We got to intermission. There was more hugging. People came up to me; I smiled.
"So, you're halfway done!" I groaned inwardly, knowing that my least favourite question (save 'What's your real name?') was coming next. "You'll be done in no time. What do you want to do?"
I bit my lip and considered this question that consumes my mind so frequently, yet draws no clear or concise answer. I thought, I want to be happy, love all beings and die? Probably live poor in money but rich in love & community? Travel by the cheapest means, with lightest luggage, and often eat light? Change my mind many times a decade as to just what I want to do that year? Help people, always? Remain intelligent & capable, but not pigeonholed into one system that I so detest and would stress me beyond sanity?
I tried to speak them. At each turn, I failed. I settled on, "I want to be happy. Happy in a non-situational way: at peace with life and able to remain content through the turbulence."
Gail tried to offer words of what she might have called wisdom, but that drove me up a wall. My mind daemons came out full-force.
I sat back down at the concert and frowned. I considered my potential: I could fix myself in the Land of Academia, fated for glasses and a bun or a life as that eccentric professor no one quite understands; I could throw myself entirely into research, live staining my white lab coat an array of diseased pigments; I could pain my hip and press on through work in the field; I could stash myself away, study human nature and write; I could be a starving (and crap) musician; I could teach high school students who may prefer to aim spit balls at my pupils; I could minister to a congregation of open-minded congregationalists, live poor but spiritually rich.
All answers that, it seems, would please people in their ideas of my potential. They would feel comfortable with the ambitions I would speak of. Professor, Researcher/Scientist, Field Scientist/Conservationist, Writer, Musician, Teacher, Minister. All supposed 'ends' to paths.
I growled at myself as tears sprung to my eyes. I pictured myself answering the question each time it is inquired of me (far too frequently), pondered the idea that at present my worth is the weight of my ambitions. My friends respond, "I want to be a psychologist. English teacher. Doctor. Surgeon. Writer."
I considered the answer, "I want to be a Buddhist nun," but decided that, despite it being as true as my desire to be anything else (enjoy parts of it, issues with others), I wasn't looking for shock value. I was looking entirely for honesty. "I don't know," doesn't fully cover it - I have ideas, I have pictures, I have an image or feeling I'm working toward, just as my peers seem to. I do know. It's just not what anyone wants to hear.
I pictured the situation again. Probing eyes, not unkindly, with lips spelling out the dreaded question in whatever words used: What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to love, and I want to be happy." How do you want to do that? "I'll show you." Smiles. And if that doesn't work, well, Buddhist nun as comedic relief to the rescue - even if some day they may well witness me wrapped in red&yellow robes as I previously was in brunette tresses.
I began to mention it to my minister, Carol. "And people are asking me The Question - what do you want to be when you finish?" She looked me up and down and cut me off, her eyes hard with her resolve but filled with compassionate love and amusement. "You'll notice I asked you no such thing!" I thanked her. She told me all the things I had previously attempted to express, all the phrases of wisdom I so sought - my mind will change, my space will change, the unexpected will occur, my moments are important, I am not the sum of my ambitions, I will find my way, I need not have the perfect answer for the question. I hugged her tight.
I thought of all of this as I read this story: The Supervisor's Tale, Minerva and Hermione.
I don't normally rec stories, given I have so many fandoms and non-fandom people on my list. Essentially, it's Hermione working on the Beetle the Bard stories for Muggle publication with the help of Minerva. It's parallel to a dissertation...the beginning of life as an academic.
I read it and thought of my life next year, this time. My third-year project (dissertation) on my mind. The anxieties I'll foster that will be akin to those the author expressed for Hermione in the stories. The similarities my life in general will entail, whatever supervisor I get... (Of course I will be thrilled if I end up with someone in any manner like Minerva McGonagall, but I highly doubt it.)
I loved that in the story Hermione did all the scholastic work for the stories. She muddled through the academic anxieties of research and scholastic writing. She published. She 'succeeded,' in the manner she thought she could (despite harboring the typical fear at the start that she wouldn't). I loved that despite that, she went for a job with a Non-Profit, for something she was passionate about. That Minerva couldn't comprehend the move given it didn't match the girl's potential (that sodding concept of potential!) yet seemed at last to Understand, at least somewhat more. So she went back eventually for another tussle with the government (essentially) about controversial publication...it was a choice to go back, to do what she wished, to go with her heart or instincts or morals or all in the end and at each step.
Sometimes I just read stories at the perfect time. For me, those moments are magical. Thank you once more, Harry Potter and fandom, for helping me step further down my life path.