Our Ten-Year-Old Selves
Quite a long while ago, I encountered an essay by Charmian Hughes via my Twitter feed. In it, from the vantage point of age sixty-one, Charmian mused on whether she’d lived up to the expectations of her ten-year-old self.
The inquiry took me in a different direction than it did Charmian. As a child, who did I think I would be as an adult? I couldn’t remember.
And then, well over a year later, my mother handed me a few relics from my childhood, including a high school report with an essay about future Leslie. I’d probably reached age fourteen at the time of this notion:
“When I do get out of college I plan to live in New York, my favorite place in the world. No, I don’t plan to live in Brooklyn or Queens but in Manhattan, a beautiful and magnificent place. Perhaps I will become an artist, or a writer, or just a business woman.”
Young Leslie clearly didn’t know how cool Brooklyn would become.
Career and life coaches suggest harking back to your childhood wishes and using them as guidelines for shaping your adult trajectory. Did you want to be a fireman? Why? What does that say about what you love and what excites you?
Looking at the essay, how have I done so far?
I don’t live in New York City, and I never have lived in New York City. However, at age fourteen, I didn’t know anything material about amazing places like London, England, where I did live; or Florence, Italy, where I studied; or Lausanne, Switzerland, where I live now. I still love New York City, I know amazing and inspiring people there, and I feel a little wistful about the publishing, arts, and culture communities that only New York combines in exactly its own special, magical way—yet I feel completely at peace with visiting as often as I can. I don’t need to live there.
What strikes a chord: The line about being “just” a business woman.
I am a businesswoman. However, as the phrasing makes clear, I wanted to be an artist or a writer first. Clearly, I saw the value in business—after all, my mother took the business route—yet it didn’t have pride of place in my imagination.
So I’ve done okay, though I’ve gone off path. Adulthood gained on me, bringing with it the inculcation of wise and well-intentioned parental guidance about avoiding a starving-artist fate. I sidelined my passions for writing and literature and culture and the arts. What I see now: Some of the restlessness and hollowness I’ve felt at times comes from straying too far from the things I love.
I hear you, fourteen-year-old Leslie.
Are you living up to the expectations of your ten-year-old self?