My mother had two boxes of photos in the closet. One was labeled “Before 1973” and the other “After 1973.” It seemed a little overly dramatic that she would base our entire collection of family photos on my father’s death, but such was her style.
I remember wanting to be a veterinarian pre-1973. Nothing seemed (and seems) more magical to me than animals. To help them would be a privilege and an honor.
But just like those two boxes on our shelf, things were to change when my father died. At six, I became a nervous child, predisposed to thinking about death instead of animals. I read books about the supernatural and the occult. I felt ghosts around me constantly. Animals suddenly saddened me. This world was mean and I couldn’t protect them. They were too vulnerable.
I don’t really remember what I wanted to be after 1973. I just wanted normalcy, love and a happy home. Lofty goals apparently.
At some point, in high school, I wanted to be an actress. I was desperate to be noticed and the performing arts allowed for that. I wanted people to see me!
When I entered college to study acting, my dream morphed. I went from acting as a form of attention-getting to genuinely needing to express myself creatively. I became serious about my art, in short. It’s a very different feeling than performing for attention, like a love-starved puppy. It was a real birth, one I'm still proud of.
Nobody would tell me about all the miserable jobs I'd have to endure to keep my art going – the jobs that nobody wants to be when they grow up. Waiting on tables was hell from the word go. Sold vacuum cleaners door to door for a bit. (I never sold one.) Office management positions weren’t really “management” at all but servitude, basically. Shameful, dehumanizing.
Some jobs actually did work for me, at least for a little while. I started a cleaning service with a friend during college and I liked the control I felt. I worked as a stint as an erotic masseuse when I moved to the West coast. Though several people in my life disapproved (including factions of myself), I thought it was a kick. I made good money, met people and expanded my wounded sexuality.
But none of the jobs felt dead-on. Like I was "on my path."
When your childhood is fractured, when you experience neglect or abuse or trauma, you disassociate. It’s an awful, spiritual black hole of an experience. It’s like you don’t realize you exist. Or you're sleepwalking through life - though sleep implies relaxation and comfort and that’s hardly it.
Nightmare-walking is a closer comparison. Hazy, foggy, disconnected. How can you possibly identify with a career goal? You can barely identify with the fact that you’re alive. It's hard to imagine unless you've experienced that kind of profound disconnect. Though frankly, I see most people blissfully locked in that state without even being aware of it.
Well, because of maturity, because of creativity, because of work, because of spirit, because of love, I’ve been waking up slowly from my nightmare-walk. I even sense that I’m living, every once in a while. I look in the mirror sometimes and say, “Yep, that’s me. That’s Beth Mann. Hi.” The person smiles back. I’m still not whole but I’m not a hole, either.
Now, now, now at 48, I play around with the idea of who I’ll be when I grow up. And it’s still hard to utter the words…still pains me, as if an axe will fall on my head if I think them. As if I’m not still not allowed. As if I don't deserve to have goals.
So whom do I want to be when I grow up?
- I want to be a lover and have a lover. I want to love for a living. I want to have a happy home with my lover where we have wild, soul-driven sex all the time. I want us to constantly uncover and discover one another, to constantly support and inspire each other. I want us to be family to one another, so I can experience that sensation.
- I want to be recognized for the artist I am. It sucks that I don’t make a ton of money for who I am creatively, but I can live with that since I’m so lucky in so many other ways. As long as I have some creative peers who believe in me and toss me some accolades sometimes, I’m happy. (Actually, no fuck that…I want scads of money for being a smart artist with a unique voice. I totally fucking deserve it.)
- I want to be a vet. Hmm....maybe not now. But how I miss having pets in my life...can one aspire to being a pet owner? Yes, yes…I want to be pet owner when I grow up.
- I want to help. If you don’t serve, what’s the use? You must serve. You must make a difference in lives of others, in whatever way you deem fit. I hope to be a humble servant. I hope I’m a contributor when I grow up. Though I'm lazy...so its a tough call.
I simply want to BE when I grow up. Am I shooting too low? I want to experience a day. The rest is icing.
Yep, that’s me. That’s Beth Mann. Hi.