When I grow up, I want to be…

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For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be an astronaut. I still do.  I maintain that if I could go to space, my entire life would be complete and there would be nothing else I would need; the love of a good man, four beautiful children, a cat, completed mortgage payments: nothing. It’s not a dream that has gone away, but as you can tell I haven’t really achieved this ambition of mine.

I remember, acutely and painfully, the moment I realised that it wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t have been more than about nine, and I was visiting the National Space Centre with my dad. (By the way, really awesome place, thinking about it now I want to go back.) Standing in front of a display board I was devouring the information about ‘How to Become an Astronaut’ with all the determination I could muster when I struck upon the damning phrase. To become a Shuttle Commander, it was necessary to know how to fly a plane. Not only that, space sickness was at least ten times worse than air sickness.
Reader, I cried. In the middle of the exhibit. I mean, it wasn’t bawling your eyes out and sobbing and pounding the floor, more lone emo tears, but I’m still not ashamed to admit that I ran to my dad and I cried, because I knew that was it. The spark had gone.

It’s funny, because looking back at it now I can tell you what it was – and it was really stupid. I mean, I knew I’d have to be physically fit, have a good grasp of physics and become an American – nothing I was particularly keen on. I also knew that the selection process was gruelling and it was more unlikely than likely that I would get chosen. But it was this space sickness and flying a plane thing that got me. I was going through a bout of extreme fear of flying coupled with air sickness. It was a joy. And to my nine-year old self, truly was the final nail in the coffin.

Which is sad, really, because I’d been planning it forever. I remember smugly telling people that I would be the first person on Mars and that I was guaranteed to make it because research had been done into the effects of loneliness, and women were less likely to lose the plot, apparently. I wrote a letter to Nasa. I read anything and everything to do with space. Sir Patrick Moore is still one of my idols. But my astronaut ambition is gone, even if the space dream hasn’t disappeared.

Sometimes I lament this loss of ambition. Since then, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted something like that in the same way. I thought about being a geologist. I wanted to be a writer. And I think I might want to be a librarian. But I’m not really convinced, not like I was about space travel.

And that’s what started this post, really. I was organising books, trying to work out whether I want to be a librarian. I like being a library assistant. I like order, I like books, I like being able to think about things other than my work when I’m at home. I enjoy talking to people, explaining things, helping them to find books, information etc.  I like meeting new people, learning new things, searching for authors and contacting people I’ve never met. If I was ever very good at this (and qualified) I could travel, perhaps, and learn so much more. It doesn’t seem to me like a static job, so I think I could get used to doing it.

Also, I could write (potentially). I’m not sure I want to be a writer. It’s never been one of those things that I can’t live without, or feel as though there are ideas spinning around my head all the time. I don’t feel that it’s a calling in the same way as others seem to, and for that reason I’ve always wondered whether or not I can call myself a writer. However, it does seem to be something I do automatically, as a response, and it seems to be something I can do. It’s also something I have opinions on, and care about. When I read now, I can see the influence my writing and learning about writing has had. And I enjoy that. I want to keep learning about literature and learning to apply that to my own work, but I couldn’t tell you if it’s what I ought to be doing. So I like a job that’s different, as it doesn’t seem I’ll ever be supporting myself as a writer, and library work certainly lets me learn and think on the job – but do I really want to be a librarian?

I seem to be becoming a librarian. I don’t think that’s the same as having a burning desire for information science, but I don’t think that’s altogether a bad thing. I don’t hate it, that’s for sure. The things I like about my job outnumber the things I don’t, and while I don’t want that to be all that I aim for in life I can’t deny it’s a good thing.

I don’t think this is a decision I will be making any time soon. I’ve always been happy to do what I like and see where that takes me. And I like working in a library, and I like writing. So we’ll see where that takes me. And, at the very least, if the ISS ever sets up a space library, I’ll be on board!

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One thought on “When I grow up, I want to be…

  1. This was a beautiful read, Kim. I now have a burning desire to press your nine-year-old self to my breast (for purposes of comfort, you understand).
    I think this is quite a fearful time in our lives really, just a month ago it seemed I could only ever work in bookshops as I had no experience of anything else. Even working at OUP now I feel in danger of being stuck there, just quietly slipping into what’s convenient. But we’re clever girls! And we have GUMPTION. We’ll be fine.

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