During election years, a person hears a lot about parents’ dreams for their children. It’s generally accepted that parents are supposed to want their kids to be more successful and have more than they did– leave the world better for the children etc. Maybe it’s because my parents are Republicans, but I’ve never really felt like that was something they thought about. Sure, they want me to be successful, cause it looks good, but the ideas they had– particularly my mother– for what would make me a success, are not only odd, but they really have nothing to do with my likes, dislikes, or talents.
I’ve always been a reader, I spent most of my time growing up, sitting and reading everything I could get my hands on. Once I figured out, in third grade, that I could write stories as well, I started doing that. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I said either lawyer, or psychologist. I’ve been planning to get a PhD since I was eleven, and except for a brief stint in high school when I decided that I would write a best-seller so I didn’t have to go to college– college has been part of my plan.
Unfortunately, it’s never been part of my mom’s plan for me.
My mother had been planning a tech school education for me since I was about fourteen. First, her plan was for me to be a plumber. This was an idea that she was very emphatic about, and she pushed it hard for about two years ignoring my protests that I had no interest in being a plumber, and poring over brochures that lay out how much plumbers charge per hour, and average yearly salary.
I don’t know if she had a friend who was a plumber who was making a healthy living, or if she just realized how much it costs her when we have to call on this person, but she was all about it.
“You can charge over $20 per hour, Annie, and you can write in your downtime.” she insisted.
“Yes, but I’d have to be a plumber, I’d come home tired, covered in foul-smelling stuff, and probably end up writing stories about plumbing that no one would want to read. If I was going to pursue a trade, I’d be an electrician.”
Once she abandoned the plumber idea, she shifted her focus to paint-chemist. My terrible grades in chemistry class killed that idea, and by the time I managed to ensconce myself firmly in a small liberal arts university with nary a hint of plumbing classes around, she seemed to get over it a little. She kept pushing for me to get a bank job, and questioning my plans for my BA in English, but didn’t come up with anymore totally strange career ideas.
That all changed after I finished my first masters and still hadn’t gotten a real job. Throughout that course of study, she kept asking over and over what I was working toward, and I kept telling her that I was going to work in publishing. Once I finished, and realized that I really didn’t want to work in publishing, she panicked and started seeking out jobs that pay a decent wage but wouldn’t require any more schooling.
Naturally, she settled on the United States Postal Service.
“You just have to take a test, which you could probably pass, and then you’re set for life. Everytime I go to the post office, they seem very happy.”
I told my brother this new idea, and asked him if she tries to map out his future in this way as well.
“First off, the people at my post office, seem incredibly angry every time I go in, and no, she doesn’t try to plan my future, she just tries to tells me how to eat.”
So despite my mother’s best intentions, I have never taken a tech school class opting instead for advanced degrees which she regards with disdain and impatience; and my brother continues to eat the same five processed foods he has been eating since he was six and getting more and more into the cholesterol danger zone.
Her tactics just don’t work, but she is determined. It will be interesting to see what she shifts her focus to once I have a real job, or maybe she’ll just stop speaking to me and concentrate more thoroughly on my brother’s diet.