While my elementary school friends were dying their Barbie’s hair blue and learning how to ride bikes, I spent my days scouring my parent’s library. I pulled out articles, magazines and books from publishers like Smithsonian and Discover. I searched for titles like, “3000-Year-Old Ice Mummy Found!” and “Hidden Treasures Discovered Under Ancient Ruins.” I would lie on my stomach at the base of a towering bookshelf, with a book as big as my head, imagining myself as the next Indiana Jones (bullwhip and leather fedora included).
By high school, my interests in archaeology dwindled. Spurred forward by a general love of sci-fi and all things space, I replaced my dream of archaeology with one of becoming an astronaut. I told my family and friends the future of space travel lied in my hands. They urged me on, saying things like “You’ll make so much money!” and “I can’t wait to read about you in the papers.”
That’s how you conquer adulthood, right? You choose the right career path, try not to change your major and push yourself way too hard to make sure you can support your future nuclear family.
But the farther I got into college, the more depressed I became. I was awful at math and stumbled through my science courses. I felt plastered into the cookie cutter mold that everyone said would make me so successful.
Once I entered the University of Florida, I made a change that transformed my life. I knew archaeology wouldn’t bring me fame and fortune, but I couldn’t resist it any longer. I confidently switched my major to Anthropology and History and threw myself happily into controversial and thought provoking classes. So long, math!
The first summer I worked on an archaeology site, it was about 102 degrees every day. We dug from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and found a lot more pottery than treasure. Although there’s something extraordinarily cathartic about digging, I quickly realized that archaeology wasn’t all it was cut out to be.
I wasn’t going to be a millionaire and I wasn’t going to get famous or invent anything important. I eventually gave up on archaeology, my childhood passion, to follow the straight and narrow route to become a professor.
My childhood dreams haven’t come true, but in my flailing, backwards attempt at realizing them I discovered that teaching is my true passion. Stumbling around in the dark made me more confident in the light. I gave my childhood dreams a try and learned a lot about myself (well mainly just that I don’t like to dig holes for nine hours a day). But now, when I grow up, I’m going to know me. Because even though I eventually ditched my childhood dreams, I gave them a shot. And sometimes your inner child isn’t telling you what you’re meant to do, but leads you to the path that will take you there.