When I Grow Up

Written by Rossana G. D’Antonio

When I was a kid I wanted to be a cowboy.  Not a cowgirl but a cowboy.  Clearly impossible because I happen to be a girl.  A tomboy, however.  A cowgirl would require riding sidesaddle and well, that’s just silly.  I wanted to ride a beautiful stallion through the dusty plains and drink water out of a rawhide canteen and spit like a boy, a cowboy that is.  I wanted to eat beans next to a bonfire and drink coffee out of a tin can and sleep under the stars.  A good shootout with some bad cowboys would be fun, but no Indians.  I was afraid of getting scalped.  Ah, the innocence of childhood.  Of course, my dream of being a cowboy would never be, especially considering that I lived in the city and well, I am a girl.

Today, as I reflect on my childhood fantasy I ask myself “what was I thinking?”  To this day I’ve never ridden a horse.  I rode a pony once and recall I was a little sore afterwards.  I can’t stand the thought of dust in my hair and look forward to cold drinks in my fine crystal ware.  I don’t particularly like beans and the thought of sleeping in the great bug-infested outdoors frankly gives me the heeby jeebies.  So I am grateful that at the tender age of seven, I never stumbled across a Genie lamp ready to grant me my one wish.

But I recall that around 10 years of age, my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Fortunately, I had outgrown my Bonanza phase and proudly proclaimed that I wanted to be a model.  Once again, I don’t know what I was thinking.  But as soon as I said it, I noticed an expression of surprise in his face.  Why surprise, I wondered.   Was I not good enough or pretty enough or graceful enough?  Looking back on those days I understand his surprise, I was a tomboy after all.  Today, I can’t stand the thought of calling attention to myself, I avoid high heels like the plague, and couldn’t fathom the sacrifice of starving myself as part of my everyday living.

A while later, I must have realized my limitations in the runway modeling arena and decided to be a scientist.  I recall trying to prove the transfer of energy with a camera flash, 9 volt battery and some wire only to fail repeatedly.  Determined to prove my scientific intellectual ability I asked ‘Santa Claus’ for a chemistry set so I could create smoky concoctions in my laboratory just like all those brilliantly mad scientists.  Instead, I received a biology set from my parents complete with a dried frog for dissecting.  I carried it around with me perhaps trying to convince myself to use it, but again, the frog gave me the heeby jeebies.

Needless to say, I abandoned my dreams of becoming the beautiful model and the brilliant scientist.  Instead I became an engineer.  I suppose that’s closer to a scientist than a model.  But don’t get me wrong, I am not your typical nerdy engineer type with the black rim glasses and the pocket protector.  Ok, so I’m stereotyping – that’s a male engineer.  Female engineers, however, can be pretty nerdy themselves but I like to believe that I’ve mastered the business attire look with class.  After all, recall that I wanted to be a model.

My life is not quite what I envisioned as a child.  It’s definitely steered off into tepid waters of security with a stable base.  Of course, at 10 years, I obviously didn’t really know what I wanted out of life.  But I can say with all certainty that I was not afraid to exclaim what I wanted without hesitation or fear of failure, even if that proclamation changed radically the following week.  Today, I am more reserved in expressing my dreams for the future.

But one thing is for sure, I have not reached my full potential.  I feel I am destined for greatness.  Of course, it’s important to define greatness.  If you asked my mother, she would say that I am great, right now, right here, as is.  Granted, my mom’s opinion is somewhat biased based on unconditional love albeit sprinkled with a dash of catholic guilt.  On the other end of the spectrum is my personal unachievable scale.  One that establishes an unrealistic bar so high that I must constantly strive to achieve more and more and more.  But more of what?

Well, more of everything.  As I grow older I realize that there are other dreams in my horizon.  Dreams that go beyond my perfect, or imperfect, little world.  If you ask me right now I would tell you that I want to be a writer when I grow up.  My latest endeavor is to seek the pure and well crafted fluid set of words that tell a story, an unforgettable story.  I suppose that the mere quest in my newfound adventure proves to be a success in itself.  After all, life is meant to be lived, bruises and all.  So greatness may actually be found through the pursuit of my dream regardless of the outcome.  How about that, Mom may be right after all!

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6 thoughts on “When I Grow Up

  1. It is comforting to know I am not the only one still filling in the blanks when I ask myself what I want to be when I grow up? Isn’t it wonderful to keep blooming? My favorite part of your story was about being the “Tomboy”. I have one of those. When she was 8 she looked and dressed like a boy, so much so that the boys she passed during track races were doubly humiliated when they found out the boy that just blazed by them was actually a girl! Thanks Rossana!

  2. Beautifully put, Rossana. You must’ve hit the age when all things are possible. At a certain age we realize that we are not limited in ourselves. As I age…and love doing so…I believe there is so much more out there to accomplish and achieve. I, too, always had a desire to write. One day, when I’m not doing other things I love, I just may pick up a pen…or peck at computer keys. You’ve just inspired me to do so. A beautiful writer as well as a beautiful woman!

  3. Oh Rossana:
    This sings, yodels, hits the high C’s.
    Sheet music for the soul. Thank you for making sense of myself. When I finished your essay I got up and danced. Joy abounds.
    Mary Rose

  4. Ah, the right of being the administrator — I get the first post!! I love that your vision of yourself is so multi dimensional! It makes me think of those appliance ads, beauty married to science! My line has always been that I am a work in progress, and why is it that the status quo is to decide what to be and then be it forever? We are as changing as the wind. I always think that as long as we stay true to our parameters, family, responsibilities, anything is possible. You are the cowboy model scientist writer! And just think, you’re still young enough to add so much more to that CV!!!

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