When I was 4, I wanted to be a garbage man. At least, that’s what my parents told me. I don’t remember that.
When I was 5, I wanted to be a baker. My grandfather was a baker. I was scared of my grandfather because of his speech impediment, so I didn’t want to be like him. Years later I found out that he talked the way he did because he had a stroke a year or so before I was born.
My mom wanted me to be a journalist. I would spend hours at the dining room table writing in notebooks practicing my handwriting while my mom watched tv in the living room, never letting me leave until my writing started to get better and better. Then I found out what technology was, so my writing sucks again.
My dad wanted me to be a musician, just like him. His music studio was in my bedroom until I was 6 or 7 and my baby sister was no longer an infant who needed to be in a crib in my parents’ room but in a bed in my room. Some people think that’s why I have synaesthesia (when your senses cross: for me, I see music in color). I think that’s why I have hearing problems. My dad forced me on separate occasions to learn piano and to learn how to song write. At the time, I could play a C scale on a piano, and I wrote a song about how “love is like blowing bubbles,” and the melody in my head was basically “This is What Dreams are Made Of,” from the Lizzie McGuire movie.
When I was 10, I wanted to be straight. My first crush was on a boy who I am referring to as “Lee.” I prayed a lot to be straight. My dad used to be a pastor, and was pretty religious. So was my mom. I think they were religious in different ways, but for similar reasons: to cope with the world.
When I was 11, I wanted to be a masseuse. During Career Day in middle school, I met a bunch of physical therapists and thought “I want to crack people’s backs. I want to make people feel good.” I never told people until college that that was what I wanted to do, but I love giving massages, and some say I’m good, depending on how drunk or horny they are.
When I was 12, I wanted to be 13.
When I was 13, I wanted to be adopted. It didn’t seem like I could really be myself with my family, so I should just be with a different one. Didn’t really work that way.
When I was 16, I wanted to be a country singer. I told maybe two people, and they told me I couldn’t because I was Black. I switched to jazz.
When I was 18, I wanted to be an environmentalist. I did an internship with the Student Conservation Association, and I went to a panel focusing on careers for people of color in environmental sustainability. A month after that panel I became a Religion major. Then I became a Theater and Religion major. Then I made my own major. Then I was gonna drop it to be a Classics major. Then Oberlin was probably gonna kick me out (unless I could still pay maybe).
When I was 19, I wanted to get married. I don’t know if it was because I dealt with a lot of trauma or not, but I figured that I wanted to be in a completely committed relationship with some guy who would take care of me (or more importantly, let me take care of him). I proceeded to hook up with openly gay guys in relationships, and men who probably had families but went to bathhouses. They all liked when I massaged them though.
When I turned 21 a couple of months ago, I didn’t know what I wanted. There was a period of time where I didn’t think I would live to be 18. But here I am. I think I want adventure. I want to travel for the rest of my life. I want to write. I want to make love. I want to help people like me know that it’s OK if they don’t know what they want, as long as they’re safe and loved as they try to figure it out.
Maybe I just want too much. I’m gonna go for it anyway.