“Mom” my seven-year-daughter asked looking at me earnestly. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
We were sitting on the back of our catamaran Alegria, enjoying the warm sunshine and the crystal clear ocean below us. It was our favorite place for mother-daughter conversations. We had been living on our sailboat for over a year at the time, and we were now deep in the Caribbean. I had quit my Senior VP position at a financial institution right before we left on this trip. Tessa knew I had a career; she had been to my office many, many, times.
At first I thought she was being sassy, or making a joke, but the look on her face told me this was a question she was sincerely contemplating. I was confused and not sure how to answer at first. Then I was flattered. My husband and I work hard to teach our children that anything in life is possible. If you want something, go out and get it. Here I was, in my 40’s, and my daughter saw me not in the closing down of career options but as everything being wide open. She had learned well.
Truth is, at that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. That was part of the reason we were on this trip and for me a spiritual journey. I needed to find myself. I know that sounds cliché, but it was true. I spent so many years doing what others thought I should be doing, and doing it well, that I wasn’t sure if I even knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. I only knew how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel free. Free to make my own choices.
I smiled at Tessa and said, “You know what? It’s too soon to tell. I don’t want to lock myself into anything just yet. There’s so much out there. I’ve got some time. How about you?”
She shook her brown curls. “I don’t know.”
I put my arm around her, gave her a hug and assured her, “Well, I guess we’ll both just figure it out when we get there, huh?”