When I was little, I wanted to be a writer. Not a train driver, not a ballerina, but a writer. From that very first time I wrapped myself in the safari jacket of those adventure-filled pages, there was nothing I wanted more than to share the joy of words with others the way Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis so kindly did with me. I was the kid who kept pens in her ponytails, who asked for a typewriter for Christmas, who wrote poetry while friends rode bikes. It was my dream, you know, like that one you had too. And maybe you’ve realised yours – I hope with all my heart you have – but I haven’t realised mine.
Thirty years on, and I’m pretty happy with what I do to make pennies for biscuits. I’m an Electronic Notetaker: I support people who have hearing impairments to access education, participate in events, and generally just live the lives they choose. That’s a pretty special position to be in of a weekday morning, and even in the stressful moments – when the speed gap between speech and typing is widening by the word – I remind myself that I’m as lucky as an ugly duckling to be smiling as much at the start of my working day as I am at the end.
But I’m not a writer; and young Paula’s dreams still skulk on a shelf in my mind’s library, dusty and untouched but never forgotten, not even for a bookmarked moment.
In the years between that four year-old’s reveries and this adult’s reality, I’ve bumbled through an accounting degree, supported deafblind people, and trained as a bus driver. I’ve learned languages and sorted post, and I’m proud of every success and informed by every failure.
But I’m not a writer.
And, as you can probably tell, that plays on my mind somewhat.
I never stopped dreaming about writing, so when did I stop aiming for it? Maybe aged eight, when I was (mis)informed that only rich people write books. Or aged twelve, when I realised that not trying definitely meant not failing. It might even have lasted until my twenties, when life finally took hold and such romanticisms were confined to the past. Whenever it was, I let it happen and for that, childhood, I’m sorry.
So I’ve decided finally to do it. I don’t know if dreams can come true – I’ve yet to meet an eloquent unicorn in real life, and I’m hopeful that the recurring overgrown bug remains safely in my subconscious – but, if they can come true, I’m going to converse with that unicorn and greet that big bug or, you know, just become a writer or whatever.
But this isn’t just about me chasing down my own delusions and wrestling them into submission. It’s about raising the aspirations of future generations by showing them that life is out there, waiting to be grasped, and no matter who you are, where you live and what your passion, there’s nothing to stop you except, well, stopping.
Ambition is not a dirty concept, and dreams shouldn’t be allowed to fall away with baby teeth. After the last two years of my now-bizarre life, I truly believe that anything can be achieved by anyone at any time. And young people need to know this before they make the same mistake I did and glance away from their dream for long enough to miss it floating away.
With a little help from Google – and a whole host of surveys with actual research behind them – I’ve collated a list of the top fifteen jobs that kids want for their grown up selves, you know, before they start worrying about stability, practicality and the availability of decent cheese in the nearest supermarket. And over the next year – until September 2015 – I’m going to try every single daunting one of them, starting with my own. I’ll be attempting to teach, fly and farm, to design the next Angry Birds and set the Nürburgring alight (only figuratively, I hope). And yes, astronaut is on the list, so expect some letters, NASA.
It might be stupid, it’s probably a tad ambitious, and it’s definitely going to be tough as old boots with a black belt, but I’m going to try anyway, because aspirations are the life-blood of childhood and we shouldn’t let doubt, time or poor advice tear them so readily asunder.
Well, here it is, my career path for the next twelve months, all fifteen wayward strands of it. Wish me luck, laugh at my progress or enjoy my failings, but whatever you do, don’t send your cat for a check-up around December-time.
6. Emergency services – Police, Fire, Ambulance
12. Racing driver
15. Computer game designer
It wouldn’t be a challenge if it looked easy.