When you were a kid, did you ever write a story about what you would be or what your life would be like when you grew up?
I did. And I found mine yesterday as I was tidying up and organising our cupboards.
I pulled out my storage box of cards, letters and other papers and started poking through the contents and there it was among some old schoolwork that my dad had kept for me and that I had put away and forgotten: a typed up and illustrated story that I wrote when I was 7 or 8 years old, titled When I’m grown up.
Here’s what I wrote:
When I’m grown up.
When I’m grown up I will be a nurse. I will also be bigger. And instead of being a nurse, I might be an artist. If I am an artist I shall draw wild birds and wild flowers. When I’m grown up I shall get married and have children. I shall buy a house and get a pool, I shall have fun with the children too. I shall take them to the circus. We shall go on holidays. When I have finished being an artist, I shall be a ballerina. I shall go over the world as a ballerina. When I am a bit older I shall quit being a ballerina and go back to my own country.
(because when you’re young all stories must formally end this way.)
I giggled joyfully when I read it and studied the pictures which include a red-framed painting of the wild flowers I would draw when I was an artist, a self-portrait of me as a very happy pink-crowned, purple tutu wearing ballerina, and a picture of me and my future husband with orange hair surrounded by colourful confetti.
It wasn’t just the pictures that delighted me but the innocence of the story and although I never became a nurse or ballerina, and haven’t had children or bought a house with a pool there is still a very sweet truth that lives within those words that has played out in my life.
I didn’t know then but I would help to care for my mum from the time I was age 11 as her muscular dystrophy deteriorated her physical condition and she became bed bound.
I also used the qualities of the nursing in my financial planning career by trying to improve systems and cultures, to care for what is sick or ill or not functioning well and finding ways to bring ease and joy.
I am a writer and a poet. I also dabble in painting and pastels for fun. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), my last two paintings were of an owl and tulips.
I have always loved being in water, from dad taking us to the swimming pool to beach holidays at my nana and papa’s house in Rosebud West. Swimming, scuba diving, being in or near water is like oxygen for my soul.
My younger self used to love putting on her leotards and choreographing her own dance routines, especially to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I’ve never studied ballet or taken any other type of dance class for that matter except for line dancing and ballroom dancing that was part of compulsory physical education classes at school, but I have actually danced my way around the world: I’ve danced in Thailand, India, Bali, on boats in Indonesia, and I dance-walked parts of the Via Francigena in France and Italy —I dance-walked into St Peter’s Square when I arrived in Rome and completed my pilgrimage.
And yes I have come back to my own country. I’m living in Melbourne and not dancing all over the world at the moment but I don’t think I’m done being my version of a world-travelling ballerina just yet.
When I re-read my story of When I’m Grown Up, I can’t help but marvel at how my younger self easily and innocently dreamed up her life. She knew what she liked and what mattered to her and easily declared her willingness to follow her curiousity without second guessing herself.
Of course this was before all the seriousness of growing up and being an adult and having responsibilities and taking on ideas about what it means to be an adult and live a meaningful life took over.
Often we look to our older or future selves and even our higher selves for advice on how to live our lives and which direction to go, but I think that our younger selves have their own wisdom to offer that was gained before we unlearned our innocent ways and were taught how to succeed and fit into this world.
What wisdom does your younger self hold for you?
Is there something you forgot along the way to being an adult that you could pick up again that would bring you joy?
With love and courage,