What did you want to be when you grew up? We all had at least one dream about that when we were kids, but many of us couldn’t realize that dream for one reason or another.
My dream was to be a neurosurgeon (a brain surgeon, as it was then termed). But our family was poor, and my six older brothers had drained the family purse by the time I came on the scene. So I took the typing and bookkeeping subjects available in high school in order to earn my keep.
While secretarial work was OK, and it did put food on the table, it really wasn’t’ challenging enough. Besides, it meant working with office stuff instead of with people — and their brains!
Over the years, the printing industry became computerized, and IBM (the London, Ont., branch) asked me to learn, and then demonstrate for their potential clients, the first computerized typesetting equipment in Canada. At last, a challenge!
This led to a job with a printing firm, and from there to my opening and running the new typesetting department at the University of Western Ontario. However, after the establishment of this department, together with the establishment of the first onsite typesetting of the university calendar, the whole thing became rather uninteresting. The challenge was gone.
Next came a move with my kids and dog to the West, and a job offer to set up and run the printing department at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts. Another challenge! This kept me happily occupied for a couple of years, until the work became a bit stale — another challenge gone.
Let’s fast-forward to the day I woke up and remembered brain surgery! No, I didn’t follow through with the dream, but I did begin to look at its various aspects, eventually coming up with stress management as a possible goal. After all, I’d had plenty of stress in my life, and so should be able to empathize with others.
A lot of study and many seminars later, my first business cards were printed — “Stress Management Consultant”. When a friend in Alberta mental health saw it, he said, “For Pete’s sake, Mary, you’re a therapist! Call yourself a therapist!”
So, there began my taking a piece of my childhood dream, working with the brain, and turning it into a reality. At last, doing something I love, complete with the ever-present challenges that I seem to need.
It all boils down to one thing — follow your dream or whatever segment thereof that feels right. It’s never too late and we’re never too old to become what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Mary Underhill is a stress therapist and grief counsellor.