When I Grow Up

When we were four, we would walk around in tutus and ballet shoes. We would twirl around clumsily on our tiptoes. We would declare, excitement in our voice, "I want to be a ballerina when I grow up!" Maybe it was a cowboy, maybe it was the president (that was me) a doctor, a vet, a firefighter, princess, carpenter, artist, police officer, or whatever else a young imagination could dream of, unfettered by thoughts of paying your bills as an artist, losing the presidential election, or not making the cut at the police academy. When you're four, life can be anything. You don't have to live up to expectations to make the grade, make a living, or do anything other than what you want with your life. Your parent's haven't told you, "No, sweetie, you're going to be a lawyer," or "But you would make such a great real estate agent." You're free to dream of whatever you want.

But you're only four so long, and sooner or later we give up on those dreams. Maybe some of them wouldn't make us happy, but others might have, and we limit our imaginations by parental expectations, salaries, and skill. This is the age when we start climbing into Mommy's heels or Daddy's shiny loafers. We give up on our original dreams for the dreams of our parents. "When I grow up, I want to be just like Mommy!" And the growing ensues.

I've been thinking about how much I've grown up from the little girl who wanted to be the first female president. I remember a time when the drive between Riderwood Elementary and my house was the center of the universe. I can trace the beginnings of my poetry to 3rd grade, my political awareness to 6th, my interest in journalism to 7th, and my self-awareness to this past summer. Even the difference in the way I carry myself from the beginning of this school year until now is massive. I'm no longer the self-conscious freshman-like sophomore who entered Allan Building at the beginning of the year. I know so much more about myself, my life, the world, and I've finally torn away from measuring my self-worth through achievements. I can't believe how much older I am at 16 than I was at 15. Or 5.

I wouldn't exaggerate the differences, however, of myself a the tutu wearing, big dreaming four year old with that unrestrained imagination. I don't want to be a ballerina or an artist, and certainly not the president. But I do have a dream that's uniquely my own, and I've been expanding my imagination back to the days when it wasn't polluted with doubts through writing. The best thing I can do for myself is to cover as many pieces of paper with incoherent babble as humanly possible.

The End

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