When I Grow Up…
When we are kids. most of us have dreams of things we would like to be when we become an adult. A lucky few settle on a career or line of work at an early age and never really deviate from that calling for the rest of their lives. They at least seem happy to be a doctor, a fire fighter, an architect or a teacher. But most of us skip merrily from one idea to another until at some point we fall into a particular line of work mostly by happenstance or accident. Then, before we know it, we've got our foot in a bear trap: seniority, career status, vested in a retirement program or some other inducement we can no longer refuse.
When I was very small, I enjoyed playing with my dolls and had future dreams in games that I carried to some length. In one, I would have twenty-six children, one for every letter of the alphabet! That vague idea of maternity appealed to me for a long time but ironically I only had “second hand” children when I grew up. At the same time in a kind of hopscotch back and forth, I was going to be an opera singer like Lily Pons. My parents were both into music, especially opera and classical, so I heard a lot of noted opera stars at least in recordings, in my early years. Sadly I did not have the coloratura range or power although I did do some choral singing during my teens.
Also about the same time, I wanted to be a ballerina. I think I saw a Life magazine feature of Margot Fontaine or Maria Tallchief at that point and felt sure I could do the same. I loved to put on ‘dress up’ play clothes with long voluminous skirts and dance happily to the radio or records. Ha ha on me though—two left feet and growing quickly to tall and gawky put an end to that notion. I never even took dance lessons, mostly because we could not afford it and it did not fit my parent’s lifestyle. Actually I do not ballroom dance at all but always wished I could learn. It looks so neat and like fun. But i freeze and get stiff as a fence post when I try.
I got a toy nurse kit when I was about six and entertained that as a possible career briefly but it never really took hold. Then, after Dad flew back east due to some family and health issues, I heard about the trip and decided I would be a flight attendant. All of these notions came and went before I was ten. For a bit I toyed with some other ideas but they never took root.
Then I began to ride horses and soon became a rodeo fan. Magazines such as Western Horseman came to our house and I soon decided I would be a champion barrel racer and team up with one of the top bronc riders at that time, particularly Casey Tibbs, on whom I had a huge crush. I was quite shattered when he wed the daughter of the governor of
Dakota, WWII hero, Joe Foss. Still, I stuck with
horsey notions for a good ten years or more. Maybe not a barrel racer, then, but
a trainer, a trick rider, or I could be the first person to win the Tevis Cup,
the first noted 100 miles in a day endurance race, with a mule. Alas, none
of that was to be. In time we were forced to get out of the livestock business
by dad’s health issues and the financial catastrophes that ensued.
I went belatedly off to college, still not sure what I should pursue. I started out as a declared pre-law student and went along with that for two years. Then, since I was taking a strong business minor with my history and political science major, I found out that accounting –I never was a numbers person--was about to ruin my GPA. At the same time I realized that practicing law was about as far from what I wanted to do as being a teacher, a profession followed at times by my dad and by all three of his sisters.
I switched to a straight history major, since I had already invested a good deal of time and study in that field. What I would do with that degree after I graduated was up for grabs. I floundered along, taken under the wing of an Asian studies prof who decided I should make something in that general field my life work. I took the Foreign Service Exam and got as far as the oral interview where I was told my life experiences were far too limited to go into the diplomatic corps. Even if I had trained mules!
I also took the Civil Service Entrance Exam. That finally netted me a real job. I completed work on my Master’s Degree on a Friday in July 1970 and reported for duty at Fort Huachuca the following Monday where I began my career as an intern in the Civilian Personnel area, now called Human Resources.
I wasn’t actually too gifted or happy in that field either but I stuck it out with a brief stint mid-career as an Air Force Historian. That was actually more of a diarist or journalist collecting the material to document the annual projects of various units.
|The would-be rodeo champ|
|Getting an award at McClellan AFB|
At least I did a lot of writing in all those jobs. Once my superiors found out I had a flare for putting words on paper and really did not mind doing it, they all used that ability as often as the need arose. I scribed many SOPs, policy letters, plans and similar documents. Meanwhile, I dabbled in writing fiction and poetry many of my free moments. I would never have chosen the overall career I followed but it worked out and paid the bills. Foot firmly in that bear trap, with a family to support, I hung on until I could retire. Then I made a second career out of what I should somehow have done from the start, writing. That’s now been close to a third of my life.
Oh, I must digress a bit here and admit that from a fairly early age, I would say by mid teens, I had a goal of becoming an eccentric and opinionated old lady. I dare say I have done fairly well at achieving that! I also said often that I would be a misanthrope and hermit, eventually living in a hollow tree all by myself. I used to tell my husband that he could live in the adjacent tree but nobody else was going to be much closer than that! I still live in a normal house and I do have almost daily contact with others but I have to admit I enjoy a fairly high level of solitude and solitary pursuits. There are times when I have to say the more I see of humans, the better I like my dogs.
That is not to say I do not cherish many dear friends and some very wonderful relatives but the totally honest and unjudgmental love a dog gives you cannot be found in another human. Even the best of us have an agenda and are too often just a bit less than totally forthright and truthful, even if it is to be diplomatic or gentle. You always know where you stand with a dog and s/he will never laugh at you, however ridiculous you may be!