell them apart from the rest of us.

I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up.  We did a lot of outdoor stuff, and had an affinity to climb things.  I recall that we had a ‘Spider Man Club’ where we’d challenge each other to complete difficult obstacle courses on playground equipment.  I don’t know that I ever thought I wanted to be Spider Man when I grew up, though.  In fact, I don’t think I know very many people who have had a life-long dream, then went out and achieved it.

There is one old friend who, after suffering a back injury as a young teenager, decided he wanted to become a chiropractor after his first treatment where the conventional medical institutions could not relieve his pain.

He committed to it back then, and the last time I saw him, a few years ago, he was running one of the most successful sports injury clinics around.  Now that is following your dream!

Being in the hunt for work, I often get asked what it is I want to do, now that I’m free to chase my dreams.  In fact, it was one of the first questions I was asked by the guy charged with getting me back to work.  I stumbled over my answer.  I’m not even sure that I gave him an answer.

Mostly, I’m only able to give a list of the things I know I DON’T want to do any more;  drive in rush-hour traffic, sit in meetings all day, that kind of stuff.  If I was completely honest with myself, I’d say that for the rest of my life, my work would look like this:

Sleep in, pour a coffee, get my daughter off to school, read the paper, walk the dog, chat with the neighbours, cut the grass, go golfing, fix something around the house, do a bit of shopping, then prepare a fabulous meal for my family – Something barbequed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with a way to get paid to do those things.

See, here’s the problem with starting over so late in your career.  All those childhood dreams are long gone; dried up in the dusty old recesses of your mind, if they were ever there in the first place.

Even if you wanted to be idealistic about the rest of your working life, you will be tasked with verbalizing your grand plan.  Astronaut or super hero are not likely in the cards any more, and you’d more likely be sitting on a chair in a psychiatrists office than working with NASA on the next space mission if you ever brought those dreams up.

Six year old dreamers are cute.  Fifty year old dreamers are on drugs…or should be…or are Richard Branson.

I don’t know if, over years of being beaten down or having dreams dashed, that you kind of throw in the towel, or if it’s something more basic than that.  Maybe you just realize that at a point in your life, you see the kind of stress your boss is under, and know you don’t want that, and the things that are important to you have changed.  Good family, good neighbours, good friends, good health.

I know that sounds really boring, and maybe it is.  But I also think you can still be a bit of that dreamer kid you once were, just on a more practical level.  Helping someone pick up dropped groceries in the parking lot, or cutting a neighbours grass when their lawn mower is kaput.

It’s never too late to be that guy or gal you dreamed of being when you were a kid, but it may look different, and be a bit less glamorous. In the end, though, we’re really here to help each other through life.  If that’s our only accomplishment, we’ve done quite well.

It may not be leaping tall buildings or swinging through sky-scrapers on a web, saving that damsel in distress, but it’s a lot safer, and you don’t have to wear tights.  Unless you want to.