Grow up already (or don’t)

It was cool at the time

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I want to be a ballerina when I grow up.

I’m 4 years old, and I can’t even reach to touch the studio’s balance barre. I wiggle my toes in my silky ballet slippers. My instructor glides by; she has the kind of shoes with laces that criss-cross all the way up her calves and wears her light brown hair in a smooth round bun. She’s a princess, an angel — I accidentally called her mom once.

That’s who I want to be: criss-cross laces and a flawless bun. Delicate, graceful, classy and alluring.

But dreams can change, right under your nose. The next big thing will sweep you off your feet, and changing your mind never seems like it’ll be that big of a deal.

Every now and then, I try to start up a diary. In seventh grade, my friend buys me a small spiral-bound notebook with neon circles on the front of it.

I want to be Leonardo da Vinci, writing down in a reckless, inky scrawl every inventive idea or spark of inspiration. I’m an innovator, one whose dream has always been to be a famous filmmaker. I’m going to be David Fincher and Christopher Nolan and James Cameron all rolled into one.

“Dear Diary,

Here is a list of films I want to make. There are not a lot of women film directors, so I want to be one. I’m only in sixth grade, so I will have to wait a while. I am going to write down all my best ideas here, so I will remember them. Movie Ideas: 1) Five guys get angry at each other; the coolest one is named Phillip and everybody cries when he dies. 2) A sequel to ‘Titanic,’ where Rose brings Jack back from the dead, but he’s still soaking wet and it’s weird. 3) A girl was told she wasn’t going to be good enough to be a ballet dancer, so she moved on. I hope I don’t forget about these. I’m scared I won’t actually make them.”

I finish the entry, and I never open the diary ever again.

I’m a teenager in high school, and I’ve noticed that I’m good at making my friends laugh. People like it when I roast my teachers about their mannerisms, make a pun about chicken pot pie or delve into a hilariously intense monologue about why “Titanic” has always been an overrated movie that should never have a sequel. I was born to tell jokes; it’s all I’ve ever known and all I’m going to do for the rest of my life.

I want to start off as a popular stand-up comic and then get discovered by “Saturday Night Live.” I’ll take over Jimmy Fallon’s late night show when he gets too old — the timing is perfect because he should be about 80 when I turn 25.

Cut to this morning. I’m a molecular environmental biology major. I’m trying to get a doctorate, so I can research genetics. I still do comedy, but I’m not serious about it. Now that I’m all grown up, I’m not supposed to be serious about art anymore.

I can’t be a ballerina or a film director or a comedian. It’s time to trade in my leotard for a lab coat and pop on over to my 8 a.m. lecture on haplodiplontic isomorphic alga. Get an average job with a great salary. Buy a two-story house with a tall iron gate so I can let my Shiba Inu outside without worrying about it running off down Emerald Hills Court. Wear a pencil skirt to work every day and marry a guy named Don. Eat casserole.

Hold up. Stop right there. That’s the cruelest ending ever. Who do you think you are, writing something like that? David Fincher? Well, yeah. That’s exactly who I think I am — building to the twist you should’ve always seen coming.

This morning was only partly about researching genetics, and certainly never about Shiba Inus. It’s mostly about studying biology so I have a better background knowledge for the sci-fi novel I want to write. It’s one of three book ideas I’ve had, and I plan to someday publish all of them.

Growing up is about falling deeply, passionately in love with a dream and then changing your mind about it a year later. You’re ever-evolving. But through the process of writing these columns, I’ve discovered there’s a constant. From age 4 to this morning, we’ve always been artists.

Growing up is a work of art. It can be messy and subject to interpretation; you always think of it as something other than what it really was. When you take in a work of art, sometimes you find in it parts of yourself you had forgotten about, or never knew were there.

Shannon O’Hara writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on growing up through entertainment. Contact her at [email protected].