How many times do we get asked this or some variation of it throughout our lives? What do you want to major in? What do you want to do once you graduate? Oh, you don't like your job, what do you want to do instead?
More importantly, how many times does our answer to those questions change? Maybe you have many answers or maybe you knew from the time you were a sapling what you wanted to be, pursued it and are living the dream today (hey, it happens!). Oh, what was that you asked? What did I want to be when I grew up? Well, where do I start...
I must say that for much of my life I was in the camp of knowing exactly where I wanted to be and, to a certain extent, what I wanted to do. For as long as I can remember, I have had an unwavering love of the ocean and the mystical creatures within it. I love whales and from the time I was a little kid, I would voraciously collect any information I could on all of the different species. I had a little stapled together pamphlet that I made with drawings of each species and key facts on each one--one could say that it was my first lab notebook! I know lots of kids wanted to be dolphin trainers at Sea World but not I; no, I wanted to be on the front lines, out in the wild watching migrating pods, seeing them frolic in the shimmering waves and doing my best to keep them safe.
When the time came, I moved back to the US from Costa Rica to go to college to get all the knowledge I needed in order to most accurately and scientifically observe this whale frolicking. I enrolled in an Environmental Studies program at Florida Gulf Coast University and was on my way to be a whale biologist! I remember one of the very first things I did--it had to be within two weeks of starting my first semester--was go to the school library and check out about 20 massive books on whale life history, toxicology, etc. It was amazing. During my first semester, I took an intro Marine Systems class and through this class, my professor suggested an internship at the Marine Lab on campus. Things were definitely looking up! Bring on those dolphins! I started working in the lab at the beginning of my second semester. I was 17 and bright-eyed. Working in the lab was a lot of fun and we got to go out on the water often. Did we work with dolphins or whales? Well, no, not quite. But hey, oysters are biology too! And estuaries are somewhat marine, so close enough.
I worked at the university for the extent of my undergraduate degree but about halfway through, I was traded over to the geochemistry lab. Hmm, ok, well, I seem to have lost the biology component, but hey, no biggie, we're still going out on the water and collecting...water! Truthfully though, I absolutely loved working in all the different labs and garnering more and more skills and knowledge, no matter what the field of expertise. As I neared the end of my undergraduate program, I began to look at Masters options on the west coast. I really wanted to get out to Washington or Oregon and do toxicology work with orcas (I mean, chemistry + whales = win win, right???). Well, my lab manager, a professor at the university, offered me a position as her grad student and I took her up on it. So, I was in for another couple of years. Just a minor hiccup!
I did my research on estuarine nutrient fluxes but incorporated a mangrove component into it just to feel like there was some biology happening. It was a fun and interesting process with its ups and downs but afterwards, I felt like I needed a break. I planned a leap year trip to Asia--had most of my stays figured out and then, about a month before I planned to leave (although I had not yet purchased flight tickets), I met my husband. Plans changed. Life changed.
Skip ahead seven years. We went on adventures near and far. We traveled cross-country twice. We left our jobs to bike across Washington and Oregon with a 20+ pound dog in tow. We came back and found no jobs. We eventually found jobs in Minnesota. We moved to Minnesota. We had a baby. We got married.
My whole professional life I have been an environmental chemist and I've been pretty darn good at it! In the interim, I have toyed around with many other ideas on the side that would take advantage of my creativity. Artist (I work with charcoal/graphite to do portraits), writer (I have always loved writing and took many writing classes in college just for the fun of it), tie-dye artist (I dabbled in this when we were unemployed). The problem with these ventures is...graduate school really sapped my creativity! You may not know it, but it turns out that academic writing is just a tad dry. All of the muses for the poetry and stories I used to write got incarcerated in some dark, hidden corner of my mind. I'm hoping that this practice will release at least one of them!
However, last year, ALL of this changed. I will be honest here and say this. "Mother" was never one of my answers when I got the question. In fact, I used to say, "Maybe I'll adopt but I don't want any children of my own.". Just a couple of months before giving birth, I was talking to a co-worker about how I wouldn't be able to stay at home for the whole 12 weeks without going stir-crazy and would likely be back much sooner than that. On May 11th, our daughter, Sienna, was born. On May 11th, I knew that I wanted to be a mother. I knew that I would never be able to leave her to go back to work.
In order to be a stay-at-home-mom, I still needed to do something to keep my mind busy as I do love to work. Wild Tushies has given me a new outlet for my creativity via graphic design and, now, crochet. I hope that as time goes on, my creative wings will once more take flight! Sienna amazes me every day and I have never questioned my decision to change gears and leave my job.
So, let me go back to the original question...what do I want to be? My answer may be ever-changing as one can never tell what the future holds, but I am so glad to have found something that answers to all my callings up to this point--conservationist, artist, writer and...Momma.