“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
I distinctly remember asking
myself, on a number of occasions, what
I was going to be like when I grew up.
I wonder what I’m going to be
like when I grow up…
I was about 10 years
old then, envisioning a future
self in my early 20s. That’s as far
as my eyes could see before it all
got blurry and nearsighted. I’d get
glasses and start wearing contacts,
and become blind to everyone else’s perceptions.
But surely, my style would change,
my looks would evolve–I would be skinnier,
wear make up and high heels. I would carry
a briefcase instead of a backpack, and
trade my Annie Oakley pioneering for something
a little more polished and put together.
At some bullet hole in my life, I would
die and be different.
I would be an adult.
And for some strange reason, I would
rock an acid wash jean jacket.
That’s about all I ever dreamt
for myself, cutting life short of even starting,
like the knot in the shoelace not worth
trying to untangle. It’s too hard to figure out,
I’ll just let the future dangle then,
on the frayed edge of torn thread and bleached denim.
Meanwhile, around the same innocent time,
all my friends’ mothers would tell me
they wanted to be like me when they grew up.
Kristen, I want to be just like you when I grow up!
Nevermind my friends, the far and few
I’ve struggled to keep. None, actually
from those days. I know them only
in pixelated fragments stored in digital memory.
How long have you known your oldest friends?
two different people on two different occasions
once asked me.
Not including Facebook?
I asked, pathetically. Their mothers
are friends with me on Facebook.
Now, at the fine wine age of 26,
I am ripe with all the wrong answers.
The question should not have been
What am I going to be like?
Like. The word is a variant,
a version, a gradient of color.
It is close, but no cigar.
Just an exhale.
Instead, I should have asked myself this:
What do I want to do when I grow up?
Do. The word is living, breathing
with oxygen and fueled for ignition. It is
turnkey the moment you put your foot down;
when you decide what to be, and go be it.
I rev at the thought of being barefoot, free
from the corporate heels and rubber soles
that have defined my walk. But in water,
I leave no trace. I am wild with ripples
that age as they scatter across the surface,
and when they grow up, disappear into the blue
horizon. It’s clear and dramatically farsighted.
I want to travel.
I want to be an explorer of this world.