What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

            This time of year, high school seniors begin to realize they are on the downhill slope of their senior year, — actually of their high school education. Some are already taking senior pictures, and at least one area school has just had their “Seniors Serve Night.” It’s an exciting, and, even, fun time, except for a nagging feeling they must study for SAT-type tests and look at potential colleges and plan entrance strategies, and maybe even decide on what to major in.

            My advice to my daughters when they became seniors was not to let the Big Change ahead spoil the fun of their senior year. Do both, — plan and have fun.

            When I look back at my own life, and think about my plans after high school graduation, I shudder, because I had no idea of “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Ideas came, and ideas went. Plans came and plans went. Lots of them.

            Having attended Dime Box Rural School through the Ninth Grade, I finished high school at Giddings High when we moved to the “big city.” Both sets of my grandparents were small cotton farmers in Dime Box, and, because I helped them chop and pick cotton, I knew how hard you had to work when farming was your vocation, and I ruled out farming as a career choice early on. Yet, because I loved country life and the freedom of farm life, tractors and barns and great cooking that only farmers’ wives can do, I felt tinges of maybe I should consider such a life.

            My father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and, even as a child I realized he worked as hard, or harder, than most farmers. Ruled out working on the railroad as a career right off the bat!

            My parents hoped my brother and I could go to college, if somehow we could carry it off financially, but I was unsure about that choice. I used to watch an old “shoe cobbler,” as we called him, in his shoe repair shop in Old Dime Box, put new soles and heels on shoes and work with all kinds of interesting leathers, and I rather liked the idea of someday having my own shoe shop. Indoors all day, never having to work in the blazing sun! And I loved the smell of freshly cut leather! Certainly beat the smell of cow manure and pig pens!

            My mother’s cousin was the Superintendent of Dime Box Rural School, and I thought I might like his job a lot, because all I ever saw him do each day was to come out on the wooden porch of his office and hit a large iron triangle with a hammer, signaling the end of each class period. But decided that would get boring after a while.

            The Giddings News was my favorite place in Giddings, and, when I was a high school junior or senior, I used to stand outside the large front window and watch the owner/editor run those huge antique printing presses, with newspapers flipping out fully printed. Eventually, I got brave enough to go inside, and I liked everything about the place, from Underwood typewriters clacking away to the louder clacking of the presses, and the newsroom smell, — I guess it was the smell of printer’s ink. As Feature Editor of the high school newspaper, I decided the newspaper business was the career for me!

            Of course, college and career ideas and plans changed by the month. My mother, being an incredibly gifted musician herself, wanted me to become a Band Director, so, in spite of zero musical talent, I gave that a great deal of thought. My maternal grandfather, an Elder in the church, hoped I would become a Lutheran pastor, and I entertained that idea until I found out how many years of college and seminary were required and how much that would cost.

            One of my great loves was drawing cartoons, using newspaper comic strips and comic books as my models. Still wanting to be a cartoonist my junior year in high school, I became Art Editor of the high school newspaper, and had to draw and gouge cartoons out of linoleum blocks.

            Of the two things I did for the newspaper, I found writing feature stories more personally satisfying than cartooning. In all the back and forth wishy-washiness of my career plans, I always came back to writing.

            So, I’m of the belief God gave each of us talents and abilities, and He presents ways for us to discover them, — and ultimately to zero in on the ones to be used in a lifetime career. A good reason to relax and enjoy your senior year.


Ray Spitzenberger, a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor, has recently published a book, It Must Be the Noodles, on sale at amazon.com

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