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Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Do you ever find yourself daydreaming about living a totally different life?

I do, often. Even though I love the life I’ve made for myself.

Our imaginary lives show us tiny slices of our dreams. We can honor those dreams by finding small ways to incorporate them into our existing lives.

In one of my alternate lives, I’m an artisan soapmaker. I have goats in the backyard which supply me with goatmilk for my World Famous Creamy Almond Bath Soap. While goats are technically allowed in my Seattle neighborhood, my building manager has already complained about my overzealous container gardening. I’m not sure she’d take kindly to a ruminant in the courtyard.

But I found some awesome books at the library on soapmaking (and goat herding, for that matter) and I’ve signed up for a class at the UW Experimental College this spring. I plan to make beautiful gift baskets for the holidays next winter.

In another imaginary life, I’m an apothecary. I live in a big old house with a sprawling garden in back where I grow wormwood, sage, licorice root and echinacea. In my shop, I dry the herbs and ground them up in a giant marble mortar and pestle. I pour them into little glass jars with handwritten labels. People come to me with ailments and I diagnose them, create a tea for them, heal them.

These alternate lives aren’t going to become reality this week. But if you look in my kitchen, the apothecary cabinet features an extensive array of glass mason jars filled with colorful loose teas, herbs, nuts and beans. There’s a marble mortar and pestle on the counter. And I’ve found a slightly modified way of healing people – using words.

Time to Dream

To play along at home, get out your journal. List five alternate lives you would live if time, money, age, time period, and geography were irrelevant. Just daydream. Write about where you would live, how you would spend your days.

Take each one on your list and flesh it out. Describe your perfect day living that life. What do you do? Who do you meet? How do you get around? What do you eat? Where do you focus your energy?

Once you’ve got details, step back and take a look. What is it about these lives that appeals to you? The freedom? The colors? The location? The people you interact with? Your contribution?

Keep it Doable

Now let’s brainstorm ways to incorporate small slices of these alternate lives – the parts that really excite you – into your real life today.

You don’t have to ditch your existing life. Let’s just work with what you’ve got. Keep it small. Keep it Saturday-doable.

You can’t move to an adobe villa in New Mexico next weekend, but can you paint one room of your house terra cotta?

You probably can’t become a Master Polo Champion next week. But maybe you can sign up for a riding lesson at a local stable.

Dreams are a lot like stray cats. When we pay attention to our dreams, they come around more often. Set food out for them, and they show up regularly. Soon they start bringing friends.

You can’t quit your office job today to become a DreamWorks illustrator. But maybe signing up for a Manga drawing class will inspire you to complete that graphic novel.

I can’t be a mermaid this week, but I can grab that 20 gallon fish tank I saw on craigslist for $50. I’m not Wishbone’s trainer, but I can volunteer at the local shelter as a dog walker.

Want to make movies? Get yourself a Flip cam with that tax refund, use the movie software pre-installed on your computer to upload your creations to YouTube.

See What Happens

When you start incorporating these pieces of your imaginary lives into your real one, record the results.

Do you feel more creative? More compassionate? Are new opportunities opening up for you? Perhaps your volunteer gig morphs into something more promising? Just write about it in your journal. You may be surprised at what transpires.

Add a new list of alternate lives every few weeks and repeat the process.

It’s pretty exciting to know that even as an adult, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Get out your journal right now and ask yourself, who do I want to be when I grow up?


  1. Mmm – you make me want to go to Tenzing Momo (in the Pike Place Market.) They have a wooden counter that’s been worn away by hundreds – no, thousands – of visitors leaning in to whisper to the woman behind the counter what they need or want. I love that then, the woman turns around to the two- or three hundred jars behind her and starts plucking things from each end, top, and bottom. They also have an entoxicating set up on the far end of the counter that contains any essence you can think of…
    To be honest, I’ve never been brave enough to step up to the counter myself, but my other selves often take turns being in front of the counter, behind the counter, and watching over the counter from above. 😉
    Well, I feel a field trip coming on… how ’bout you?!

    • Definitely a great idea for a field trip! I haven’t been down to that particular part of the market but it sounds amazing. It’s just about artist date time, too, methinks…

  2. Love the idea of this…and you made me laugh with the stray cats analogy, given that I am living that right now… I will have to try this out, soon

  3. I love this post. I do have a journal but never wrote about my who I want to become when I grow up. Thank you for the inspiring post.