One Thousand Words on What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Sometimes I think that one of the greatest tragedies of life is that we have to choose one career. It’s a shame because there are a lot of interesting jobs out there.

Sure, sometimes people quit being a doctor to become a lawyer. Or join the Peace Corps in retirement. Those people are inspiring, but not the norm. Most folks stick with one profession. You’re a teacher or an accountant or an electrician. You might change companies, but you still do the same sort of work.

I ended up an arts administrator. I usually enjoy what I do and I doubt I’ll ever veer seriously off that path. I might venture into non-arts non-profit management someday, but that’s basically the same thing.

When I was young, the first answer I gave to “what do you want to be when you grow up” was someone who teaches blind people. It’s a strange thing for a little girl to pick, but I was heavy into the Little House on the Prairie books and Mary goes blind. I wanted to teach Mary how to read Braille.

As I got older, I changed my mind several times. In high school I decided that I was going to be a psychologist. Then the last semester of my senior year, I took a psychology class with the world’s most boring teacher. I had already declared it my major for college the next year, but I changed it as soon as I could.

Then I got into theater and, when I realized I wasn’t a very good lighting designer and that I wasn’t the sort of person who could live never knowing where the next job was coming from, I turned to administration.

It’s a good fit for my skills, but I mourn the fact that I will never be a librarian or veterinarian.

Here are just a few of the jobs I’d try if I could:

Jury Consultant.

I have been on two juries and, apologies to the defendants, I spent most of my time trying to figure out first, why the lawyers decided I would be a good juror for that particular case and two, what the other jurors were thinking.

I would love to sit in on all the big law suits and criminal cases, just staring at the jurors trying to figure out the best way to influence them. And do background checks on all the potential jurors, digging into their sordid pasts.

It’s kind of like a lawyer, a private investigator and a psychologist all rolled into one, with less school.

Plus you’d get to use the words “voir dire” almost every day. I just love how “voir dire” sounds when you say it.

Antique Book Restorer.

I’m guessing there is a better title for this job than antique book restorer, but I don’t know what it is.

I had never heard about people who restore old books until I read Studs Terkel’s Working and there’s a whole chapter about it.

There are several things about this job that appeal to me. To start, anything with books is good and really old books are even better. I don’t like the smell of old books, but everything else about them is magical. They hold mysteries.

And restoring old books is noble work, like saving someone’s baby.

There’s not much sadder than a damaged book. If an author spent his or her time, effort and energy writing the book then it should be read and old books are often so damaged that they aren’t legible.

Fixing them puts things right. You’re not only restoring paper, your restoring the author’s place in the world, their legacy. Like I said, noble.

Criminal Profiler.

I watch too much Law and Order, so I’m completely fascinated by the idea that people who commit violent crimes share common traits. And that you can study a series of crimes and say, “the perp is probably a male in his mid to late forties who lives with his mother. Coworkers would call him a loner and he listens to Yanni.”

How do they do that?

Of course, a psychology degree is probably necessary for this career, so maybe it should be at the bottom of the list.

Novelist.

This one shouldn’t come as any surprise. I obviously want to write a novel. I’m trying to write a novel.

But I think being a novelist is more a lifestyle than a career.

I picture myself owning a beautiful house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. All day, I sit at my computer in an office with a view of the sea, brilliant words just pouring out of me. I only take breaks to talk to my wise editor and eat locally grown fruits and vegetables that are delivered by adoring villagers… wait, I think I might have confused novelist with king.

But I do like the idea of being able to write all day if I wanted to. I know that would mean I would also have to deal with things like deadlines and writers block, but in my fantasy those don’t exist.

International Art Thief.

This is my latest obsession. Can you think of a better way to spend your days than traveling the world, getting up close to artistic masterpieces and outsmarting law enforcement? I can’t.

Art thieves also have all the latest technology, and a code. Honor among thieves and all that. I’d like to have a code.

And they have cool names too, like Jackal or The Collector or something like that.

Oh, and they make a lot of money too.

The only downside to art theft is that you might get caught. But it’s always good to have a strong motivation to be your best and you can’t get much better motivation than avoiding jail.

So if I ever decide that I’ve had it with arts administration, I’ve got a whole list of other careers to choose from. Do you think they have an art thief apprentice program?

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