The Child is the Parent of the MeFite July 26, 2019 12:03 PM   Subscribe

As another week draws to a close, the spirit of Fizz--who is taking a break from the site--endures! Let's spend time talking about how past times and daydreams we enjoyed in childhood carry through to our lives today. Did you first learn to knit in elementary school and are now a fixture on Ravelry? Did you create elaborate model train layouts only to become a transportation planner as an adult? Was it always your sense that the landscape where you belonged was somewhere else... where you live now? Have you traded a Jiffy-Bake oven or Brownie camera for their professional equivalents? Or were you primed for a particular career or hobby, whether by family fiat or your own sense of self, that couldn't be farther from your own truth today? Spill!

As always, be kind to each other and to yourself. And stay away from politics!
posted by carmicha to MetaFilter-Related at 12:03 PM (48 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

When I was a kid I used to LOVE writing silly poetry. It got to be a Thing at my small elementary school. I'd finish a new ridiculous poem and my teacher would indulge me by letting me recite my new poem in front of the class. Shel Silverstein was my hero.

I am not a published poet, but I did recently rediscover the joy of asinine poetry. Posted a thing to Projects about it under my old username.
posted by sugar and confetti at 12:55 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


I was mad about cars as a kid. Long before I was old enough to get even a learner's permit I was fascinated by books by racing drivers (one in particular I read multiple times, written by a man who described riding as Stirling Moss' navigator in the Mille Miglia). I daydreamed about what it would be like to go zooming through twists and turns and wondered what driving at "ten tenths" felt like.

In my early teens I started reading spy novels by authors like Alistair MacLean, Robert Ludlum, John Le Carré, etc. I imagined myself in the place of the protagonist, using my keen mind and combat-honed body to bravely make my way through dangerous situations.

In my late teens I read a couple books about flying, written by Richard Bach. For a while I daydreamed about what I already knew was an impossible life by the time I was reading about it - flying from town to town giving rides in an old biplane, camping in remote fields, having adventures...

Then I became an adult and drove normal cars at normal speeds, and got a normal job in technical support, and realized that facing danger and adventure wasn't really my thing at all. Instead I found humor and music to be personally fulfilling and far less perilous.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:04 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]


I've told this story before, but one of my favorite games as a kid was something I called "Cottonwood". In this game, I owned Cottonwood Ranch, a large horse stable, and my mom was the proprietor of a neighboring ranch, and we'd meet up to trade horses. My mom really wanted this to be an imaginative game and would try to get me to role play as the proprietor, talk about how my horses were doing and discuss various events that had happened on the ranch and so on, but I had no interest in that. All I wanted to do was draw up a list of the horses I had available for trade, review my mom's list, determine if the trade was fair, negotiate, and then finalize the trade. That was the game, and anything else was wasting time.

While I do nothing at all related to horse trading--I'm a researcher--I have developed a reputation everywhere I work for being one of the most efficient and singlemindedly process-oriented people in the workplace. For most of my life, small talk has been like pulling teeth though I like to think I've been improving... I still have to write down notes to myself at the beginning of my check-in agendas that say "team member x was just on vacation, remember to ask them how it was".
posted by capricorn at 1:05 PM on July 26 [22 favorites]


I recently found a project I did in second grade where we were asked to draw a picture of our future gravestone (really, I swear) and write our future obituaries. And mine says I was a talented surgeon who lived in Boston. I have zero memory of wanting to be a Boston-dwelling doctor, it was odd to read it. I did love Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, I guess?
posted by sallybrown at 1:13 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


So, this is a little more recent history than my childhood, but about 5ish years ago, just a few weeks before I was set to start law school, I went to see the movie "The F Word". It's a good movie, well worth seeing for the Daniel Radcliffe/Zoe Kazan friends-to-lovers plot, but for the purposes of this story that is largely unimportant. What is important: Zoe Kazan's existing boyfriend is a lawyer who negotiates copyright treaties for Canada.

Leaving the movie, my friend and I talked about that, and I said it was like my dream job. And then we laughed, because honestly, who even has that as a job? What, like, one person in the whole country, maybe? It's a ridiculous pipe dream. Maybe in a million years if everything else in my post-law school career goes perfectly.

Cut to 2 years later, and I start a 10 week internship in the copyright policy office of the federal Department of Canadian Heritage where I meet all of the people who do that job. They're spread out among Heritage, Industry, Global Affairs and Justice. I can still count them all on my fingers, but there's definitely more than one of them. I am pretty intrigued by the idea that this is my dream job and some of the people who do it sit next to me.

Cut to a year later than that, and I start a 10 month articling placement in the same office. Although my primary focus is on domestic legislative policy, I help the international team with background work for the NAFTA 2 negotiations. I see the people who do my dream job every day. I help them. I do less and less work for them as my other responsibilities ramp up, and then none once I move to a different organization in the public service, but I still see them every week because we are friends.

Last Friday, I was offered that job. The ridiculous dream job that no one could possibly get because who actually has that job except it exists for really real and they would very much like me to do it.

I had to turn it down for {vaguely waves hands in the air} reasons, but damn, that was a moment.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:28 PM on July 26 [34 favorites]


I recently found a project I did in second grade where we were asked to draw a picture of our future gravestone (really, I swear) and write our future obituaries.

I think it was second grade, maybe third, where we were asked to describe our first car. At that point, I had the idea that it'd be an old, red VW bug that I'd buy for $600. Many years later, I find myself longing for VW's ID. BUZZ, it's electric van concept that is slated for production in 2022, as of 2017. That'll give me time to make enough space in the garage for it, and to start saving up ;)

After a decade (or two) of not playing with Legos, I'm back into them, thanks to my boys, and my wife. She's a Lego maniac, and has been getting Legos for Christmas for years, and we recently pulled out the old bins of the Legos from my childhood (thanks for keeping them, Mom and Dad!). Our boys are creative and make random things, which makes me so very happy, and pushes me to be less constrained to making things look "right."
posted by filthy light thief at 2:00 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


So imagine as an infant you were exposed to this magical thing. And it fascinated you, and as you grew it became more integral to how you learned, and how you connected to people living entirely different lives that with this magic, you could feel with them. And your first real job involved these magical things, and then you studied them in college, and then you learned about the economics of this magic, and then the ethics of magic. And now you're older and for almost two decades you've been gifted the responsibility to make this magic. And now you're in charge of a group of wizards who create tens of thousands of these magical objects every year.

I have no idea how I got this job, and it's really, really hard, but I can't believe I do what I do. It's the best job ever, and as miserable as it can get, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I hope you're enjoying your vaycay, Fizz. I'm wishing you warm sunsets and cool beverages.
posted by Stanczyk at 2:04 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


I love and grew up with books and reading. I worked in bookstores and libraries. I bought a bookstore. I married a guy I met in bookstores. That last one was a terrible bad idea and was rectified, but, you know, Repercussions. Still love books, bookstores, libraries, and reading.

My family was fully dysfunctional, lots of untreated metal illness, including alcoholism. Lots of Repercussions, childhood trauma is strong stuff. My siblings and I tend to talk about that a fair amount. Talking to one of my sisters the other day, I remarked that I feel privileged to have grown up with A, So Many Books, and B, dinner table conversations that were interesting.

My sister stuck with the piano. There's a classic piano tune Long, Long Ago, and Far, Far Away. I can't tell you how many times my Dad said to her Play Far, Far Away and how we all said Dad, it's Long, Long Ago. My Mom laughed and rolled her eyes. My Dad cackled. Not one of us got the joke until after he died.

so, you know, not all trauma and drama.
posted by theora55 at 2:06 PM on July 26 [12 favorites]


The first sign that I'd grow up to be really into horror movies was that I still remember getting OBSESSED with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow when I was about 6. There was some kind of classy animated thing on PBS, and then I wanted to read the story a bunch of times. Then it was ghost stories, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and so on.

Career-wise, as a kid I was dead set on being a scientist (generic scientist in white lab coat) or astronomer, but grew up to get degrees in music and anthropology. You know how there are some of those people who always knew the wanted to be, like, doctors or something? Definitely not me.

OK, actually there is a thread there -- so I mentioned my early love of Sleepy Hollow, which combined with family roots in New England to sort of foster this interest in early US history. Except I was actually more interested in people's clothes and tools and stuff, and certainly couldn't have cared less about the Revolutionary War and all that. I started asking for picture books about artifacts and so on -- I remember there being a cool kids' version of Treasure Island that included pictures of artifacts and coins and things. And I got really into living history events. As a teenager I started cooking food based on historic recipes and making tea from medieval herbalist books. You get the idea.

So I was really into material things from the past, but by the time I was finally in college, I didn't really think that was something I could study. I thought history was about memorizing the dates of important battles, and I thought archaeology had to be about the ancient past, not anything more recent than that. I mean, and this was in my late 20s, because I went to college hella late. Plus, I was a high school dropout, so I was like "boy, that's for people who aren't me!"

None of this changed until literally the day of my college orientation, when I finally transferred out of community college. I'd applied as a music major, but on a whim I decided to see if anthropology was for me, and I went to the anthro orientation instead. I had a meeting with the advisor, and I still wasn't dead-set on being an anthro major. I was almost out the door and I was like "uh, can archaeologists study stuff from more recent history?" The advisor recommended I read In Small Things Forgotten. And that's how I learned about historical archaeology, which ended up becoming my life for the next several years. I did all this extra lab work, got a huge scholarship to write a thesis on 19th century Black history, and that's how I went from knowing literally nothing about history OR anthropology to suddenly being very happy with it.

I graduated a year ago and I have no idea what to do next, but at least I can still see that common thread running through everything. Like, as weirdly disjointed as my life once felt, everything makes sense now. It's all related to who I am, it's just that it was all the stuff I just thought of as unimportant side interests for 9/10th of my life. It's been an interesting ride.

Sorry, this ended up being really long haha but I'm in a hurry and don't feel like taking the time to edit it down.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:09 PM on July 26 [16 favorites]


I remember being about six years old, reading one of the very first chapter books I was able to handle (it was called I, Houdini and told the story of a hamster who was very good at escaping), when I found what I sincerely believed to be a typo. I proudly ran to my mother to show her that the book had spelled “olny” wrong—some fool had written “only”!

I am now a copy editor. I am also still often wrong.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 2:23 PM on July 26 [12 favorites]


When I was applying to transfer to a fancy high school at 14, I had to write on the application where I saw myself in 25 years. I said "living in a loft in NYC working for the ACLU."

Well...it wasn't super far off, especially considering that I did a near-decade detour into a totally different field? And these days no one can afford a loft, but my apartment's still kinda neat.
posted by praemunire at 3:01 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Did you first learn to knit in elementary school and are now a fixture on Ravelr...

No. I was 4 and no.

you create elaborate model train layouts only to become a transportation planner as an adult.

Sorta. Lionel trains and I ran dispatch for 6 wreckers in Flint mi.

Was it always your sense that the landscape where you belonged was somewhere else..

Like with tulips, fresh bark and a rock garden? Did that.

Have you traded a Jiffy-Bake oven or Brownie camera for their professional equivalents?

Rule #26, garage sailing: never sell the ez bake oven and brownies are common, so keep it, you know it looks cool.
posted by clavdivs at 3:13 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be Kate Monday from Mathnet. I don’t solve crimes with math, but being an applied statistician is close enough :)
posted by eirias at 3:23 PM on July 26 [6 favorites]


When I was in 7th grade, my math teacher admitted that she tutored kids on the side. One day in class, she said that she came across a problem that she couldn't figure out, and she offered $1 to anyone who could solve the problem. The problem was "At some point between 6:00 and 7:00, the minute hand and the hour hand will be at the exact same spot on an analog clock. What time does that happen, to the nearest second?" I went home and spent all night working on the problem, which had nothing to do with the math we were learning at the time. I came in the next morning as was like "I think I solved that clock problem. Is this answer right?" And she looks it over, and it's the right answer, so she pulls a dollar out of her wallet and hands it to me. I ran around the room holding up the dollar like I'd won an Olympic medal.

Nowadays, I'm a freelance math textbook editor, which means I often stay up all night, working on dumb math problems, and sometimes I don't get paid all that well. #ohtheirony
posted by 23skidoo at 3:56 PM on July 26 [14 favorites]


I grew up helping my parents tend our garden and now I tend it. But I never really had goals or ambitions- except to get better after all my surgeries and graduate with a degree I’d stopped wanting 5 years ago. And then, somehow, I got hired at the garden center I’d gone to for decades. I suppose I did have goals and ambitions the whole time, they were just smaller and more manageable.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:15 PM on July 26 [6 favorites]


Lego/erector sets/drawing ====> been in architecture/construction in some way for 23 years.
posted by LionIndex at 4:37 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


I was destined to be an artist... I was the one who took college art classes while I was in high school... of course I took that ability for granted and figured everyone could do it but had more worthwhile things to do. I had no friends in high school; I was happy in my own little constructed world. And I was dad's helper whenever he decided to build things. I just loved making anything at all.

I went to college to be an art major and figured out that I wasn't serious enough about art; that to be an artist was because one couldn't live without doing art. And I discovered sociology. It was the outsider's answer to "why groups of people were like that." Demography was nifty. Advanced statistics killed Demography but I still held on to sociology and taught myself rudimentary SAS-SPS programming back in the days of punch cards and computer rooms the size of basements. Marriage and life detours led me to later finding my almost realized dream job: Creating spaces that actually worked for people.

I went to grad school and studied a subset of architecture that specialized in utilizing collaborative methods to implement user and occupant input in the process of developing designs (with a side focus on environnental design). It was/is a passion. Sadly, the economy eventually tanked and killed off most of the interest in making buildings habitable.

So, now, I'm an older person who does free-lance drafting because nobody hires old folks full time in the architecture world. I don't art any more.... am waiting on liesure time to ever happen. Hah. But I create my little world. I have a constant stream of improvements happening in my little abode and a garden that's a constant place of joy and experimentation.
posted by mightshould at 5:08 PM on July 26 [7 favorites]


My dad helped me learn to play chess when I was 5. It's probably the best gift he ever gave -- it's been my favorite hobby for my whole life.

Recently he sent me his cache of old scoresheets from games that I played and recorded (you have to write down your moves in chess tournaments, for dispute resolution and record-keeping purposes) during my childhood and teenage years. It's fascinating to see games I played when I was so young that my physical writing ability was improving faster than my chess ability.
posted by value of information at 5:40 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


My user name was first picked when I was 13, because I liked fantasy stories/myths about griffins/gryffins and also stories about con artists, so gryffin + grifter = gryftir. Also griffin, gryffyn/gryffin and every other variation I tried were taken on the chat server I was on.
posted by gryftir at 5:43 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


I intended to be a witch.

I am now an attorney.

Draw your own conclusions.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:44 PM on July 26 [25 favorites]


My adult life has been mostly wish fulfillment. Dogs, gardens, birding, camping and hiking in wild places, traveling, having two awesome kids. And reading all the time, just like I did when I was a kid. The life my family lives now is just what I would have wanted when I was a kid. When I was growing up, my family always lived in the suburbs of big cities and for much of my childhood I thought that was pretty much what the whole country looked like (outside of places like national parks). I loved wild places but only got to see them on vacations. I didn't even realize ordinary people could still live in places like my current home in rural Vermont. If you had described our property to me when I was a kid I would have thought it sounded unbelievably fantastic, like something out of a book. We have 11 acres of woods and fields with a river running along one side of the property. We've had both a weasel and a mink get into our house. My husband saw a bear in our field about a week ago. One spring a couple of raccoon kits showed up in our woodshed and spent the day there. We hear coyotes at night. We have a woodshed and a wood stove, just like people in the books I read as a kid! Wood is actually our main source of heat. We've tapped our maple trees and made maple syrup, just like people in books! We usually have deep snow on the ground all winter here, which still feels kind of like something out of a book to me. My childhood was spent in places where there was either no snow or at all or just occasional snow. We have a vegetable garden, an apple tree, raspberries and blueberries. In the summer, my kids are more likely to go swimming in a river, brook or pond than in a swimming pool. We've never bought a Christmas tree, only cut them down ourselves on our land or my sister's. When my sister found a week-old baby deer mouse in her car we fed it with a syringe, successfully raised it to adulthood and kept it as a pet for 5 years. We found a mass of salamander eggs, kept them in a bucket until they hatched and ended up with a pet spotted salamander. When I was a kid, I always thought being a grownup seemed like no fun at all. Then I grew up and found out that being a grownup means you get to make all your dreams come true. (Okay, not all of them, but enough.)
posted by Redstart at 6:13 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


Started reading very young, and never stopped. Was a book buyer for sixteen years, worked at Borders, am now a librarian. I know you don’t have to love to read to be any of those things - book buying is more sales forecasting than anything, and public librarianship is a lot of “yes I can help you get into that job application site. No I don’t know your password” - but you know what? It doesn’t hurt.
posted by lyssabee at 7:00 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


As a young teen (14, 15, 16) I scalped Knicks and Ranger tickets outside Madison Square Garden. I was really good at reading the market, knowing when to dump them, appreciating the time function of pricing when once a game starts, the price falls quickly. My first job out of college was trading on the floor of the CBOE. I scalped stocks and options. Being on the floor in a pit was essentially the same as being in a crowd outside the Garden. Every job or opportunity I have had or taken since then, measuring supply and demand, making instantaneous decisions, and having no salary but a percentage of profits has been similar. My mother claimed she knew I would be a trader when she saw me trading baseball cards with my brothers and local kids. I was apparently very disciplined in my trading decisions. I am very logical in thinking too and I think I could have been a good coder or programmer, but I started trading and making good money before I had a chance to consider it.

Interestingly, one of my sons used to beg me to take him to West Point for football games. I thought it was for the football. I have pictures of him climbing on tanks and sitting in all sorts of vehicles. He is now a tank commander/scout in the US Army. He could not be happier.
posted by AugustWest at 7:07 PM on July 26 [11 favorites]


I grew up in a family where my grandfather and his father were armaments inventors; the former contributed to large numbers of deaths on all sides in WW2, and the latter had the first gas turbine patent and invented the magnetic mine along with other nightmares. I think my mum was a spy or similar in WW2. Dad just liked very fast boats - which also turned me right off.

So I found it easy, even natural, imagining new destructive machines - my whole region was still very military, most neighbours were navy, army, marines, paras or they built planes or missiles. For reasons I can't recall, when I was fifteen I decided it was wrong to pursue this path. So I wandered for a long time.

When I was about nine I had an experience or realisation in a rolling-country rural landscape which left a deep impression on me. When I was sixteen I'd worked out I wanted to be a forester but my highschool was only interested in producing cannon fodder and the careers advisor was depressingly persuasive. So I wandered on.

In 1990 I was wandering around Anchorage AK when I saw a very ordinary garden - top picture - and discovering gardens and landscapes changed my life and rolling-landforms are where I do much of my work, trees, forests and woodlands are also much of my work.
posted by unearthed at 8:51 PM on July 26 [6 favorites]


My dad bought me a brownie camera when I was 5. He was an investigator for the military, and they had a film lab. So my pictures got developed. I still have some of those black and whites. I took a fine arts degree with photography emphasis. I had an image on Google Earth with more than 100,000 views. I still love photography, especially as a means of documenting the wild lands, waters, and reflections of things.
posted by Oyéah at 9:18 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


I was a do nothing layabout as a child, and I am a do nothing layabout today.

More seriously, I got my first computer when I was in like 6th grade (or so. It was a 386/33 with 4mb ram and a 80mb hard disk) and it changed my life. I was hanging out on a variety of BBSes, learning how to code, I loved it.

I went to college and majored in CS, but it turns out that I was more interested in drinking and causing trouble than studying, so I switched to business (my biggest idiot friends were all business majors and getting great grades doing nothing). Anyway, turns out I hate business.

Started teaching, got an MA TESOL, currently working at a good university. No longer teaching English, but I want to do something different again and am currently in an English Lit PhD program. Not sure if I will continue down that path (like as an English professor), but I am enjoying the work, so...

Basically I am a rudderless ship, is what I am saying. However, I still do some coding in my spare time, and make a bit of money every month from the Play Store, so that's something I guess.
posted by Literaryhero at 11:11 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


I wanted to be a rock star and a writer and an artist and hey I do all that stuff now. I was a magazine editor and still work with journalists all the time! I have written songs and recorded the better part of an unreleased album! I've shown work in an art show (with another coming up)! I've sold postcards and pins I designed and published books! Incrementally, bit by bit, I'm doing the thing! I also wanted to explore the world and go on adventures, and I am bit by bit doing that, too.

That said, I also wanted to have ghost friends and hang out with ghosts and I'm not so sure I've managed that part, but then again, I've worked places before where I most likely had at least one coworker or at least companion who was a ghost, so there you go.
posted by limeonaire at 11:33 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


From the age where I remember defining my academic interests, it was as "not a scientist". I was the arty one. I was going to study English literature at university, unlike my close friend who wanted to be a doctor. So I took all the humanities classes at high school and she took all the science ones.

This was a key point of my identity for quite a long time. Even when I became a linguist, professionally: a discipline that can be more at the science end of the social sciences spectrum, or more at the arts end.

Then I moved sideways into digital humanities, which despite having humanities in the name can be even more sciencey than linguistics. Some of my hobbies: programming, robotics, etc, and a fair amount more maths made it into my work-life too. I get asked to teach into the computer science program and I have collaborations with "real" scientists. Some of my research definitely counts as science.

Recently I was thinking back on my childhood and wondering what the kid who thought she would be doing art and literature, and who described herself as "not a computer person" in the late 90s , would think of my career today.

Then I recalled that one of my earliest hobbies (as an eight year old) was buying broken mechanical and early electronic toys from garage sales and trying to fix them. Sometimes I even succeeded! I used to build simple mechanical devices from popsicle sticks, cardboard and rubber bands. I asked my parents for my fifth birthday for a microscope. (They refused. They said it was unnecessary and I think I got a doll instead.)

I think my primary school self would be very happy at where I've ended up, even if my teenage self would roll her eyes. (She rolled her eyes at most things, though.)
posted by lollusc at 2:19 AM on July 27 [6 favorites]


I wrote the “agony aunt” column for my class newspaper when I was 11. My teacher’s mother died when I was 12 and I wrote her a poem about loss and she wrote to me later to say how much it had meant to her. My Aunt’s beloved dog died when I was about 8 and I wrote her a letter saying how sorry I was and advising her to focus on how much happiness he had brought her in life - I have no memory of this but she told me this recently and said she still has it. This is all to say I’m now a therapist.

But I have a very strong memory of a career path that didn’t pan out. When I was about 8 or 9 maybe I was obsessed with Wonder Woman and really wanted to be her. I was also a very devout little Catholic with absolute faith in the power of prayer. This combination led me one night to praying really, really, really hard that when I woke up in the morning and birled around I would transform into her. I clearly remember the excitement and trepidation when I got up the next day...and the crushing disappointment when it turned out that The Good Lord had declined my request. Maybe it’s why I had such a strong understanding of grief...
posted by billiebee at 5:36 AM on July 27 [8 favorites]


Your stories are wonderful, whether or not adult you reflects childhood you's ambitions and interests! I asked this question because so many aspects of young carmicha's interests pointed towards city planning, the foundation of my eclectic career as a land use economist, from the toys I enjoyed, to my hours exploring on my bike, to lying in bed at night thinking about maglev-esque people movers that could go anywhere. But I thought I would become a doctor or a professional bassoon player, so I didn't see the clear breadcrumbs showing the way. I didn't even know the profession existed until college, when I decided city planning was my future after being bowled over by a single lecture.

Other things I always knew: I would never have children (they terrify me) but I would have fast cars and boats and offset their impact with huge solar panel arrays and/or windmills that would power the house and more. Yep, although I never predicted what a safety maven I would become.

Recently, I've been emulating my father's home improvement puttering-- I absorbed a fair amount while helping-- after decades of staying away from it. And lately I've been experimenting with making art using flow acrylics, alcohol inks, resin and wood. It dawned on me that I'm still interested in spin art, which captivated 12-ish me although I never got to do it myself then.

Thanks for all the evocative and detailed memories and related insights!
posted by carmicha at 5:55 AM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure my lifelong interest in Greek poetry came from lavishly illustrated books about Greek myths that my grandma had at her house. I just went down the internet rabbit hole looking for the particular image of Baucis and Philemon that was in one of those books, I'm thinking maybe a kids book by Hawthorne because it's not in books of Greek myths usually, it's in Ovid. It was a lovely picture of an arched doorway with two trees growing around it with very faint human faces and hands. There are a bunch on the internet but none as striking as the one in that book. I was also obsessed with the pictures in D'Aulaire's Greek Myths.

Anyway, Greek myths were my total preoccupation up through college, along with visual arts which I also attribute to my grandmother's side of the family. They all painted, some professionally, and made crafts. Sadly to me now, I switched to Latin at some point. As a little kid, I always thought I would become a lawyer and argue dramatic cases in court, and Cicero was my thing in Latin. It's actually super interesting but when a former teacher of mine heard I'd switched to Cicero he said, "Yuck!" And I agree now; the stuff I was working on was really kind of sordid.
posted by BibiRose at 6:30 AM on July 27


When we were kids, I was The Booky One, my brother was The Sporty One and my sister was The Arty One. Now I'm a librarian, he's a golf (club) pro and my sister has a sideline painting and making glass jewelry.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:47 AM on July 27 [4 favorites]


I have written consistently since I figured out how to do it around age three. My grandmother saved my first story, which I wrote around then; it lacks something of a follow-through on the plot line. But I had my million words done early in life.

I have not been a successful writer, but this is due to my own life choices and my belief that writing came so easily to me that I could do anything else with my life at the same time, such as throwing myself into an unrelated career or a drinking problem. There's not a lot that I like or believe in about myself, but this ability is unquestionably, unshakably mine.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:56 AM on July 27 [5 favorites]


I've always been a bit of a dilettante, so few things have really stuck with me since childhood. My parents tried hard to push me into things that "successful" people do (piano lessons, golf...) but unsurprisingly those didn't stick. I guess what has followed me from those experiments was that trying to do anything "for fun" when there's a sense of obligation attached to it makes me almost immediately abandon it.

My dad tried getting me in to computer programming at a young age, and I enjoyed that (mostly because we had a computer and he bought me a book and let me at it on my own terms). I never became a programmer, but it's made me handy enough with computers that I can pick up tricks when I need to. I tinker occasionally, but the computer's mostly for games now.

I think one real regret that I've come to realize in recent years is that I actually use to really like performing as young as elementary school - singing in music class, the stupid class plays, those were always really fun for me. I even got a few compliments in high school when we would act out scenes from Shakespeare in English class. But somewhere along the line (probably around puberty) it became uncool to be in to those things, and I never seriously pursued any of it. Top that off with me as an idiot eighth grader missing my name on the callback sheet for the school play, and for most of my childhood I let all that stuff linger. I ended up acting in college and rediscovered my love of theater and performance, but at that point I had committed to another path. I still sing as a hobby and used to do community theater until work started demanding more travel, but sometimes I wonder if I ever could have made a go of it in a professional capacity.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:48 PM on July 27


What was most essentially predictive was that at the age of four, I ran away from home (as one does at the age of four) with a suitcase filled with nothing but books. I couldn't imagine anything more essential to a life without adults in the wilderness. And, yes, I ended up at a great books college. However, books per se, in one form or another, haven't defined my working life. They are more essential and constant than merely work.

I was always deeply interested in math and science; in this regard as a teen I primarily read books about physics and cosmology, and the theory side of math more than the applications side.

What my family would tell you -- which I know because they do -- is that I began disassembling my toys from the earliest age to see how they worked, began repairing things at around eight, saw my first IBM 360 at eleven, learned some basic electronics from Radio Shack handbooks around junior high, and in high school frankensteined from parts everything from a boombox to a pressure-mat triggered motorized door trigger and I experimentally learned how telephones work from basic principles with nothing but access to a live line, then built a phone, was investigated by Bell Security, worked on my bikes then my cars, learned to pick locks, saw my first PC in 1978 in ninth grade and was instantly entranced, my first minicomputer in 1980 in eleventh grade and first learned to program, bought my first PC shortly after graduation and wrote a full version of the card game Mille Borne including computer opponents.

How'd this all work out?

Well, I didn't become a mechanical engineer, though I sometimes wish I had whenever I discover just how elegant and beautiful is some ubiquitous basic mechanical tech I'd previously not examined.

I didn't become an electrical engineer, though I've come to respect them far more than I respect software people and sort of wish I had become one.

I was very briefly an assembly and testing tech of big digital telephone switches IBM was building and selling in the mid-90s and would have loved that job and others like it had it not been problematic because of my disability (just then becoming limiting for me physically).

I didn't become a mathematician or physicist, though I aspired for a while to astrophysics and majored in physics briefly. Later, I dated and knew a bunch of astrophysicists, though. In the last 25 years there have been huge developments in cosmology, on the one hand, and exoplanet discovery, on the other, and I regret not following that path, though it likely wouldn't have worked out. (With regard to math, I do have a citation in an entry on Wolfram Mathworld, right next to one to Martin Gardner, and I take way more pride in that than is warranted.)

The computing stuff stuck, though, which I'd vowed wouldn't be my career because my dad was a mainframe programmer ("systems analyst") and he was abusive and competitive, but I couldn't help myself. I never really coded much, but moved through a variety of sysadmin and support stuff, for example I was a build "engineer" for a geophysics app across six different flavors of Unix, where I did happen to do a lot of shell scripting. In fact, there and at other jobs in the 90s dotcom era, I did a whole bunch of stuff in Perl, which those in the know will see as natural from someone who kludged together weird, ugly, and complicated things from parts as a child.*

Most telling, though, is that books, especially fiction, were always at the center of my childhood and they still are, and that through books I developed a love of literature and was introduced to a vast array of new ideas, and a seminar-style great books college that included a lot of math and science alongside literature and philosophy was a dream come true for me and where I truly found myself, even as I was also always a tech/mechanical nerd in general and a computer nerd in specific as a child and as an adult.

That these two distinct preoccupations, things that are broadly differentiated from each other as divided into humanities and STEM, and which are often nearly mutually exclusive in most kids and adults -- that they have continued to co-exist in equal measure in my life, independently and in synthesis, that was evident early on and in many respects expresses who I really am. In this, I think I grew up to be exactly the person you could see in me when I was a child.

* When, because of my influence, a partner started her life over at 30 by matriculating at that great books college, one of her classmates turned out to be Larry Wall's son, Aron. (Aron has done very well, by the way.) I thought this was cool and ended up corresponding with Larry about Aron's choice of college and other things and he gave me a standing dinner invitation for whenever I was in town -- how much this pleased and honored me tells you just how much a certain kind of nerd I am.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:18 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


My older brother, who became a teenager in the late 50s, when I was five, used to let me play his rock n roll 45s even when he wasn't there. I was rock crazed and the first purchase I made with my own money was a Ricky Nelson 45. I was a total Beatlemanic as a 10 year old and their 2nd album (in mono!) was my first lp purchase. I listened to the radio as much as I could get away with (parents did not approve of children listening to rock n roll) so I would listen very quietly to my clock radio all night long.

Later my dad had a reel to reel tape recorder and I started taping folk music off the public radio station and made mix tapes. Then when I was a young teenager, I started listening to the FM "underground" radio and became deep into heavy rock. The overnight DJ would take requests and I would call him and ask for my favorites (Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin) and he would play them for me. I called often and we would talk for hours in the middle of the night while he played anything I wanted to hear. I wished I could be a DJ and play whatever I wanted all the time!

I ended up working as a signmaker at a food co-op, but I still loved music. In the late 70s, I fell in love with Reggae. I saw dozens of Reggae bands live and always bought albums when they had them to sell. I bugged the local record store guy to stock more Reggae. On my trips to LA, I bought about 50 albums per trip. By the late 80s, I had hundreds of Reggae albums, many quite rare.

Two younger co-workers were media students and they did a Reggae radio show on college radio. They suffered a house fire and all their records were destroyed. The station had very few Reggae records so they needed to find a source for albums to play. They knew I had hundreds so they asked to borrow 20-30 a week to play on air. My records were precious to me so I said no, unless I could bring them to the station and hang out for the whole show. I didn't trust them, after all they had carelessly burned down a house!

I became a permanent guest, providing the records and lore about Reggae. When they left to go on vacation they asked me to cover their shifts. Since these were late at night, there was no station manager around to tell them or me no. So I did. But one night the station manager dropped by and found a stranger spinning records. He asked where the students were and I said I was filling in while they were on vacation. He said okay and left. But the next week when the students came back they were fired and so was I.

I was very sad to no longer play my records on the radio. Then I asked a friend who had lots of radio connections if there were any stations who might be interested in a Reggae DJ who had her own records. He asked the manager of a community radio station if they needed any Reggae DJs and he said no. My friend remarked that, "she will be disappointed" and the manager said "she?" We do need more women on the air. So, I was interviewed and I became a real Reggae DJ. It was an unpaid gig, but I did a Reggae show on weekends for the next 19 years. I loved almost every minute of it. But it finally became too much for me to work more than full time all week then spend most of the weekend, pulling my show, doing my show, and reshelving my music.

Since it was by then the 21st century, I had replaced many of my records with CDs. So before I retired, I ripped files of all my CDs and gave the CDs to a woman who wanted to be a Reggae DJ. She took my place and over ten years later, she's still on the air. Both of our dreams came true,
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:54 AM on July 28 [10 favorites]


When I was 12, a friend mentioned that his grandparents had given him a Hagstrom bass guitar that a patron had abandoned in one of their motel rooms (on S. Congress, in Austin - I was still in San Francisco at the time) & that he didn’t want it. I asked what he’d sell it for & he asked how much I could get. I told him my dad would pay me 6 dollars to clean his windows & a deal was struck. 10 years later, I was playing gigs at the Continental Club, across the street from that motel.

That oddball moment set me on the course of my life-long passion. Still at it - played 3 sets on 6th st. last night & will keep at it as long as I have my health. (Lots of songs on music.mefi).

I still have that bass & have been meaning to get it restored.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:04 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


I was a spacey, bookish kid with very particular ideas about how I liked things to be. We grew up in a rambly always-under-construction farmhouse with a pair of interesting parents who did not get along. It was a chaotic and hectic time. My mom was a writer (textbooks, mostly) and my dad did computers. I remember writing a "What will you be like as an older person" essay when I was in early elementary school and I mostly wrote about being a writer (check) and having my hair long and in a braid (it wasn't then, it usually is now, or it's growing back out into one) which was somehow important. I talked about having grandchildren but wasn't somehow really into the idea of having kids (still not).

The real joy in how this all worked out (being the internet's librarian, one of the people who helped lay down the bedrock of MetaFilter) is that I managed to still be a spacey, bookish person with very particular ideas about how I liked things to be and, over time, the world changed to meet me. It's easier to find your crowd than it was when I was growing up in a rural just-post-farming town. My IRL people are in Vermont where they share my idea of civic participation, love of nature etc. But I also have my online people here, twitter, library groups, etc. which is especially useful when I'm having a down day where I'm not quite up to IRL interactions but still want to talk to people and interact.

The other joy is my sister, who was sort of not in my orbit after we both hit junior high (very different people, very different relationship to my parents) is now one of my closest friends. My mom was an n-mom type forever trying to wedge herself into whatever we were doing and we both reacted to her in different ways. It was difficult to get out from under that, but we eventually did (she adopted a grown foster kid, had what she would tell people was a "do over" and it was a lot easier to see her mental health issues for what they were after that) and now that we're both grown women with no parents it's been really useful/important to have someone who was there, through that weird childhood, to say "I remember" with.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:17 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


I was the kid who wanted to read ALL THE TIME. Luckily my parents almost always let me. Reading was always easy for me and I literally can’t remember not being able to read.

In college I majored in special ed and minored in reading so I could start figuring out why some kids struggled to learn to read. I later got a Masters in Reading Disabilities. I worked as a high school special ed teacher, then made a career detour and worked for Borders, then went into educational publishing as a sales rep and later in marketing, worked for Barnes and Noble for a bit, and now work in a public library and am a volunteer esl tutor for adults.

Every single one of these involves literacy in some way, and I’m also still reading every chance I get.
posted by bookmammal at 8:04 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


I've been realizing that I've been fighting so hard and for so long to try to make my way back from financial setbacks that I've started forgetting what my childhood dreams were. That scares me.

(Towards that end: NYC people, I am seeking a new job, effective immediately. EA work, with some element of writing. Go.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:48 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Did you first learn to knit in elementary school and are now a fixture on Ravelry?

You know me so well! Learned at 12 and 16 years later I'm currently in the middle of knitting a very elaborate sweater full of colorwork and steeks on the tiniest needles ever. Love it.

I really enjoyed baking as a kid- my mom showed me how to use teaspoons and tablespoons and left me to my own devices with a cookbook. After lots of trial and error I ended up working as a baker for the last few years!
posted by mollywas at 5:59 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Just want to say how grateful I am to you for putting "who is taking a break from the site" above the fold because otherwise the words "in the spirit of Fizz" would give me a heart attack.
posted by lalex at 9:00 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


I haven't had time to read through all of these yet, but this is delightful.

My babysitter (more like a second mom, I was watched by her for the first 10 years of my life) had dogs, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, and fish. I always loved animals growing up. I currently have 3 dogs and 2 cats. And 2 llama tattoos, one on the back of each upper arm. I also love going to aquariums and zoos, and at the age of 36, will enthusiastically participate in the children's sections, where you can pet stingrays or scratch goats or whatever. I love animals so much. It's one of my dreams to have a hobby farm sanctuary one day.


When I was 10 or 11, I suggested to my parents that instead of celebrating Christmas every year, we should switch it up and pick a different winter holiday. Hannukah, Kwanzaa, make a big deal about New Year's instead, see what the pagans did, etc. This was not met with enthusiasm, not even any kind of "Christmas is important to us, but I'll certainly help you research how other holidays are celebrated" , but with eyerolls. Anyway. Now I'm UU, which pulls from all kinds of religious sources, and I feel so at home.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 8:22 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


I literally can’t remember not being able to read.

That makes me recall one of my very few clear childhood memories: one of the very first things I learned to read on my own (and even recite to supportive family adults) was a Peanuts comic compilation (in particular, a couple of strips about Snoopy's "weed-claustrophobia" - yeah, I'm sure I got some help with "claustrophobia", which is a pretty darn weird word for a 5-6 year old kid to know, but I was still proud and delighted.

Anyway, the fact that it was a Peanuts comic book says so much about the rest of my life...
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:28 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Oh gosh, I can remember some of learning to read also. The family lore is that I was basically taught to read by a hitchhiker. My mom was visiting her mom in NJ (without my dad, did I mention they did not get along) and picked up a hitchhiker who sat in the back with me and an alphabet book. We would sound out road signs (I am told). I can clearly remember one of the first "tricky" words I learned to read which was MERGE. Ah the 70s.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:27 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I literally can’t remember not being able to read.

In college I majored in special ed and minored in reading so I could start figuring out why some kids struggled to learn to read. I later got a Masters in Reading Disabilities. I worked as a high school special ed teacher (...)


I sure can remember not being able to read.

I was in the middle of 2nd grade before I finally got diagnosed with dyslexia & sent to a specialist - it was literally the 3rd grade before I could read. So hey, thanks for working with kids with reading disabilities- someone like you made a huge difference in my life when I was a little kid. By the 6th grade, I was testing at college level, so it’s all pretty well sorted at this point, thanks to that intervention.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:00 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


I got some help with "claustrophobia", which is a pretty darn weird word for a 5-6 year old kid to know, but I was still proud and delighted.

The Phantom Tollbooth is specifically the book that made me fall in love with language & reading. It was so full of wonderful words. By the time I was 9, I was literally reading Webster’s Collegiate page by page, underlining words & copying the really good ones & their definitions by hand into a notebook.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:08 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Ah the 70s.

We survived them!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:09 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


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