On Expectations and Not Being Who I Thought I’d Be


As a little girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, there was a while when I said “Van Gogh.”  I guess he was the one artist whose name I knew right off, and I wanted that – to be an artist.  To create things people loved to look at and were inspired by.

I jumped from thing to thing: one day writing a novel, the next drawing what I was sure would be a masterpiece.  Singing, painting, crafting, photographing, sewing.  I tried it all, and my parents supported me every step of the way – enrolling me in art classes, driving me into the city every Saturday for a writing class at the University of the Arts, buying me an expensive camera, a keyboard to practice piano on, and a sewing machine, taking me to ballet classes and coming to my handbell performances. Whatever art I thought I’d excel at, whatever forum I thought I’d try my hand at, they supported, even though they had to know that my paintings were the worst in the class and my voice was never meant for singing.  They supported it all even though I think they both knew it would be writing all along.

Most of the time, realize that it’s writing.  Just writing, and some of the time not even that.  But I still fill my room with yarn to crochet scarves and blankets out of, with everything A. C. Moore has to sell so I can try my hand at painting, at quilting, at making dream catchers.  I spend hours wandering up and down the aisles of the local craft store, and scour Pinterest for all the pretty things I think I could probably make.

And sometimes, I manage – I crochet a scarf that my friends love, take a photo I’d love to frame – but never the way that five-year-old me imagined.  Never on the level of the artist I tried to emulate so many years ago, or the levels of friends whose work I can’t imagine being able to make.

And it makes me wonder about what we’re capable of.  About, more accurately, what I’m capable of.  If our expectations for ourselves really matter in the end, or if the things we say we want to be when we grow up have any really bearing on who we become.  And I guess I don’t have a point, other than to say I thought I’d know who I am by now.

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  • Shybiker

    Don’t be hard on yourself — most people don’t really know what they wanna be when they grow up, even after they’ve grown up. It’s why so many people start second careers in middle-age. The best we can do is follow our instincts and make adjustments in direction when it feels right.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I think you’re absolutely right! Late teens and early 20s, you don’t know really who you are yet because you haven’t had any experiences that aren’t planned for you – it’s hard to know what you want to do with the rest of your life when you’re only just starting to do what you want.

  • http://nomad-notebook.blogspot.co.uk/ Lizzy

    Loved this post. When I was younger I wanted to be a footballer; then I came to he realisation that for women unfortunately this is extremely difficult in the UK (I believe in the US it’s a viable thing). I used to play for my city’s women’s team but eventually gave that up when school became more work demanding. I let go of that dream a long time ago and now know the area i’m most passionate about (international relations and international security) and have just completed my Masters degree in it. I’m pursuing a PhD in it hopefully starting in the next year or two, but i feel so overwhelmed sometimes at the amount of work i have to do to be good at it (if that makes sense). I’ve never been one of those people who are naturally gifted in a subject, I’ve always had to work really hard at things if i wanted to come out on top which often leaves me feeling inadequate in the subject i love the most-an odd feeling really. A PhD right now is my dream thing to do- it will challenge me in every way possible but hopefully i’d come out at the end a much more confident individual in my subject which will lead me onto an academic career which is what i think i want to do- but this is definitely something I’ve only kind of realised in the past year and i’m still not entirely sure if i’m cut out for it! Never in my wildest dreams as a youngster did i think i would pursue a PhD, but I’ve found i’m most comfortable and happy in an academic setting.

    Lizzy from Nomad Notebook

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      It’s pretty hard in America too for women to get involved in professional sports. Even high-school football (American football, not soccer) is near-impossible for women to get involved in. I’m sorry to hear though that you weren’t able to pursue your dream :( I’m glad you found something you love and are passionate about though!

      I’m definitely the same way – it takes me a long time to learn something – I’ve always been jealous of the people who it comes really easily for.

      Good luck with your PhD! It’ll be hard work, but that’ll make it so worth it when you get it!

  • Cat

    I totally feel you. I’ve always been a very artistic person, but at the end of the day, writing is my true calling. I’m now lucky enough to have a job where I get paid to write! One of my favorite things about blogging is it allows me to pull it so many of my artistic passions – I share my recipes, my DIY projects, my outfits, etc., all while pushing my photography skills and writing stamina. It’s a pretty awesome art form that can combine many interests :)


    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      That’s why I love blogging so much! My job isn’t artistic at all – I work in the law, and I really enjoy it! I love that at the end of the day though, I get to come home and do this, where I get to pull in so many different things that I enjoy.

  • Jessica Marie

    This is a wonderful entry and I totally feel you. I’m the same way: I think it’s been writing all along, but photography and crafts are fun too. I would love to create a business combining all those things and I think one day I might!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I think that like Cat said, blogging is that type of business! It’s writing based but you can pull so much else into it – recipes, photography, DIY… I love that about this community