You know when you're little and everybody says hey, what do you want to be when you grow up? and you've been just waiting with that answer, wiggling in excitement to shout it out? Something like "FIREMAN!" or "VETERINARIAN!" or "CHIPPENDALES DANCER!"
Me, I never had that. At some point I realized that not having an answer brought about adults who were of the opinion that you absolute HAD to have an answer to it and would grill you with other questions to help you figure out what you wanted to do right there on the spot. At 5 you were absolutely bound by unspoken adult laws to decide on a career path for the comfort of the person asking you about it. It makes me wish I knew the phrase "Body Fluids Analyst" for those times.
I would shrug sometimes and get shy when the question was pursued further. Eventually when I wasn't playing they would say something like "you like animals, I bet you'd make a really good vet!" and I would nod because, hey, I was 5 and that path was open to me. It was entirely possible. Eventually I settled on telling people "Marine Biologist" because I liked dolphins, because there were dolphin posters alllll over my damned room, and by that time I'd accidentally let it out of the bag that I was clever. I was expected to want to be something clever and scientific. So for a while, that worked.
But you and I both know that what we tell people we want to be and deep down what we really wanted to be are two different and philosophically disparate things.
What I really wanted to do was to travel, adventure,and see things around the world. I wanted to be a nice person and help strangers. I wanted to tell stories for people to enjoy and I wanted to be a sort of non-violent sea going pirate, or perhaps a gypsy. But that doesn't pay college loans and your parents don't get to see you much when you do that, so when I made my first few rumblings along those lines I got the humoring laugh with a comment about my great imagination.
Right. So you don't tell your parents you really want to be a rock star or a model. Or a professional gypsy. Or, actually as I found out later, DO NOT TELL THEM YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST OR A WRITER!!! Because that gets equal "huh" billing, along with talks about how you could fit such things in around your "real" job.
So here it is, years later, and we are walking harmlessly through the most inoffensive of cities, Portland, Maine. We are on our way to see some of the few sights that we managed to glean from the narrow helpings on the internet. And as we are headed there I am slowly realizing a few things - that I am traveling like a gypsy... not a lot, sometimes not far, but we do travel. We do see new things and seek out new experiences. We watch people, in fact we were watching people as we walked to get a "feel" for the east coasterly Portlandians. We are visiting bookstores and looking through used books. I am personally venturing in to sections usually not frequented by others - birding, gardening, identifying mushrooms that are yummy vs. those that will Keel You Dead. That sort of thing. And I realize that this was all what I'd pictured myself doing as a younger girl... taking photographs, "feeling" a place instead of visiting it, enjoying what we came across... it was very strange.
Then came the greatest confirmation of this whole thing; we stepped in to a comic book store on Congress Avenue. The man behind the counter who appears to be the owner greets us... and no matter what we pick up, what we say to one another under our breath, he is immediately there with a comment, talking about what we were holding, giving us additional info on the artist or writer or what have you.... and I found, to my surprise, that I was able to talk with him on just about everything he brought up.
It is my personal idiom to be a half-hearted fanatic of things. I have always loved Edward Abbey's thoughts on the matter - "One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast... a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure." And as such I have always striven to know about things, to learn further, but not to be consumed by the knowledge. Not to be consumed by the need to "keep up" or be seen as an expert on anything. It has always served me well in the saving of time, money and anger. For this reason if anyone asks me how well I know something I say "not too much". I know enough to listen to others and tell if they're full of shit, and this has been enough.
But suddenly, whereas I had been someone who "read comics sometimes", it now shifted to someone who can talk about it with somebody else, and actually have a decent conversation. I was, to some extent and within the particular genres I stuck to... educated. Geeky, even. I was actually proud of myself and realized that this, this geeky thing, this little tab on the edge of mainstream culture, was something I was good at. It was something I had wanted to be good at, as with video games and computers and photography and any other number of things.
Expanding my view, I realized that while I was no expert, I was beyond hobbyist in a great many areas. Could I give a talk on these things? Nope. But I could have an educated conversation. I knew my little geeky corner of the world. My geeky, artsy, gypsy-esque corner of the world, as we spent time taking pictures of Portland.
The person that I thought I would be shelving in order to have a white collar job that paid bills and let me watch cable TV refused to stay put and has been deviously seeping in to my every day mindset for the past 15 years. She was who I was supposed to be, and by slow aeons she made her way in to direct my research, my interests and my spending dollars.
I'm exactly who I thought I might be, and who I wanted to be. The world didn't get to tell me how to be realistic (and screw them anyway, yeah?). I'm proud of what I've learned and become... and it just seems poetic and fitting that this realization should strike me while talking about Italian erotic manga in the middle of a city in the Great North. Such has my life been.