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You can't have EVERYTHING

I've been thinking a lot about my childhood -- my kid self compared to the grown-up me with two daughters, three cats and a husband -- would the little me be happy or disappointed with the life I chose?

I said a lot when I was little -- some things stayed with me; while others were forgotten.

I was a kid; I said what I wanted and blamed it on youth and inexperience when people got offended. I don't think I've changed much on that score.

"Those better be your party shoes."
I was going to the park with the neighbor boy for play date. Ryan -- everyone called him Boo -- was a shy kid. I vaguely remember feeling irritated -- I was 4 -- that he wouldn't talk to me.
"Are those your party shoes?" I asked him.
He examined his feet for a moment and turned his head away from me.
"I asked you; are those your party shoes?"
He did not answer.
"Those better be your party shoes."
"Mom's right, Dad. You are a jerk."
We were visiting my grandparents in Moses Lake for Memorial-Day weekend. I was 7. Dad was teasing me, or telling me that I couldn't get a life-sized stuffed zebra at the carnival. I can't recall the precise reason I got angry with him.
"You know what they say in Russia?" He asked me. "Tough Shitsky."
I hated that saying -- all the more reason for Dad to use it every time I wanted something. He knew that it bothered me, and that made it all the more fun to say.  I came back at him with the first thing that popped in my head.
"Mom's right, Dad. You are a jerk."
"Poor Walter."
U.S. President Ronald Reagan had just won his second term in office, and my parents, who unfortunately voted Republican, were watching Democrat Walter Mondale concede the election on television.
I knew squat about politics, but I liked Mr. Mondale. He had an interesting face, and his name -- Walter -- was fun to say. I didn't understand why this sweet man looked so small and gloomy on our television screen.
"Poor Walter." 
"I want to be a doctor and a nurse and eat chicken."
My kindergarten teacher -- Ms. Bridget -- asked me -- "Alexis, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
I was 5 then and spent most of my time away from school at my dad's veterinary clinic. I was fascinated by anatomy and surgery and scalpels and stethoscopes and white lab coats. The only thing I liked more than watching my dad in the operating room, was eating fried chicken.
"I want to be a doctor and a nurse and eat chicken."

At least I got part of it right

Maybe it's normal for people in their 30s to take stock of where they are and how they got there, but mostly I hear people crying (myself included) "This isn't the life I dreamed about." Mr. School Teacher wanted to study theater at Julliard and live in France for a year, but he never auditioned for a play and he never learned French.

When our parents and teachers told us to follow our dreams they weren't saying "do nothing and wait for your dreams to fall in your laps." Maybe if they'd told us "achieve your goals" -- "dreams" are something you read about in fairy tales -- we'd have planned more wisely for our futures. Or maybe we were kids, and our dreams were too big.

While so many educated, once-successful people are underemployed or not employed at all, I get pissy with this fringe layer of  useful idiots -- hipsters who've never succeeded at anything, because no one has let them fail. They talk about themselves at length to random people they pass on the street.

"Hey there," They introduce themselves. "This is my dream ..." and blah, blah, blah.

You can't wake up one day and say out of the blue "I told my teacher in kindergarten that I wanted to be a doctor. I'm going to medical school." Or you can -- I suppose -- but you can't get mad if your spouse tells you "piss up a rope," because essentially what you're saying is "my dreams are more important than yours -- put your life on hold while I find myself."

If you wasted your childhood like I did making bad decisions that felt really good when you made them; you cheated yourself. The only one to blame is you.

I got lucky -- the kid me didn't dream that big. She wanted little girls. She got them.

Everything else is a bonus.


  1. Little girls are a great gift....I should know!!! And by the way...dreaming doesn't stop, just a few detours!!

  2. Awesome! I agree that 'achieve your goals' is a much better thing to say than 'follow your dreams'...I think most of us aren't living the life we thought we would in grade 5...or kindergarten.. hell, I'm not even living the life I thought I would be last year! Things happen that change everything we thought we knew about ourselves and the people around us.
    Love your childhood memories, especially being a doctor and a nurse and eating chicken! Too cute! Have a great day.

  3. I hope your little girls don't find out how modest you considered your dreams.

    1. A little late replying. Heck, this may never find you. My little girls are everything. I don't minimize their value by saying my dreams were modest. I was a girl who wanted to be a mother. Science made it pretty easy to fulfill that dream. I know it's fashionable to say "you can have it all," but having it all requires compromise. I chose this life because it has little girls in it, and I don't want to decide which events in my children's lives are acceptable to miss out on. I've walked away from career opportunities--reluctantly perhaps--because I'm grounded enough to admit that I can't do both to my satisfaction. There's nothing wrong with "modest."


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