On a recent visit to Columbus from Philadelphia, my mom brought with her an autobiography project I made for English class in the 8th grade. I laughed and cringed reading through “My Book About Me." Like most middle schoolers, I thought I had everything figured out.
One of my dreams was to “be in a successful rock band.”
I noted in one section: “I play in a three-piece right now, but we all play guitar.”
Sounds promising, right? I apparently realized, however, that the band wouldn’t go far with just three guitars.
“This summer, our band is going to buy some equipment,” I wrote. “One of us will have to turn to bass guitar. A successful band has a bass player. I’m definitely not going to change.” And I didn’t.
My reason for playing in a band was simple, if not predictable: “I want to be in a rock band because you get a large salary for doing something you enjoy,” said my 8th-grade self, who seemed to believe rock musicians were salaried.
There was a backup plan, too: “If the band option doesn’t work, I’ll probably practice law.”
I’ve recently found myself wondering which traits my kids will retain and which they’ll shed as they age, and how that will impact their future occupations. Liam, who’s 5, started out shy and timid. Now dinner guests become an audience for Liam to “put on a show” with his younger sister.
At this age, it can be difficult to tell what part of a child is hardwired personality and what’s merely a stage. Will the shyness return, or is Liam destined to live out his dreams on stage? He said recently he wants to be a superhero or a policeman when he grows up. I don’t know if Liam — who’s as sensitive as he is rambunctious — is cut out for life as a cop, but I do know he’d love to play one on TV.
Childhood stages will continue to come and go, I’m sure. Policeman ambitions will give way to other aspirations. But I tend to agree with the experts who say much of Liam’s personality formation has already occurred. While my dreams of rock stardom never came to fruition, I can certainly see much of myself in “My Book About Me.” On a “Self-study” page, I claimed to not enjoy making decisions (“it puts pressure on me”) and admitted to worrying when a family member was late coming home. My wife will tell you not much has changed in those areas.
“When I consider my future,” my younger self mused, “I don’t want to be cooped up in an office. I want to have a fun job.” In that sense, I think juvenile Joel would be proud of grown-up Joel. My office these days is either a coffee shop or a big, blue desk in our guest room from which I write about my kids and my favorite bands. Yes, trying to write while managing two pre-Ks is, at times, like attempting spinal surgery next to uncaged bonobos, but it’s also fun. And it fits my skill set a whole lot better than practicing law.
—Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer, often running his mouth about music in The Other Paper and other pubs. His two kids refer to Bob Evans as Bob Dylan’s and still don’t know the purple dinosaur’s name.