Okay, I confess, a crappy month at work and the cynic in me takes the wheel (and drives around bitching about the traffic).  But today is a new month and I was thinking more about Randy Pausch and his list of childhood dreams (all but one accomplished) and my list which just pointed out that I’m a frustrated artist trapped in the corporate world.  But there are things that I wanted to do as a child that I have accomplished, though not in the same straight-line way as Randy.

For instance, I loved reading National Geographic and wanted to travel in the wilderness and live the outdoor life.  I also wanted to be a psychologist.  When I was 30, I spent a year doing wilderness expeditions with disruptive adolescents.  It was one of the most amazing times of my life and a perfect combination of those two childhood dreams.  We spent 3 weeks in the high-desert of south-central Idaho with each group of kids, teaching them how to live off the land, make fire without matches, navigate with topographical maps, and be self-sufficient, while leading them through a brief curriculum designed to stimulate their self-analysis.  It’s amazing the effect such training has on the self-esteem of a bored and rebellious teenager.  Or on the self-esteem of a bored and frustrated 30 year old.  Knowing that I can walk into the wilds and make fire, find food, and live an interesting life – when most people would panic or focus on complaining – gives me a rare insight into my inner strength and resourcefulness.

I also wanted to be Perry Mason.  His style of investigative advocay just thrilled me.  I worked at my first law firm when I was 19 and got a taste of the real lawyering world.  I even completed a year of law school.  But by then I knew the downside of lawyering – lawfirm politics, long associate hours, high production stress, no recognition for anyone but the partners (ohmygosh, I just realized that the corporate world is my nightmare version of the legal world) – and I decided not to complete my law degree.  Then in 1995, I was introduced to the King County CASA organization and became a guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children.  I did child advocacy work for six years and helped to change many lives for the better.  I specialized in the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and gave workshops across the US on advocating for Indian children and working with Indian families on parenting issues.  I learned even more about my own half-breed heritage and I met people that enriched my life. 

I also wanted to be a translator at the United Nations.  I love languages and how they intersect and evolve around one another.  Of course, I wanted to speak French – it had such a sexy air about it, but when language classes came up in school, my mother said, “You live in California, nobody here speaks French.  Spanish will be useful.”  (But she said it in a way that sounded like “Spanish or nothing.”)  So I, of course, said, “Then it will be nothing.”  And wouldn’t you know that at 41 I became fluent in Spanish without ever having taken formal schooling – and now I live in Mexico and speak Spanish every day.  It’s not quite the United Nations, but I never wanted to live in New York City because of the traffic and rude people (ohmygosh, I just realized that Mexico City is my nightmare version of NYC).  And, yes, my mother was right – Spanish turned out to be very useful for me.

So, there are four childhood dreams that I can mark with a * if not an X.  Maybe I will get to do something with my artwork someday.

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