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Looking Back to Move Forward

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the things I wanted to be when I grew up. This brings to mind one particular not so pleasant memory. I was nine and our third grade class was asked to share what we wanted to be when we grew up. I can still picture my hand waving madly as I waited for Mrs. Shackman to pick me. And when she did I stood up and announced so proudly that I want to be a singer, actress, writer and mother. But Mrs. Shackman shook her head, told me to sit down and adamantly declared, “Silly, you are going to get married and have babies.” This WAS was a part of my plan but certainly not all of it. I felt totally deflated and humiliated for several weeks after.

In the ninth grade I became a candy striper and stood proud in that ridiculous apron like dress. I delivered books and flowers to the hospital’s patients. At thirteen I already knew that I would do something in my life to help people. Although I did not begin my training to become a therapist until my thirties, I look back at those years of volunteering and service to others as keys to my authentic self. In the years that followed, I willingly relinquished acting and singing (except in the shower) and added art-making.

I believe that going backward in time can be incredibly useful at times—particularly as we face midlife. If ever there is a time to ask “What do I want to be?” now is it. And asking “What did I want to be?” “What did I love?” “What made me happy when I was a child?” — each of these questions can provide some interesting insights. My grandfather was a dressmaker when I was young and he used to save me bits of left-over fabrics and trimmings. Recently I remembered how much I loved making dresses and accessories for my dolls out of those remnants. I now make these elaborate collages out of any available scraps of paper and fabric. This was way before I knew I was an artist.

So, if you are asking “What’s next?” try looking back to when you were nine or ten. You  might discover interesting things that will help you move forward to the next part of your life.



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