I think most of us were asked this question as kids, and our answers probably varied depending on what was influencing us at the time. Me? One of the career ambitions I had at an early age was to be an astronaut. I was quite influenced by the NASA space program (mostly, the Apollo missions to the moon), and I watched a lot of Star Trek, Space: 1999 (when I could find it on TV), Thunderbirds Are Go, and even the original Battlestar Galactica. That’s not to say that most of my TV watching influenced me. Hell, I watched a lot of Gilligan’s Island, but I never wanted to live on an deserted island in the south pacific. But the question of “What do you want to do when you grow up?” was asked almost every year by my teachers. I’m pretty sure from grades K-5, I had to answer that question either in written form, or just by telling the class.
Now, it changed from time to time, and there was a point in my life that I really wanted to be a truck driver because I saw this movie:
I just liked that some badass named Carrol Jo (who was a guy) was sticking it to The Man when pushed too far. Sure, White Line Fever was pure ’70s B Movie fluff, but for some reason, I really liked it, and, consequently, wanted to drive an 18 wheeler. Well, that didn’t last, but the space stuff did. However, there was no way I was ever going to be an astronaut. My oldest brother told me that you had to be really sharp in math (my worst subject), not have any health conditions (I suffered from allergies and had bouts of asthma), have the ability to be batted around like a ping pong ball to test for air sickness, and not be afraid of heights (I have to admit, standing on a ledge looking over a cliff gives me the creeps). So…no space travel for me.
My father was a medical doctor, so toward the end of high school, I took an AP course in physiology to see if science was my thing. Boy was that boring! Too much rote memorization, too much this connects to this, and that connects to that. It felt like learning to be a plumber of sorts.
And then…music! In high school, you try a lot of things, and for me I was such a huge music fan, that I thought (like millions of other kids) I could be in a band — as the singer! I can’t sing well. I don’t have any natural abilities, and I never took voice lessons, so I didn’t know what I was doing. I just figured if Chrissie Hynde could leave Ohio, move to England, work as a music journalist and then start a band, why couldn’t I? Sure, all that moving to another country was out of the question, but I gave it a shot…for about two weeks. I formed a band with a drummer and guitar player (we didn’t have a bass player) and we ran through popular songs at the time with the hopes that we could play a junior high gig. I remember us running through “Centerfold” by The J. Geils Band a few times and wanting to do “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. I was going to sing Bowie’s part and our drummer (who couldn’t sing either) was going to attempt Freddy Mercury’s part. I asked him to run it through with me and we realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to work. We needed to do scrappy songs with limited vocal ranges if we didn’t want to be booed off the stage. We never got a chance to finalize that playlist, because everything crumbled with the so-called band and we went our separate ways.
Then…TV came a-calling. My high school had a program called ROP (Regional Occupational Programs). They were designed to teach high school students skills in a number of areas, and my school had an ROP TV course with a fully functional studio. So, I enrolled. I learned how to properly shoot video footage, run what is now called a TriCaster (basically a video switcher that allows you to do multi-camera shoots in a studio or remotely), edit, learn how to light a set, write scripts, and work on audio. It was very hands on, and I really loved it. I got with some creative kids and we started to make segments that were woven into a 30 minute show that was shown on our local cable station each week. Tons of fun, and I really took to it. Learned as much as I could and tried to experiment with styles and push toward comedy TV. We did our own talk show called “The Bobby Donahue Show” that came complete with silly guests, commercial parodies (a la SNL) and a studio audience. Huge production and a complete blast to do. At that point, I was set on a TV or film career. I knew that was my calling because 1. I loved what I was doing. 2. My friends were along for the ride. 3. I seemed to have a knack for doing silly things that made people laugh.