AI: Growing Gains


One unfortunate facet of being a kid is you often can’t wait until you grow up, because clearly that is when you get to decide everything for yourself, society sees you as an independent being and you can finally eat ice cream whenever you please. Although I have it on good faith that some kids realise how good they have it at that age, and make the best of those care-free days, I spent a lot of time waiting to grow up, to get out.

I always remember wishing I was a boy, or at least to be able to do everything ‘boys did’ and for it not to be a big deal and I hated the realities and expectations that came with being a girl. Then, from about the ages of 8 to 15 (yes I know this is quite old, don’t judge me), if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say I wanted to be a detective. Yes, the trenchcoat-wearing, coffee-sipping, perp-catching kind. It’s all I thought about, I’d devour any mystery book or TV show I could find, I spent many hours planning elaborate perfect crimes and how my keen senses of observation and powers of deduction would always help me figure out whodunnit in the end. Which is why when reality struck (and the fact that I actually have very poor reflexes, upper body strength or the inability to watch a televised murder without shielding my eyes) I realised I wanted to be the next best thing, a scientist. I still get to solve mysteries, but without the threat of physical danger. Actually, that’s still a possibility in my line of work. But lately I’ve realised that there’s more to that question and growing up than what career you choose, there’s so much more to the decisions you make about your life and how you choose to live it than what pays the bills, and it’s still something I’m figuring out today. Which is why if someone were to ask that question of me now, all I would say is ‘to be happy’.

What did you want to be as you were growing up? How close did you get to what you wanted to be/do? And are you happy that you did/didn’t do so?

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  1. I wanted to make video games, and that is exactly what I’ve done professionally since 2001.

    Other occupations that I considered were baker, or bassist. Turns out those are pretty good hobbies too!

  2. When I was growing up (from age 9 to maybe 14) I wanted to be an archeologist. I had never seen Indiana Jones, but I had seen dozens of Egyptology and paleontology specials on the Discovery channel. I wanted to discover new things, or more accurately, I wanted to rediscover very old things.

    Right now I’m about to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and preparing to enter a Master’s program for Social Work, which is almost (although not quite) ENTIRELY UNLIKE archeology. I still want to discover new things, although in this case it would be in the field of Sociological research. We’ll see how it goes.

    This is the space I would use to describe the feelings of loss associated with realizing I’d never marry a man and stay home raising children, if I’d ever experienced any such feelings of loss.

  3. I wanted to be a POP SUPERSTAR! Like Madonna, only sharper cone bras!

    That or a bus driver. I don’t know why, but I was fascinated by my school bus drivers.

    I came nowhere near becoming a POP SUPERSTAR! Some days I do feel like punching grad school in the face and going to drive a bus, though. =P

    In all seriousness, I am super happy to be an anthropologist and I wouldn’t have it any other way. =)

  4. I wanted to be a robot. No joke. I read all kinds of books about the future, most of which made some kind of Kurzweilian prediction that we’d be able to upload our minds into a computer within a generation.

    Obviously I’m not a robot (yet) but I think I’ve kept the robot principals. Like logic, determination, perseverance, and non-prejudice*.

    *Kill all humans.

  5. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a mathematician. I read books about great mathematicians, wrestled with mathematical puzzles, excelled with subjects like high school honors calculus, got into a pretty darned good university, aced my classes there and hurried toward earning a math degree. Then, toward the end of my sophomore year, I crashed. I took incompletes in most of my classes, and went into an alternative educational program within my university. As I finished my incompletes, I wrestled with erupting feelings of horrible loneliness, rage, self-hatred, and the dawning realization that I was queer, and even subtly gender-variant. I started to write and draw, and my interest in math evaporated, just one course shy of finishing my major. I just couldn’t do it. This was way back in 1974-1975. The next few years included being homeless briefly after graduation, struggling with overwhelming depression, shunning my family which I regarded as being dangerous to my mental health, getting disability benefits for mental illness, doing all sorts of new age and humanistic therapies and even being in a new age cult for a few years, as well as having sex with as many women and men as I could, questing to understand my sexuality. Many years later, I am an artist who makes my living working with graphic designers and photographers doing photo retouching and graphics production; I also have a longstanding identification as a skeptic and atheist (the eventual result from my disastrous cult experience). Occasionally, I still regret not having finished my math major and having the more conventional, linearly-progressing life which I had originally expected to lead, settling in for a comfy career in academia, discovering obscure truths about abstract mathematical entities and dazzling people with my imagined brilliance. On the other hand, I’ve had lots of weird experiences, have experimented wildly with my life sometimes, learned many bitter and fascinating lessons, and have been forced to contemplate many facets of human life that most people would rather not do voluntarily. Luckily, I have not self-destructed, am not poor, still have brazen hopes for my future, and have crawled my way up to a plateau of relative sanity and contentment that, considering where I started years ago, is a huge, fragile, utterly non-religious, non-paranormal semi-miracle.

  6. I wanted to be an architect most of all as a child but in high school my dreams were dashed by a math teacher who told me I would never do as one with the poor maths skills I had. (As it turns out I’m rather good at mat and have gotten compliments from my teachers.) After that I set my hopes on becoming a professional writer, but gave it up for something in the funerary business when I felt pressured by my high school administrators to pick a job that could assure greater financial security. Then at the age of twenty-two I decided on becoming a psychologist, with interest to do research and psychotherapy. It nicely combines a field that fascinates me with a greater purpose, and possibly even a decent income.

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