I find that children, especially boys, tend to choose what they want to be when they grow up from a fairly limited selection; a footballer, a fireman, a policeman perhaps. Among the girls at my school were budding teachers, nurses and dancers. Other children have a talent that stands out and helps define their ambition; Allison had her art and Lauren, I imagine, was busy making music. And then there was Tom, bucking the trend, weighing the pros and cons of all the jobs the world had to offer. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted to be a button designer. *
I was very young when I decided this. I had raided my mum's sewing kit and claimed all of the spare buttons for my future business ventures. I had so many ideas, such hope, but it wasn't long before the cruel mockery I faced from my dad and my brother shattered my dream.
From that day forward, I drifted from one profession to another; from weatherman to vet, from radio DJ to archaeologist. Each idea lasted roughly a month before I got bored and moved on. Things interested me, and vague plans fluttered around briefly, but nothing stood the test of time. Was it a lack of ambition? A lack of talent? I don't think so; there were things that I was good at, and there were things I wanted to achieve. The problem was that I didn't think about it enough, mostly due to my tendency to drift off into a fantasy world at any given opportunity. I spent most of my youth in a bubble, far removed from grim reality.
My mind wandered constantly to more colourful and fantastical places. I remember taking an atlas from downstairs into my room and leaving it open on the floor, on a page about deserts. And then jumping on it. You see I'd just read [a fictional story] about a boy who could travel through pictures in books. Unsurprisingly, it didn't work. I remained in my room, standing on a book, breaking its spine. At that moment, I think, reality caught up with me. I stopped looking in wardrobes for secret passages to other worlds, and began thinking about what I would do with myself, in this world, when I grew up. Only nothing else seemed as much fun.
Lauren, over to you my American friend.
* If you think that's bad, my brother wanted to be a zebra. I blame our parents.