When I Grow Up

When I was 10 years old I formed a band with my little sister and two neighbours. JABA, we called it: Jessica, Alana, Breanna, and Alex. And while none of us played instruments or could actually sing, I cannot remember a time in my life where I felt more passionate and driven in something. To the 10 year old me JABA was IT. My yellow brick road to YTV’s the Hitlist, fame and fortune. We never practiced, or “jammed” (because we couldn’t). In fact most of my memories surrounding JABA involve me writing original songs and dancing around my basement singing alone after school. I should mention that most days I would sing and dance to the musical stylings of Celine Dion and the Footloose soundtrack- not JABA’s songs.

There are however two songs I can still remember. One, written by my terribly cool sister, was called Colours and it was a short repetitive tune that described a “sea of colours swirling around”. Even at 9 she was a free spirited artist.

The songs I wrote tended to be about love and heartbreak, which I had no experience in, but was desperate to know thanks to too many Mary Kate and Ashley movies that made me boy-crazy. My best work was titled “But will he be there?” Here’s the chorus:

“But will he be there this boy full of joy,

But will he be there this boy oh so sweet,

But will he be there when the nights are cold,

But will he be there alwayssssss…”

Surprisingly, I wasn’t completely devastated when JABA broke up- I had planned on going solo eventually anyways. But my dream of being a performer did not die with JABA, and on the first day of Grade 5 when my teacher made us go around and say what we wanted to be when we grew up I announced “pop star” with confidence. You can only imagine how devastated I was when my Grade Five/Six split class erupted in laughter. Apparently “pop star” was not an acceptable career goal for a ten year old.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Of the younger me who knew exactly what she wanted and how crushed she was when she started to care about what others thought. How all of the sudden there comes a point in your life when you stop believing you can be anything you want to be, and realize that maybe your dreams of one day winning a Nickelodeon’s Teen Choice Award aren’t exactly feasible.

Lately it seems like all anyone wants to ask me is “What are you doing after school?”, which I guess isn’t too odd a question for someone who is graduating in the Spring (hopefully.) But whenever I get asked this question I can feel the anxiety bubbling up in me, the unwarranted anger in my voice. I cut the conversation short, usually still stinging from the shock of a family member or friend after I reply with “I don’t really know”, or “I’ll figure it out”, or my current favourite: “I’d like to plan weddings, I think.”

I guess I’m just curious as to why I want to snap off my poor grandmothers head every time she asks me about my future, because I know, well society tells me that this is not acceptable behaviour. Yet, when I speak with people my age who are at similar points in their lives they all seem to feel the same way. But if none of us have “it” figured out, why are we are all we all so anxious about it? Maybe this is the problem with our school system: you are taught to do well in school, so you can go to university to study one thing, so you can graduate and get a job doing that one thing and if you don’t; well you failed. And maybe the beauty of being 21 at this very moment is that we have a chance to realize that we are not failures, we are humans. Humans who can change their minds and be whatever or whoever they want to be. Heck, I can still be a pop star if I damn well want to be.

All I know is that I’m not alone. We all feel it. And maybe if we leaned over to one another and said “Its ok. I’m in the same boat. No one has it together, girl. And anyone who is pretending to, has become real good at faking it.”, then we could all breathe a sigh of relief that everything will indeed be OK. That all is right.

I also know that I could use a lot more moments of passion, creativity and confidence like the artistic 10 year old me had. And I hope to slowly gain that same openness and hope in the world back one day. Hey! I’ve already started!

Life is an incredible mystery, with beauty in every moment that we can’t always appreciate at the time. I see now that  proudly announcing “pop star” that first day of school didn’t make me silly or weird, it just meant that I had somehow managed to hold off the inevitable squashing of dreams, and I think that thats pretty cool. I hope that in another 10 years I can look back to now and say the same. That its not that I was lost, or didn’t have it figured out or had failed, but that I was able to appreciate the importance of dreaming, and had finally learned and chosen to ignore the other children’s laughs.

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