By Shannon Boatwright
Michelle Obama said it and said it really well when she was asked by Oprah why she named her book Becoming…
“Becoming just summed it up. A question that adults ask kids – I think it’s the worst question in the world – is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As if growing up is finite. As if you become something and that is all there is. I don’t know what the next step will be. I tell young people that all the time. The truth is, for me, each decade has offered something amazing that I would have missed out on so much. So I’m still becoming, and this is the story of my journey.”
This is taken from Oprah’s magazine, the December 2018, Volume 19, Number 12 Edition.
I enjoyed reading this article so much. So much because I could relate to her whole point of “becoming”. As individuals, we’re always learning, growing, experiencing, gaining new interests and passions – becoming a different and hopefully better version of ourselves as time goes by.
It’s wild…I certainly never thought I’d relate to a first lady, but the truth is, being a teacher right now at this point in my life’s journey, I catch myself saying to every class I teach, “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! And that’s ok.”
As a Drama teacher, an exploratory teacher, I teach well over 100 students every day, every 9 weeks. With each new class, I have them fill out a questionnaire that is all about them and their favorites, along with a few extra questions, including, what do you want to be when you grow up. It’s my special way of getting to know each student and hopefully find an opportunity to relate to them on some level and connect them to each other via their favorites and possible similarities.
BUT, I always make sure to make it very clear that their favorites will change – possibly from week to week or even day to day, as well as ‘what they want to be when they grow up’ will change and that is totally ok!
I always share my own stories as I attempt to connect with my students…
When I was in elementary school and a Brownie (similar to a Girl Scout), I was on the Mr. Knozit Show – our very own South Carolina, WIS TV show starring Joe Pinner. My Brownie troop went and I was lucky enough to actually get to talk to Mr. Knozit! And guess what… he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I immediately responded with excitement and pride, “I want to be a dancer!” He responded with, “Oh, like Fred Astaire!?” I looked at him like he was crazy and quickly responded with, “No, like Leroy, from Fame!” Very telling of the times – it was the early 80s after all. It was quite the comical moment looking back – I’ll never forget the look on his face as he looked confused and then quickly went on to the next kid. A great sitcom moment actually. Anyways, at that point in my life, more than anything in the world, I wanted to be a dancer and if anyone asked me, that was always my response.
Until…I saw the 1986 movie, Space Camp. Upon seeing that movie, my sights changed dramatically. More than anything, I wanted to be an astronaut! I was so inspired by that movie, it changed everything for me. I became so passionate and serious about wanting to be an astronaut when I grew up, that my parents saved up money and actually sent me to Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama. It was the summer after 7th grade and I thought I was the coolest kid EVER. I was going to the real Space Camp and I was going to be an astronaut just like the characters in the movie. So I get there, I’m totally enthralled and thought every aspect was out of this world super cool. I got to experience similar things that I saw in the movie. I was able to get into a contraption that simulated walking on the moon, simulate different missions into outer space, build rockets and…well, let’s just get right to the point and say that although it was a priceless experience I’ll never forget, after two weeks of hardcore space training, I discovered really quickly that I was not good at science and math. Definitely not my strong suits! I was good at making friends, collaborating and “pretending” to be a science and math wiz. In fact, I was smart enough to pinpoint the really intelligent kids and make sure to partner with them so I could have a successful mission and do well! But by the end of that two weeks, I instantly knew that I no longer had any desire to be an astronaut. But I did know that I wanted to “act” like an astronaut. Now that was intriguing! THAT was something I could do. 😉 Yea, let’s just say that apparently it was the acting in that good ole Space Camp movie that was really igniting the passion within me.
My students of course get a kick out of hearing those stories. And they inevitably always ask me tons of other questions, including why I left Los Angeles if it was acting that I wanted to do. I go on to tell them that my time in L.A. taught me so many amazing things. Though I went out there with the sole purpose of acting, I learned that I had other talents that I was passionate about, along with acting. I discovered that I loved to produce and direct. I discovered a deeper joy for writing. I discovered that I also enjoyed other jobs within the entertainment industry, besides acting. By chance, I literally fell into entertainment reporting & interviewing, and I absolutely loved it! I realized I was pretty darn good at it. I was intrigued by the challenge of the research and the opportunity to talk with and interview celebrities, sports stars and big wigs in showbiz. Along with acting, this gig, was right up my alley, was so amazing, paid incredibly well and was just flat out super cool. In my wildest dreams, I would’ve never thought I’d move to California and end up doing a job like that.
And this is when my students REALLY start to question why in this world I’d ever leave that dream gig and move back to SC. Well, another passion in my heart and soul was that of becoming a mother. It meant more to me than any celebrity interview or starring role. So when I became pregnant with my firstborn, I was all about being a Mom. My students don’t really get that and they won’t until they become parents themselves. But it’s all a fine example of “becoming”.
The definition of becoming is ‘the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state.’ As humans, we indeed transform, we grow, we evolve. And if we’re lucky enough to recognize and respect the evolution of our self, our becoming, we can live such full, incredible lives!
When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, my angel daughter, Mina, in her toddler years, would say she wanted to be a fairy godmother. My angel boy, Sawyer, would say he wanted to be Spiderman. They were both very serious about that too. But of course since their preschool days, they’ve moved towards other aspirations. I’ll never forget being at my daughter’s IGP meeting with her middle school guidance counselor where they help figure out what high school courses to take. The lady asked my girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. Mina had a look of panic in her eyes – she didn’t know! I could tell she wanted to scream it and declare that there were lots of things she wants to do and be. But nowadays the schools want to forge a path for these kids and in order to do that, they always ask that lovely, sometimes dreaded question, as if they have to decide now and stick to it forever. So I reassure my own children and my students that what we want to be when we grow up changes as we evolve and experience more things in life, and THAT IS OK!
I have a true passion for teaching and hope to have the opportunity to do so, in some form, for the rest of my life. It fills my heart to inspire others and open their minds, so I’m very proud to call myself a teacher. Does that mean that is the finite thing that I want to be when I grow up? Absolutely not. I will continue to grow, to transform, and God willing, use my gifts and talents as I evolve. I am becoming.