If there’s one question you need to have an answer to when you’re in kindergarten, it’s “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In fact, it’s practically impossible to make it out of grade school without being questioned about your future plans. So did we know early on that we wanted to be mystery writers, or did that come a little later? This week, the Chicks are talking about our early ambitions.
Here’s what I remember about kindergarten: we grew marigolds from seeds we planted in an egg carton, I always hid in the coat room when we played hide and go seek, and my favorite activity was arts and crafts. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell people I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, because Mrs. Hurst was pretty and nice and I didn’t know of any other careers where I could continue to have access to construction paper. A little later, I went through a ballet phase, and when we were supposed to dress up for Career Day, I put on my turquoise leotard, pink tights and ballet slippers and declared that I was going to be a ballerina—a dream that was later dashed when certain, er, regions of my body became more prominent. (Ahem.) That must have been around the same time I decided to become a writer, because that year I asked for a typewriter for Christmas.
Truth is that I always wanted to be a writer, but, in kindergarten, I was also interested in the following vocational possibilities: (1) princess, in a kingdom full of pink and sparkly things, and (2) librarian, because when they checked out books, they used a cool metal stamper to inscribe due dates, and I desperately wanted to wield such a stamper someday. In fifth grade, part of that dream came true when I was cast as Marian the Librarian in our school production of The Music Man. Definitely stamped those prop books with far more gusto than was called for…
When I was in kindergarten—or actually first grade, because I’m so old kindergarten wasn’t yet compulsory—I think I mostly aspired to be at the front of the line. I also liked playing with the water fountain, making the water go high and low. And I put a considerable amount of energy into staying awake during naptime. I don’t recall thinking much about my future career, but according to the School Years scrapbook that my mother put together, I wanted to be a teacher. That makes sense because I loved all my teachers in elementary school. Well, most of them anyway. I didn’t start seriously considering writing as a career until I was a sage and savvy fourth grader.
For someone who had a very overactive imagination as a kid—and as an adult, if I’m being honest—I never really wanted to be like a superhero or a superspy or supermodel as a kid. As I mentioned in my (Blatant Plug Alert!!) first Debut Diary on International Thriller Writers’ Thrill Begins site for aspiring and debut thriller writers, I’ve known I wanted to write novels since I was about 5-years-old, which was the same time I was in kindergarten/first grade. (Technically I was supposed to wait a year but my mom straight up shipped me off to school early!) And I’m nothing if not stubborn. The only reason my favorite color is still purple is because we moved into a new house when I was three. My mom wouldn’t let me have a purple room like I wanted because I “wouldn’t like that color” when I grew up. Like I said, stubborn!
To be honest, I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I was in kindergarten. I do remember I wanted an elephant as a pet. I also remember I was obsessed with Peter Pan, and would go to sleep hoping Peter would wake me up and take me to Neverland with him—after I sewed his shadow on, of course.
If I wanted to be anything, I’m guessing it was a ballerina. I studied ballet until I was in third grade and the teacher, who’d danced with Ballet Russe, told my mother I had “great potential.” I’ll never forget those words. But unfortunately, I suffered from undiagnosed ADD as a kid and was so bored dancing that my mother pulled me out of the classes. My ballet teacher passed away, but as a teenager, I studied with his wife, who happened to be working in the county we’d moved to. I always wanted to go en pointe, and still regret I never did. True story: when I was fourteen, I auditioned for Paul Newman for a role in a movie, and told him this story. He told me his wife, Joanne Woodward, went en pointe at age 35. That inspired me—but I proved to be much lazier than the legendary actress.
Oh, the Writer Plan was already in place by the time I was five, trust me on that. I wanted to write picture books—and illustrate them, too. I was actually a half-decent little artist way back then (I loved art and writing contests), but I sadly lost that skill by seventh grade. I was fascinated by the constellations (projected them on my bedroom ceiling with a flashlight and cards punched with pins) and science fair craft projects (styrofoam planets, anyone?) and briefly toyed with the idea of being an astronomer—until I found out that that career would require M-A-T-H. I also wanted to be in the FBI (in an HQ-bound, Nancy Drew capacity, not as an agent) but you had to be 5’6″ to qualify (never made it). And then there was that TV anchorwoman phase—all the way up until college, when I learned that actual on-scene reporting was a prerequisite. Remember, I am the Scaredy Chick, so there went that plan, too. Hey, what could be safer than being a writer, really?
Readers, it’s your turn! What did you want to be when you grew up?
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