When I Grow Up

A couple of weeks ago, when I was cleaning out the books in my home office, I came across a time capsule of sorts.

It was my handwritten notes from a legal pad, shoved into a copy of Job Smarts for Twentysomethings. During my senior year in college (1997-98), I used that book as my job-hunting bible and followed its advice to the letter.

The author’s advice included writing out lists like “Things I Like to Do” and “Things I Don’t Like to Do” (I guess to help me figure out what kind of career to pursue?), as well as detailed short-term and long-term goals. I thought I’d share a few time-capsule gems with you, courtesy of my 21-year-old self:

Things I Like to Do

  • Drink coffee
  • Travel to interesting places
  • Hang out in bookstores
  • Go to jazz clubs
  • Drive in the country
  • (The list goes on like this … but you get the point)

Oh my God! How exactly was this list going to translate into the “ideal” job or career for me? Sure, I drink coffee at my current job. But that’s about where the similarities to my “things I like to do” list end. What was I going to be, a jazz critic? (OK, so that was my dream. One of them.) A contributing editor to Travel & Leisure? Oh, to be so idealistic again.

Things I Don’t Like to Do

  • Call strangers on the phone
  • Spend all day on a computer
  • Talk to phonies
  • Bother people
  • Sit in long, drawn-out meetings or classes
  • Go dancing at bars
  • (Again, the list goes on.)

Funny how I’ve had to do most of these things in all of my jobs (with the exception of “go dancing at bars” … so far). My first job was as a newspaper reporter, so pretty much all I did was call strangers on the phone. No wonder!

Here’s my favorite gem: projections for where I would be–personally and professionally–two, five, and 10 years in the future. (Can’t you just hear Conan’s “In the Year 2000” theme song?) By age 31 (which I am now), my 21-year-old self predicted I would:

  • Be sitting at my desk with nameplate on it that says “Susan A. Wenner, Editor”
  • Be piloting my magazine to international success
  • Be a mom
  • Wake up most mornings feeling good about what I am doing
  • Be a proactive, positive contributor to my community

See–even back then, I knew I wanted to be a Working Mom Against Guilt! Seriously, though, I think it’s kind of cool that I have achieved most of those goals by now–at least, in a way.

Who has nameplates anymore? I don’t. I do have a dorky picture of me with my name on it (now Susan Jackson) on my outer cube wall.

No, I’m not the editor of my own magazine–but I did help start a blog, which is sort of like an online version of a magazine. It has become an international success, if you consider WMAG has had readers from 133 countries/territories since we launched a little more than two years ago.

Yes, I am a mom. And it’s way better than I even thought it could be back in my swingin’ 20s.

I do wake up feeling good about what I do–most days.

And though I’m pretty darned busy with work, family, and friends, I manage to eek out a little time and effort for my community–through my Planned Parenthood YP group, as well as smaller contributions to other local organizations.

So there you have it–a little trip back to the future with yours truly.

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? How close did you come (or how far did you stray) from your original goals? Do tell.


5 thoughts on “When I Grow Up

  1. thoughtbythought says:

    still realizing i’m grown up. my goals haven’t changed too much. one 6th grade diary said ‘get married by 18 and have 6 babies by age 24.’
    that was when i was watching 8 is enough and didn’t think i wanted 8. and that was well before i knew what growing up meant. now in mid 30s and not yet married and no babies yet i have to giggle at that goal but the motherhood thing i still dig the hope of. 🙂 cute post. how fun finding old notes! Tre 🙂

  2. When I was in third grade my best friend wanted to be an astronaut. To make sure we could work together I decided I wanted to design space homes. Everyone found this amusing.

  3. When I was 21 (and 24–10 years ago), I think I wanted to be a political consultant who won races all over the state and maybe the country. I always wanted to be a mom, but I definitely wasn’t thinking about that when I was 21. Now I’ve been a political consultant, and probably will be again. But I’ve lost far more races than I’ve won (which, really, is the case with most campaign hacks). And I’m a mom of two, which I find much more important and fulfilling (and frustrating) than any campaign!

  4. Anonymous says:


    I remember when you wanted to be Wonder Woman AND a waitress.


  5. Ha! I just love looking back at lists like that. Isn’t it amazing how our life can take totally different directions? I usually look back at stuff like this and think, “Wow, I was so shallow.” Same with the picking a mate list 😉

    Loved this post!

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