#52sparks: What you wanted to be when you grew up

Marine mamalologist

It took me a long time to figure out those words, and if I’m being 100% honest, I still have to check the internet to make sure I’m spelling them right.

When I was a kid, I wanted to either work at Sea World or in Alaska with orcas.  Also know as killer whales but those who clearly had not read all of the glossy picture-filled books I had.  Rather than just aiming to be a “dolphin trainer,” I wanted to figure out the right job to aim for that would have me up close and personal with these beautiful creatures.  Once upon a time, back when the earth was still cooling and before Al Gore invented the internet, that meant time in the library.

At first the research process was a lot of discovering what I didn’t want to be.  Oceanography had the perfect sounding name…but could lead me to just working with seaweed or algae rather than translating whale songs.  Marine Biology was closer in that it seemed to focus more on animals…but again might have me stuck with some creature that leaves a slimy trail or suctions onto another creature.  Um, no.  Marine Mamalologist was as perfect as the third bed and porridge were for Goldilocks.  The fancy words simply meant studying mammals that lived in the water, like whales, dolphins, otters, and sea lions.  Check please.

As an elementary student, my bedroom walls were lined with posters of dolphins rather than boy bands or movie stars.  Every science fair project revolved around my obsession and stuffed whales piled at the bottom of my bed.  One of my prized treasures is the stuffed bottle-nosed dolphin that my grandfather got me at the fair (apparently he bought it from an arcade employee, who was fired for breaking the rules, so my toy has a scandalous history).

Into middle and high school, my dreams of the future shifted and swirled, but never landed as strongly as that first dream.

  • I wanted to be a doctor, until I fainted at the sight of a scar.
  • I wanted to be a lawyer, until learning how much paperwork and how little courtroom arguing was involved.
  • I wanted to be a pastor, until I discovered they had to do more than preach on Sunday mornings.
  • I wanted to be a princess…okay, I’d still like to be a princess but with Harry unavailable, I’m not sure how to make that happen.

Visiting the beach, especially if there is whale watching involved, remains a favorite activity as the quiet and immense space invites the visitor to imagine all that has been and all that could be.  On the other hand, I can’t handle going to aquariums or Sea World to see creatures in such confined spaces.  When I first saw Free Willy, I definitely reenacted the victory scene a few times, minus the orca of course.

These days I don’t know what job title I want, instead I focus on the life I want to live and the strengths I want to utilize.  I am a writer, an advisor, an organizer, an advocate, and a change-agent.  And I am still someone with pictures of the ocean on her bedroom walls (and Captain Jack Sparrow).

#52sparks is my year-long writing series based on an art prompt challenge.  The title is inspired by a quote from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron).  The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch.  So just imagine what hundreds of inches and words can do.

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