“I’m going to be the President of the United States.”
“I’m going to the moon.”
“I’m going to play for the New York Giants.”
When we’re young, we have infinite futures. Three-year-olds, who are good at golf, don’t all grow up to be Tiger Woods, but the boy with the crazy name grew up to be president. We just don’t know what will happen when we gaze out at the world with baby rolls and tentative steps.
But the years pass and paths quickly disappear.
By high school, the vast majority of pee-wee football players are already not fast enough or strong enough to play in college, let alone the NFL.
By college, we pick majors that have nothing to do with going to the moon, or we can’t afford to attend college at all and 75% of jobs people dream about are unavailable to us.
By our 20s, we aren’t running for office. We are sitting in a cubicle wondering if we’ll get out of the office in time to vote the guy who is running for president.
Is this depressing? I don’t know. Most adults aren’t lamenting their lack of space travel or presidential bids. As we age, do our dreams change to having a family and not having a car payment because those are better dreams or because those are more realistic? On our death bed, do we say, “I wish I had spent more time with my family” rather than “I wish I had become an NFL quarterback” because family would have made us happier or because football was a ridiculous dream?
I’m turning 36 years old this month, and I remember the plans I had for my life including all the quotes at the beginning of this piece. Instead, I found happiness in a nice marriage, great kids and way too many animals for any normal house (5!). I sought joy in spending time with friends and family and voluntarily helping those in need.
Do I question my life choices? Well, none of those childhood dreams came close to becoming true, but I like my adult life anyway. The path diverged in the woods and I took the one that made my Nana proud even if no one will ever throw me a parade. In reality, I don’t believe presidents and astronauts have it better than me, but I still wonder where all the other paths went. It’s odd to realize that my life choices are now limited to my previous work experience, my knowledge base and how much time and energy I can and wish to put into doing the brand new, and most dreams will never be available to me no matter what I put into it.
I will not be interviewed on NPR any time soon, but I will be hugged by an 8-year-old who believes he’s the next Victor Cruz. I won’t tell him any different, but I hope he’s as happy as me even if his childhood dreams come true.