What did you want to be when you were growing up? Did you want to be a doctor? A lawyer? Maybe a nurse or a fire fighter... the possibilities seemed endless didn't they? When you were little, so much seemed possible and there was, at least most of the time, a fire that burned inside you that always pushed you toward those dreams. Damn, even a princess was a legitimate career option.
For half of us, that fire doesn't go out. It pushes us right into being that fashion designer we always wanted to be or the doctor you said you would be. For the other half of us, that fire doesn't just fizzle but rather turns into another fire all together. We don't end up becoming professional chefs but rather nurses, we aren't raking in millions on Broadway but we're working at nonprofits. What I'm getting at here is that it's okay. It's okay that your childhood dreams didn't become your adult profession. It's OKAY that you aren't rich and famous or saving hundreds of lives a week.
When I was younger (3rd grade era) I wanted to be a meteorologist... not sure why. I think I just liked the warm sunshine and figured if I could predict the weather, I could just make it sunny every day. Then entered the dolphin trainer era. Man, I was hung up on this for most of middle school. I just knew I was destined to work at SeaWorld training all of the dolphins. In hindsight, really glad that didn't work out... SeaWorld doesn't seem to be doing so hot. After the dolphin dream ended, I gave up on thinking about the future until about freshman year of high school and from there on out, it was the music industry. You guys, I wanted SO BAD to work at a record label to help scout the latest and greatest and discover the next Ellie Goulding. I remember this dream being the strongest. My grandmother took me to visit NYU when I was a sophomore in high school because they had a great music business program and I was hellbent on going there.... until the reality of an ivy league school and a six figure tuition set in. Even when I went off to college, I took music business classes, spent all of my free time at local shows, hanging out in record stores. I transferred to VCU in Richmond because of their rapidly growing music scene and even worked at a venue and an artist management company for awhile. I never wanted to get into a serious relationship, I thought marriage was overrated, and settling down with a house and kids was more of a punch line than a chapter in my book. All in all, that fire was alive and well inside of me and I was rollin' right on towards that goal.
I don't remember what specifically but I do remember all of the sudden being like "this isn't really what I want to do.." -- I remember seeing the ugly side of the music industry, which for those of you that don't know, the ugly side represents about 80% of everything I though I wanted to do. The fire started to fizzle and suddenly I was lost. I had that dream for so many years that I hadn't really thought of an alternative. So there was a brief period in one of my semesters where a full mental breakdown occurred because I just had NO IDEA what I wanted to do with my life. I switched majors, picked up a camera, and well, here we are today! I'm married, working for my favorite magazine, and living in ALABAMA... a far cry from the big cities that once called my name. But you know what?
Because I am the happiest that I have ever been and I really cannot imagine my life any other way. My husband is amazing, my puppy is my world, and one day soon, I'm prayin' that I get that little white picket fence house --- no matter how much 17 year Ashley would have hated it.
My moral of all of this rambling is I think that sometimes people compare themselves to their colleagues or high school alum and get a little disheartened that they aren't the doctors and astronauts that their childhood self pledged they would be. Every single day we are faced with choices and situations that shape our future but it's so important to remember that what's more important is who you become rather than what. Don't beat yourself up for being happy with a white picket fence and family over lights/camera/action. However, if you DID become that doctor, lawyer, or astronaut, you freakin' rock and I'll pour you a glass of wine right now because I know it wasn't easy.
But all in all, I think that if you wake up in the morning and you're alive and well, then hey, you're doing alright.