People always ask kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" First of all, it sort of pisses me off that kids are somehow less than "being" because they are not grown up. The suggestion is a little off, no matter what the intention. It is there that the problem begins.
From the time we're very young, we're somehow persuaded that unless we are doing something productive - a job - we are not actually "being." So we plan our whole lives around making a living, which for most of us entails something we simply don't love, but do for the majority of our time to pay our bills.
I'm sure that I was asked this question once or twice, but I don't remember any specifics, except perhaps when I was in high school trying to figure out which college program would be best for my career path. I'm sure I, like all kids, thought about all of the possibilities. Frankly, when you're little, the thought of becoming something specific means much more than punching the clock. When asked, most kids would probably choose ballet dancer, superhero, or astronaut.
I'm not sure I ever had an answer to that question. Someplace in my heart I knew I would write. When I was really being, I was writing, and it had nothing to do with making money or fame. It was like breathing. It is like breathing and sometimes I am short of breath or panting, but I always come to the page when I want to really "be."
Sometimes I follow the work of other writers and wonder what it is that keeps them writing, and why some have had lots of work published and others just write to write, because they have to. I want to be one of the writers who makes a name for herself. I want to say, "yes, I'm a writer." And when they ask what I've published, I want to have a whole list from which to choose an answer. I'm not sure how to get there from here. Maybe it's because I listened and in some way bought into the eternal question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
I wish I had screamed, I AM being! Perhaps then I might have taken writing seriously when I was much younger instead of trying to figure out how to make a living. Perhaps then I would have made a life instead of a living. Perhaps then I would have a lot of published work in literary journals and my name on lots of book covers.
In light of this little revelation, I now vow, bleeding ink, before everything divine, that I will never ever ask a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Instead I will say, "Who are you?" and I will ask, "What do you love?"
For now I am writing, and I am breathing, and I am being. And that is enough.