When I Grow Up

“What do you want to do with your life?”

It’s a loaded question high school students face regularly.

Myself, I didn’t have an answer in high school. Four years of college, a summer stint through Europe and a decade in Sales couldn’t answer the question. It wasn’t until I got married, had two babies, and decided to stay home to focus on them that my love of writing surfaced.

The rear of the school bus was still in view when I decided to put pen to paper. I wrote some articles. I wrote a manuscript. Then another. And another. At thirty-seven, I discovered I had a passion for something. I was finally able to answer that elusive question: What do you want to do with your life?

The feeling was (and still is) euphoric.

Though I can’t quite pay the mortgage – or fill my gas tank- I feel fulfilled. I’m happy. My regret? Not starting sooner.

I think the question that needs to be asked is: What do you love to do?

If someone would have posed that question to me, perhaps I would have reached this conclusion earlier and avoided years of career-based turmoil.

My son is a high school sophomore faced with the question of his future plans. His answer? Depends on the day: “Restaurant owner.” “Business Manager.” “Sales.” “Um, I don’t really know.”

He is less than enthusiastic about his classes, getting through them with minimal effort. I’ve become that nagging mom, reminding him daily:Pick up your grades or you won’t get into a good college.” He politely stares at me, waiting for my mouth to stop moving so he can resume his focus on his IPhone.

He loves hockey. He plays on the school team. And he loves music. He’s in the school marching band and jazz band. Do you know what he does with that phone? He watches marching bands from all over the country perform.

At dinner last night, he put down his fork and with a wide smile said, I have band tomorrow.” My husband’s gaze met mine over the chicken. I shrugged. Okay, so it would be nice if his eyes shined when he talked about his math or science class, but we have little control. You can’t make someone love something. It’s a part of who they are.

For his upcoming sixteenth birthday, he asked for a tuba. That’s right. You heard me. Tuba.

Like every parent, I want my children to earn a good living so they can have choices and be able to give their own children choices. But more than that, I want them to be happy. Earning a good living and being happy can be mutually exclusive.

Maybe I needed to travel and work at jobs I detested before I was ready to express myself through writing. Who knows? If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my uber-supportive husband, so I can’t help but be thankful for my past.

Life is short. Why not be truly satisfied with how we spend our time? Most of us spend a majority of our waking hours at work, don’t we?

I told my son Do what you love to do and you’ll have a happy life.” 

Is that realistic? Perhaps not…but a mother can dream.

Let’s ask the right questions, such as: What kind of future is out there for a hockey-playing, tuba-touting young man?

Anyone?

What do you love to do?

The Power of Music

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I listen to the 70’s satellite  radio station in the car, which is sometimes a mistake.

The other day, on the way to pick up my son from his high school band practice, Leo Sayer started singing When I Need You and immediately I was reminded of my youth (not unlike the wonderful Mallomar I’ve talked about).

I drove down Main Street, but I was seeing my own High School in my vision: my fifteen-year-old self, carrying my books and meeting my three besties in the parking lot — the same three people who still grace my life today, and who keep me tethered to everything I know and loved.

Sitting in my car, waiting for my son, Sayer was followed by Michael Murphey’s Wildfire. I thought of my mom, and what she must have felt like watching me and my brother grow up: start high school, plow through puberty, then graduate and head to college, while we forged through life looking only ahead, free of sentiment and nostalgia.

God, it’s so easy being a kid. Now it’s all I can do, when given the time and the right mood music, to hold myself together as my own kids go through the very stages of life I did without thought.

I think of my mortality as I get older and wonder how the hell I got here and how desperately I want to go back and do it again, the same way, only this time with the appreciation of one who knows just how precious it all is… Just yesterday I was on the bus, making weekend plans with the girls, complaining about homework, and whispering about my latest crush.

Five minutes later, I was a bride with a baby who took my breath away, who I held for hours while watching him breathe, sleep, laugh and learn, in awe, wondering what kind of person he would be. I even asked him, days old, as we both stared at each other with the dawn outside. I remember how he looked at me, inquisitively — this beautiful babe — probably wondering What is this woman saying, and Why doesn’t she just feed me?

Now, he’s taller than me and he has a brother who’s not far behind. They’re more than I could have hoped for.

High School. Is it true these are the fastest years? Could they possibly pass any faster than his first fifteen? Than my last twenty-five?

Once in a while, I need to step off the hamster wheel and just take it all in. My kid is in high school. I’M THE PARENT OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT.

For the love of God, can someone please tell me, how do I slow down the clock of time?

I really have to start listening to AM radio. News. Strictly news.

This music is killing me.