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What Do I Want to Be?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When I was young, I wanted to be an architect, an actuary, or a physical therapist. I was actually accepted into a graduate program in physical therapy, but I met my husband and got married instead. I have never regretted that decision, but it did change my life. I started working for the Federal Government in 1973, and except for a few years off when my children were born and we lived in Bermuda, I have worked there ever since. My job is interesting, challenging, sensitive, and well paid. I have a thousand stories, but I can’t tell them. I’ve been a front line manager with my agency since 1989, and anyone who has ever managed other employees knows that adds a whole new level of challenge, as well as a lot of stories.

Well, now I am thinking seriously about retiring within the next year, and it suddenly occurred to me that if I live to my father’s age I will be retired for 35 years. What am I going to do with those years? What do I want to be now?

It’s too late to be a physical therapist, but not too late to do volunteer work at the County Recreation Center in the adapted aquatics program. I can’t be an architect, but I have a new camera and I can learn photography. I have my health back. I could move to California and bug my daughter full time. (Just kidding, dear)

So tell me – what did you want to do when you grew up? Did you do it? If you are retired, what are you doing to keep busy?

Here is a poem by John Engman about wanting to be one thing, and settling for something else.


I wanted to be a rain salesman,
because rain makes the flowers grow,
but because of certain diversions and exhaustions,
certain limitations and refusals and runnings low,
because of chills and pressures, shaky prisms, big blows,
and apes climbing down from banana trees, and dinosaurs
weeping openly by glacial shores, and sunlight warming
the backsides of Adam and Eve in Eden ...
I am paid
to make the screen of my computer glow, radioactive
leakage bearing the song of the smart money muse:
this little bleep went to market, this little clunk has none.

The woman who works the cubicle beside me has pretty knees
and smells of wild blossoms, but I am paid to work
my fingers up and down the keys, an almost sexy rhythm,
king of the chimpanzees picking fleas from his beloved.
I wanted to be a rain salesman , but that's a memory
I keep returning to my childhood for minor repairs:
the green sky cracking, then rain, and after,
those flowers growing faster than I can name them,
those flowers that fix me and make me stare.

I wanted to be a rain salesman,
carrying my satchel full of rain from door to door,
selling thunder, selling the way air feels after a downpour,
but there were no openings in the rain department,
and so they left me dying behind this desk—adding bleeps,
subtracting clunks—and I would give a bowl of wild blossoms,
some rain, and two shakes of my fist at the sky to be living.
Above my desk, lounging in a bed of brushstrokes flowers,
a woman beckons from my cheap Modigliani print, and I know
by the way she gazes that she sees something beautiful
in me. She has green eyes. I am paid to ignore her.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Retirement is a lovely time to throw yourself and all your strength behind the things that are near and dear to your heart.

    It's like the romance stage of marriage evolving into an unbeatable team with purpose and fulfillment. These things take time!!

    Here's to 35 years of efficient direction.
    2620 days ago
    What a powerful poem! I feel I never had the opportunity to explore what I could be. I got straight A's in biology and would have been happy doing something related to plants and trees. However, my mother pushed me into teaching and I got a degree in Elem Ed and too late realized this was not something I was cut out to do. Since that was all I was trained for I worked in day care for 8 years. It was a low pay job and I had a part time job for 5 years at a bookstore to supplement my income. I had to get out of that dead end field and was able to get an entry level position in investment accounting at a pension fund, had a few promotions, and was stuck in a little cubicle like in your poem for 29 years. I stayed at this extremely unsuitable stressful job in order to get a pension and benefits at 60 but at a great cost to my physical and mental health. Spending so much time at the office, exhausted after I got home late at night, plus looking after my mother for many years until she died, also cost me a personal life.

    Now in these two years after retirement I am finding out who I am. The most difficult adjustment is being without a strict daily schedule. I was back on the computer for many hours each day as I was so used to sitting in front of that screen, it was a familiar place. I am limiting my time there now, including on Sparks. Instead, I am taking various courses for seniors, including landscape painting in oils and acrylics, and I am enjoying using my digital camera to take photos of flowers and trees in the nearby park. I am even having a little show of my photos at a bookstore gallery in May. I am in a bookclub at the local library and have lunches out with friends, go to new exhibits at the art gallery and museum. Other then day bus trips with seniors groups, I do not have the money or energy to travel now so I am glad I had opportunities to do that earlier. I would recommend that anyone who retires should do some volunteer work to give back to others, and keep connected with people, but after those busy years at the office I find I cannot handle any stress now, and the OA in my knees limits mobility. Part of my pension money is allocated to monthly payments to various groups like Doctors without Borders and Nature Conservancy of Canada so I feel I am doing something to help.

    You will find there is a big lifestyle change and period of adjustment when you retire. You will keep thinking "there is something I am supposed to be doing now". But as time goes by you will find your own rhythm, the activities that keep you learning, and bring you joy, and the freedom of choice is exhilarating. This is an exciting chapter of life! Woo Hoo!!
    2648 days ago
    Retiring is an interesting transition. It comes with losses and gains.

    I found that it was important to know what really mattered to me and what contributed to my sense of well being.

    I was a teacher (of gifted children) at the elementary school level for 20 years when I retired.

    I LOVED teaching.

    After I retired, I began teaching part-time at the local community college.
    This was a very good decision.
    The college position required that I learn new skills for the new population I was serving and the new subject matter I was teaching.
    It also provided me with flexibility in my schedule so I could travel with my newly retired husband. (I teach only during the fall semester.)

    Because of that schedule flexibility, I have also had plenty of time to pursue other interests: photography, learning Spanish, cooking, crafts - just to name a few.

    The key ingredient for me is to feel that I am doing something worthwhile - that I am making a contribution. Also, I want to feel that I am still learning and growing - that I am being challenged.
    Finally, it is important that I still feel connected - and very much a part of - today's world.

    As a retiree, you will no longer have the managerial status - but neither will you have the responsibilities.
    You will no longer have the daily structure to your life and the built-in contact with other people, but you will have the time to try your hand at some of your old interests --as well as some new interests.

    Current technology can open doors for us that have never been available for earlier generations.

    The opportunities are limitless.


    2649 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/22/2011 9:10:57 AM
    Wow, what a funny, quirky poem! I love it. I guess I am odd in that I never really wanted a career. I wanted to be a wife and mom, and that is what I turned out to be. I did want to be a teacher, though. I still have my cursive penmanship paper from third grade in which I stated that "I want to teach the children to read and write." And that's what I did for my three children whom I homeschooled for various amounts of time. Now both my older kids are in college, and my youngest son, who is almost 12, does his homeschooling online. When he goes to school one day, perhaps I will start drawing and painting again. I don't really think my B.S. in biology would be of any use to me at this point. BTW, my daughter wants to be a physical therapist! You have to get a DPT (Doctorate of Physical Therapy) in order to practice now, which is 3 years beyond your B.S. They make things more and more difficult!
    I think you will have no problem filling up your time when you retire!
    2649 days ago
    At the conference I recently attended, I met so many women with more education than me doing what I do for higher pay. If I had to do it over, I would become a nurse practitioner. I'm older and couldn't work long enough to recoup the school loans. I am privileged to do what I love to do each and every day though. If you had asked me at age 20 if my life's dream was to diagnosis and treat urinary and fecal incontinence I would have said "Uh - what's incontinence"? When we retire we can travel the world together - two skinny sisters - and reminisce about taxes and bladders :)
    2649 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/21/2011 10:48:38 PM
  • CJD2000
    Well, I wanted to be a teacher, and that's what I was. After retirement I've done some volunteer work and also taught at our local college.

    The possibilities are endless. Your blog and its comments have made me think that I need to get back to "doing something" since I've been recovering from back surgery and a broken leg and have been lingering in my house.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Have a wonderful day!
    2651 days ago
  • JET150
    I wanted to be a librarian most of all, but could not afford grad school. Now that I'm on the verge of retiring, I am hoping I can work part time in my little branch library. I already volunteer there. There are a few other places I'd like to maybe volunteer, and I can audit classes at UW. The last thing o expect to be is bored!
    If you do retire, I bet you will love it!!
    2651 days ago
    I loved your post, and the poem. It seems so bittersweet. (You wanted to be an actuary? Really?)

    I've been retired about 7 years now. Last year, I went back to see my friends at a Founder's Day celebration. We were all sitting around, and one of them asked me if I was bored being retired. I smiled and said no. I don't think they believed me; I think I even saw some pitying looks. But I couldn't explain it; it's just that your days fill up, and there's no hurrying. And they fill up with things that you are personally interested in. Spending time with family and working on projects (I'm a scrapbooker), just enjoying life. It's not perfect, and it's not stress-free, but it's very satisfying. I didn't get to be a stay-at-home mom, now I'm a stay-at-home grandma (I call myself a grannynanny) and I'm never bored! I worked hard, and I deserve to enjoy my retirement, as you do. Good luck with whatever you decide. emoticon
    2652 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/19/2011 1:37:02 PM
    Exploration IS a career path. I have been lucky enough to have a completely different path every 10 years or so... I figure I have one or two more 10 year paths to explore before I won't have to worry about the path paying enough to support my family.

    The difference between having a job and having a career: when you feel like it's too late to get a new job, you have a career. May I never have a career

    Thank you for today's little mental barbell... "and I know by the way she gazes that she sees something beautiful in me. She has green eyes. I am paid to ignore her. "

    Oh, the places you will go now that you will no longer be paid to ignore her!
    2652 days ago
    That is just awesome! Most of us never do get to be what we wanted to be when we grew up. What a shame, what a loss! And this poem tells that so sparely, so elegantly.

    Thanks for shraing it!
    2653 days ago
    Hey! I thought there would be no test!!

    Such a pensive way to start a FRIDAY!!! IT'S FRIIIIDAAAAAY! FINALLY FRIDAAAY!! Wait.

    The fact that I'm so freaking thrilled about it being Friday kind of implies I'm having some salaryman issues of my own, huh?


    When I was young I wanted to be a horse.

    But because of certain diversions and exhaustions, I became a government hack instead...

    Now I think I'm going to be a rain salesman...

    Keep it up, CM, and YOU will become a career counselor!!
    2653 days ago
    I wanted to be a writer and in my own way I am.

    Professionally, I've been a maid, a waitress, an insurance agency secretary, a restaurant manager, a restaurant owner, a landlord, a QDA food taste tester, a playground supervisor, a swim and water aerobics instructor, lifeguard and LG/CPR instructor and............. a wife and mom.

    I certainly haven't followed a traditional career path LOL!
    2653 days ago
    I am trying to figure out what I am going to do next. I have lots of activities to keep me busy, but I am alone alot and get lonely. Thanks for the bluberries.
    2654 days ago
    From the time I was in sixth grade I wanted to be a teacher. I fulfilled that dream and loved teaching. WHen I had my own kids, I retired and became a full time mommy. Now I am a fulltime grammy. I love kids and love being with my grandson.
    2654 days ago
    I'm still working on what I want to be. I'll let you know when I get there. Great Blog!! emoticon
    2654 days ago
    I wanted to be a nurse, then realized computer programming was my passion. I eventually moved into management, and hated it! I'm now back to programming, and every day at work feels like playtime. I do look forward to retirement, and hopefully, being a grandma. No grandchildren yet!

    I absolutely love the poem! Captures the life of a cubicle-dweller so well.
    2654 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/17/2011 9:09:50 PM
  • JUNEAU2010
    I wanted to be a nurse, then a doctor, then a surgeon. Then, a music therapist. Decades later, I became a paralegal!
    2654 days ago
  • CANDOK1260
    i WANTED to be THE 1ST WOMEN govwnor an no I didn;t make it LOL , Next year I will be losing my job and need to find a new career so maybe I will find the anser thenv
    2655 days ago
    You may not move to California. If you move to California than your daughter would have no reason to come to the East Coast every year and I wouldn't get to see her. As for what to do? I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be.
    2655 days ago
    I think about this a lot, what do I want to be when I grow up (and I'm 40). Life got in the way of college and one thing I've wanted to do is take some college classes now just to figure out what the classes will be on.
    2655 days ago
    Sweetie I just retired in 2010 when I started Sparks always wanted to be a writer so now I go to the University and take classes in creative writing on the Extended Education for Seniors, I mentor street children , volunteer for Salvation Army, the Community Food bank , and the VA, so my life will be booked up for the next 35 yrs emoticon
    2655 days ago
    Almost two years ago, I was laid off at age 61. When I was young, I wanted to teach writing and for one year of my life, I did. For four years, I taught Special Ed and for 4 years I worked with victims of crime at the State's Attorney's office. I was blessed to have four daughters and two sons. These days I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma, a niece, a cousin, a sister, and a friend. Now and then, I'm a gardener, a seamstress, an interior decorator, a literary critic and a genealogist. All in all, I like it.
    2655 days ago
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