You have my word.

Words have power: that must count for something.

The challenges with not knowing what you wanna be when you grow up

I am twenty-four-years-old and, dare I say, none the wiser than I was at four-years-old. The “when you grow up” concept is a tricky, overly-flexible concept that has, without question, been warped into a myriad of recognisable and (some) unrecognisable shapes. Pinterest will tell you that you should want to be happy, or content or fulfilled “when you grow up” and yet when we are posed with this question for the first time – standing in our pre-primary classroom called “Fireflies” or “The Green Group” or “Silly Stars” or something else elementary, meant only to appeal to the alliteration-alert ears of those under the age of five… when we are posed with this question, we shoot out with “fireman!” or “a fairy princess!” or “a teacher”.

A few years closer to those (now known as) career ideals (as if that’s all they are) and we’re told that our answer has been wrong all along. Well, maybe not wrong, but definitely not right either. I’m enough of a case in point to demonstrate how (too) often this is the reality.

Growing up I wanted to be (give or take a few thousand) about 1 million different things. Sometimes my “life goals” oscillated between two distinct points, other times I was convinced I could split my relatively-composed self into five different parts to perform five different integral and influential roles in this great big world. The older I became I systematically crossed things off that I knew I would never amount to, which wasn’t always a bad thing. Quite honestly, if I were ever dubbed a genetic scientist, I imagine I would only succeed in causing my cat to grow another limb (lab mishaps and all that…). Similarly, I could never be a doctor; imagine how awkward it would be if once the patient on my theatre table had been sliced open and just as I was about to operate I passed out – obviously stabbing the closest nurse because I was holding a scalpel at the ready at the time of my, somewhat embarrassing, encounter. To a lesser degree, some skin infections give me the heebie-jeebies so, no. A doctor was never on the list.

kid-professor (1)

I wanted to be a teacher, and to some degree I have fulfilled this role but in the traditional “classroom” sense. Incompetence and ignorance cannot be cured by throwing whiteboard erasers at heads, and hard rock music has not yet been likened to having the same mentally stimulating effects as classical music. Pity that is.

I wanted to be a civil engineer; dismantling all useful appliances was always a hobby (after which they were soon no longer useful) and to this day, I claim that I learned something every time I took something apart. I built a rather elaborate race car track entirely out of paper once too – it had loops and levels and pillars and ramps and everything! That’s paper though, and toy cars don’t have living people in them. Engineering requires mathematics (apparently) and after a dismal 3% in a maths test nearing the end of my school sentence, it was confirmed that I shouldn’t be responsible for structures that other people would be using.

While “dressing up” as a kid was still acceptable I transitioned from being a cowboy to a police officer at least six times a day. Some weeks I was a famous BMX trickster, a world-renowned cricketer, a hippy that only ate from the earth, a carpenter, a soccer player, a wrestler, a professional roller blader. All that just to learn that it is essential for a child to dream. Yes, if they don’t dream they may avoid some disappointment, but life is full of disappointments whether you dream or not. So what’s there to lose?

little-fireman

I was told once – by no one significantly important in the grander scheme of things as far as “big issues” like politics and solving the world hunger crisis goes – that you cannot trust a man without dreams. From so many angles this makes so much sense. If a man wants nothing for himself – if he has no ideals, doesn’t strive for excellence in any sense – then he will not want anything for another. He will not uphold any ideal for someone else and that is perhaps the greatest disappointment of all – settling for what is, settling for the not-necessarily-better than yesterday.

This collection of thoughts is turning out to be longer than I imagined but I feel that it’s necessary to write what I write. Let me say that the fireman- or the fairy princess- or the cowboy- or the doctor-dreams are not for nought. They represent the values that children – as small and sometimes innocent as they are – have come to recognise. So perhaps they can’t label “happiness” because they don’t know how to say it; perhaps they can’t label “courage” or “strength” or “intelligent” but they do know the other words and the people that represent them.

After all this, I think children know what they want. They are not yet tainted; they have not yet been told what to think. And maybe “bravery” doesn’t translate to being a firefighter in the end, but to being a motivational speaker. Maybe “successful” doesn’t translate to being a lawyer, but to being an understanding, compassionate teacher. Maybe “intelligent” doesn’t translate to engineer or politician, but to being a profoundly influential businessman. Maybe “happy” doesn’t amount to being very rich, but to being a gentle stay-at-home mom.

Eric's Camera 5108

Don’t question what children say when they tell you what they want to be when they grow up. Simply listen; watch them as they teach their teddies the basics of geography, as they build castles in the sand, as they fire their toy guns at friends and birds and dogs and trees and cars… they are aiming for something. They might hit something if you let them. They will face enough opposition without your dissent. Let them be what they want to be when they grow up.

Love is no Ritual

I wrote and performed this poem – high above the city – for the one my heart belongs to. Much love and gratitude to those who made this video possible.

—–

If eyes could hold holiness, there is something sacred in the way you look at me. Some undoing of disbelief. Some taunting mystery beneath a sky the colour of words I cannot say:

I am here, with gentle hands and lips that have taught your tongue to pray. I am here, no longer the greater whole – dismantled stories, untold. I am here, coming apart gracefully – heavy with promises that keep their own word and therein lies their glory. I am here, stooped low in reverence, with words of worship within the walls of a sanctuary. A temple built from ruins.

And I know that love is no easy religion… for there is no ritual to guide the way in which we praise. There is no vigil, nor hymn, nor mantra. We are self-appointed saints reciting scripture skin and knees worn from nights of pleading. If faith is being sure of what we do not see… I have known miracle. You. Have unfurled your fists, learned to give up control, letting all go. You hold more when your palms are splayed to match the canvas of the light. You hold more when you aren’t clinging to everything you’ve ever known. Let all go. There is more.

In the whisper and the silence before the dawn… find stillness. Where before, your heart knew only a cave, no, see a city built within your chest. Higher than steeple or tower. A fortress. You are strong. You are refuge within high walls. You are masterpiece – a showcase of disaster and divinity.

Others will come, questioning everything holy, questioning everything sacred, questioning everything seemingly intangible, questioning everything their eyes cannot yet see. So meet me where the earth meets the sky. Come with open palms to mirror the sun – skin, ready for the weight of scripture to be burned in. They will witness the mystery…when they see the way you look at me.

To this end

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This deep breath, this gasp
this drawing in.
This sin, this giving in
this transgressing.
This rage, this page
this release, this peace
almost. This wreck,
this sinking, this drinking
drowning sorrows till sleep.
This weeping child,
this hard heart, these eyes
these tears, these years
lost in fears like running wild
through forest. These trees,
these branches, this breaking.
This infallible ache, this waking
to check for monsters under the bed.
This dread, this darkness,
this death. This deep breath,
this exhale, this end.

—–

This is the 11th poem in a series of 30. Read the others:

Day 1: Tighter than fear

Day 2: Do not wish me to be true

Day 3: Listen

Day 4: What to ask after the wreckage

Day 5: Even though they die

Day 6: Where will you go when the rain comes?

Day 7: You cannot do much for the dead

Day 8: Keep it together

Day 9: Wrecking the very gods we built | On statues and stories

Day 10: Become giants from the ground

Become giants from the ground

Here is the unmaking
in petals falling with not enough weight
to break.
From faith of smallest measure,
a giant stems from ground’s hold –
pushing and making way
fighting against earth and air
gently.
It wouldn’t be called growth
if there was no gravity
for it’s only in the martyr of life
that we ever progress
or become less if we give in.
Let yourself rather reach and fall from the sky
than die half-height, half-strength
of what you could have been.
You will not break
nor smash
nor make a sound.
You will unmake even more into the soil,
and entrench yourself further into the roots,
and find the faith you thought too small to plant,
and birth yourself
ever tall
ever regal
ever made
again.

—–

This is the 10th poem in a series of 30. Read the previous nine here:

Day 1: Tighter than fear

Day 2: Do not wish me to be true

Day 3: Listen

Day 4: What to ask after the wreckage

Day 5: Even though they die

Day 6: Where will you go when the rain comes?

Day 7: You cannot do much for the dead

Day 8: Keep it together

Day 9: Wrecking the very gods we built | On statues and stories

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