hen I was a child of six or seven, my Aunt Marge squatted in front of me, removed the scarf from her hair, and asked in her high-pitched, sickly-sweet voice, “Tell me, little lady, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
I pulled back from her coffee and cigarette scented breath and replied, “I wanna be just like Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman!” I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and pretended to listen to a distant conversation with my super strength hearing. “Either that, or a movie star like Ginger Grant on “Gilligan's Island.”
Aunt Marge shook her head, chuckling, and patted my cheek gently. “Oh, my dear,” she said, “at some point you will have to make a more practical choice, I'm afraid.”
“…what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Flash forward to my freshman year in college. As predicted by good old Aunt Marge, the time had come to make a more practical choice I'm afraid. Elementary Education seemed like a good, solid major. I figured with my love of reading and my passion for books, I could carve out a career instilling my passion for literature into the minds of grade school children. However, deep down inside, my heart missed those long-forgotten dreams of a glamorous, fulfilling existence. If only a tragic sky-diving accident would force the medical community to rebuild my shattered body into a gorgeous, multimillion dollar crime fighting superhero. But, no such luck.
Time passed and soon I was married and knee deep into full-time motherhood. Other than teaching preschool a few days a week, my career dreams had morphed into the not so glamorous role of stay-at-home mommy to my two daughters. I thought about re-entering the workforce when my children started school, but got caught up chairing a myriad of volunteer positions and running the PTA, which consumed my days as completely as a full-time job.
Still, something niggled at the back of my mind. I detected an empty corner of my soul that begged to be nourished. I remembered Aunt Marge in her Jackie O. sunglasses asking about my career goals. I remembered how my love of books had shaped those goals. I remembered something else, too.
“The counselor advised us to consider our response and take the necessary steps to pursue our particular dream, whatever it may be.”
A career counselor in college once offered me some sage advice. Advice which I ignored at the time in favor of honing my Pat Benatar air band skills. Suddenly, all these years later, it struck me that I should have listened to that counselor more carefully. Here is what he said:
“Close your eyes and picture a beautiful sandy beach on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Imagine you are walking down that beach, enjoying the feel of the warm sand under your feet. Up ahead in the distance, you spot something lying along the shoreline. It is an old lamp crusted with salt. You rub the lamp to clean it, and a genie pops out. He thanks you profusely for releasing him from the lamp, and grants you one wish. However, he is no ordinary genie, he is a career genie. He has the magical ability to grant you the career of your dreams. What would you wish?”
“…dreams come true without the help of a genie.”
The counselor advised us to consider our response and take the necessary steps to pursue our particular dream, whatever it may be. He explained to us that the true purpose of the exercise was to teach us how to make our dreams come true without the help of a genie. Twenty years after this wisdom was bestowed upon me, I finally got it! While not everybody has the ability to become a professional baseball player or an Olympic gold medalist, if your career wish involved becoming a dentist, or a doctor, or a lawyer, then you should take steps to pursue that goal. People become doctors and lawyers every day.
“Your heart will point you down the proper path.”
Your heart will point you down the proper path. The genie is really just a guide. Similar to the infamous Wizard from the Land of Oz, he can't give you anything you don't already have. Older and wiser, I didn't have to think twice about my wish to the Career Genie. My most fervent desire involved becoming a writer--a writer of best-selling novels preferably, but most importantly, a writer.
Finally, at the age of forty, it became crystal clear what had been missing from my life. The yawning gap in my spirit could be filled up with my writings. I loved reading, I loved novels, and now I realized my destiny was to write a book of my own.
Oh, thank you, career genie, thank you! I wonder, dear reader … what is your wish?
Tracy Horan lives in Waukesha Wisconsin with her two daughters, four cats and one husband. She is a voracious reader who enjoys writing humorous stories. Currently, she is taking writing classes through The University of Wisconsin in Madison, and she is working on her first novel, which is an anthology of humorous essays from her former life as an accidental Indiana farm wife.
Tracy placed in the TOP 10 of the WOW! Winter 2007 Flash Fiction Contest for her award-winning story, Whitewater Romance.