Growing up, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I was going to be a vet. Or a ballerina – until I lasted barely one semester of ballet class. Or a fireman. Or a teacher. I went through most of the typical careers that kids do, deciding on one then discarding it months or weeks later.
As I grew older, I thought I knew what I wanted to be for sure this time. I wanted to be a copy. I loved mysteries – and hey, I could usually solve the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries without cheating and looking at the back – and I wanted the bad guys to go away. It was an interest that stayed with me for a long time. I didn’t change my mind after just a few weeks.
Perhaps it’s because my Gramps was a Chicago cop, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Or perhaps I saw myself as a star police officer who would quickly rise through the ranks and gain fame. I was a little leery of the danger of actually capturing the criminals – that was probably my biggest fear – but I pushed that down deep inside me, sure that my calling was to use my smarts to make life better for everyone around where I lived.
I would be the good cop, the one everyone could count on to always do the right thing. I’d never be susceptible to bribes, and no one could ever convince me to cheat on a case. I had high moral standards that I was going to uphold. How else could I be one of the good guys?
I was sure this was my career path.
Then reality set in. In high school, one of my first jobs was working in a vet office. I was the receptionist and also helped with things like prepping stool samples and yes, the dreaded dead animal freezer, as well as being an all hands on deck when the other vet techs were out. I quickly realized there that I didn’t like blood and gore. I didn’t like dead things, and touching them gave me the willies. And bodily fluids? Save me.
It finally dawned on me that much of my life as a police officer would be involved in situations where I couldn’t control what bodily fluids I would have to deal with around me and potentially on me. I would have to deal with scents and scenes, potentially touching them and definitely smelling them, on a regular basis. Me, who is a sympathetic puker.
Suddenly, this career choice didn’t seem so hot.
And so I went with journalist – I decided against it because I didn’t like interviewing people because I was afraid they would say no, which shows you a) how little I knew and b) how little confidence I had inside in high school regardless of what I showed the outside world. And then I hit upon being a psychiatrist. I even got into a seven year medical program – three years of undergrad and then guaranteed admittance to med school – though I realized very quickly in school that this was not the right path for me.
And so I ended up in business, almost by default. I definitely didn’t have to deal with any dangerous situations. And bodily fluids were not a concern. But from time to time, I still dream of being a police officer, a detective sitting down to figure out who’s done what, or somewhere in the CIA analyzing data and solving crimes from afar.
Either way, it’s a far cry from where I sit today. And I’m sort of ok with that. But oh how different my life would have been. If only I could deal with puke.
This post was inspired by the book “The Last Winter of Dani Lancing” by P.D. Viner, as part of the From Left to Write book club where we write posts inspired by the books we read rather than writing traditional reviews.