Who do you want to be when you grow up? I know – usually the question is, What do you want to be? with the expectation that the answer will be a vocation (fireman? tax lawyer? philosophy professor?). And the question is usually asked of young people, probably pre-teens.
Well, I’m not going to do it that way. Here’s why: Kim and I recently watched a movie, The Feast of Love, and about halfway through I said to her, “I want to be Morgan Freeman when I grow up.”
“You already are,” she said, though later she came up with some ways I am not like Morgan Freeman.
But it got me to thinking: Who did I want to be when I grew up at various stages of my life? I knew it was Denzel Washington a few years back, and Kim even taught me how to do a “Denzel Walk” with great confidence, some sexiness, with a hint of threat. Denzel is no longer in my future.
Atticus Finch served me well. Still does. And more recently, Barack Obama.
When I was much younger I wanted to be Clark Kent. Not Superman – too much pressure. But “mild mannered” Clark felt just right. I liked having hidden potential, and I liked feeling that my awkward fumbling was only a cover. This still works for me occasionally.
The one superhero I wanted to be when I grew up was the Invisible Man – H.G. Wells version. Invisibility was my survival strategy. Let my bold brother Bob take the heat for pushing the boundaries at home, which is how I saw staying out late and going out with girls. No, I’d stay in my room and read. Invisibly. I wondered how long I could pull that off . . ..
Were there any real people who were models for who I wanted to become? Not that it matters, for real people are products of my imagination just as fictitious ones are. An early aspiration was Chuck Hayes, my 10th grade English teacher and hockey coach. It was about that time that I decided that I wanted to teach high school English. Other teachers who I wanted to be when I grew up were Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, Jack Heath at Exeter, and Roger Sale at Amherst. All were, to some extent, comic book characters. Nothing wrong with that, is there? As I said, they were products of my imagination, as was the role I played as a teacher. I hope I retired before becoming a comic book version of myself.
Aside from the “Who?” and the “want,” the other interesting part of the question is “when I grow up,” the implications being, 1) I am not yet grown up (and who is? Morgan Freeman), and 2) I am evolving, or at least I have the potential to evolve. And that’s probably good news. Choose a good model, and I may get a seat at the grown-ups table.
On the other hand, maybe being grown up is over-rated.