"There are about a million things I want to be when I grow up," I wrote in a semi-autobiographical story when I was in fourth or fifth grade. "First of all, I want to be an author, second an advertiser, and third a baseball umpire." By the time I mastered grammar and punctuation, I moved on to other professional aspirations. At the age of twelve, I resolved to become a district attorney in order to improve safety in poor neighborhoods. In my bat mitzvah speech, I asked God for a scholarship to nearby Northwestern University so that I could later attend a good law school.
Of course, I wound up going to NYU as an undergrad, then dropping out of Fordham Law School on my third day. Instead, I worked for a year at a government agency. I turned down a 3/4 tuition scholarship to policy school at NYU because I wanted to go to school full-time and instead went to policy school at Columbia while working part-time at a community development financial institution. ("I don't need math," I had told my math teacher my junior year of high school, "I'm going to be a lawyer!") I turned down the opportunity to work at the Ford Foundation in a program associate program and continued to work at that organization after school, then at another CDFI, building an expertise in child care facilities development in affordable housing projects. Just like I always planned!
Then I burned out and started writing. I had some personal essays and policy articles printed in local papers. Off the Beaten (Subway) Track came out in August 2008. I entered a creative writing MFA program a month later. I went back to the nonprofit world, working for the first time at Jewish organizations, first as a grant writer, then as a program officer.
I guess achieving one of my three original goals isn't bad. Who knows what will happen when I grow up?