When I was a kid, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Every kid is asked that at several points in their life. Most know what they want right then, but forget and change it later. Laugh about it when they're older, and think about how much simpler life was when they just wanted to be a fireman, athlete, ballerina, rockstar, movie star, etc. Others aren't sure what they want to be when they're children, and more never figure it out as adults.
Some, though, know what they want from the start, and they never lose focus. They become exactly what they wanted, and they do not let anyone or anything, get in their way.
Like many others, I'm somewhere in the middle of all of that. I knew very early what I wanted to be, and I never forgot it. But I lacked the motivation and fortitude to work toward it. I let myself let myself give up.
When I was a kid, and I was asked for the first time what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn't hesitate to let everyone know that I wanted to be a Mad Scientist. My aunt will still bring it up every now and then and we'll all laugh.
I still want to be a Mad Scientist when I grow up.
The first time I said it, everyone laughed. Not in a teasing me kind of way, but in the way people laugh when a kid says something unexpected and adorable, because you feel they're too young to truly understand what they are saying (something we never stop doing to anyone younger than us, or newer to something than we are). I held on to this answer until someone closer to my age asked me why I wanted to be a bad guy, and then the laughing started making me feel embarrassed. I thought I had chosen the wrong thing to be. No one else at school wanted to be any kind of scientist.
I wish now, I could have had the confidence to explain what I thought a Mad Scientist was. Maybe if I had, I would be one now. Don't worry, though, I do not dwell on “maybes” and “what might have beens” like this sounds. I wouldn't have the experiences that helped me to build the confidence and philosophical mindset that I have now, if I'd lived any of those other possible lives.
When I first said I wanted to be a Mad Scientist, I was not thinking about an evil man in a lab coat creating homicidal grunts to do my evil bidding. What I was thinking about, was the scientist that did what all other scientists said was impossible. Creating portals through time, into other worlds, genetically engineering creatures that would not exist otherwise; genetically altering people to be stronger, faster, healthier, and happier. Creating life from the lifeless. Regenerating lost limbs, curing Cancer and AIDS (both of which were always on the TV in the 80s. AIDS especially). Finding ways to make people invisible, to pass through solid objects, move faster than light. I wanted to do all of the things that every scientist in every science fiction show has done since the first science fiction show was ever written. Crazy things and not so crazy things. I just wanted to do what I'd been told couldn't be done.
I wanted to be like Dr. Frankenstein, Doc Brown, Dr. Jekyll, Albert Einstein, Nicola Tesla, Dr. Who, and even the man that built Inspector Gadget. Pretty much everyone that I saw when watching television with my grandfather, or heard about while he and my grandmother played pinochle with their friends.
The older I got, the more I learned about these people, and the more I wanted to be like them. In my entire academic career (which isn't saying much), I have only written 5 essays. One about Baseball that I wrote on the bus ride to school the day it was due (which I'm proud to say I lost points on it, because Mrs. Bryant thought I copied it straight out of the fake sources I listed), one about the movie Blade for my GED test, one about the effects drug abuse during pregnancy does to the child later in life, and two about Albert Einstein. It would have been one about Albert and one about Tesla, but Tesla was taken the second time around and I was allowed to choose Einstein again. One about his life, and who he is; the other about his theory of relativity. Neither of them got me any kind of attention, nor did they say anything about my level of intelligence at the time. I only mention them, because I wrote them. I was a poor student, and I had trouble doing any kind of homework. I was not lazy, and it did not bore me because I was too smart for it. I just couldn't do it, because I wasn't excited about it. But learning about these people I'd always wanted to be like, was exciting and inspiring. I didn't have trouble focusing, or finding the words to use. I probably didn't format them correctly, or present the subject matter in the order that one should present it; but I was excited and motivated enough to do it.
Now I'm almost 30 years old, and with each passing day, I want more and more to be that Mad Scientist that I gave up on as a child. When I turn on my television and see Dr. Michio Kaku talking about how many of the impossible things I dreamed doing, are theoretically possible, I get excited. I change channels and then see Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking so passionately about space exploration, black holes, and the creation of our Universe; I get so excited I want to cry.
I am 28 years old. I am an aspiring writer and Mad Scientist. I have only a GED, almost no formal education beyond the 9th grade, and a boat load of imagination. Before my son's second birthday, I will be on my way to becoming that Mad Scientist I said I'd be when I was 4. I will no longer be just a dreamer with goals I'm afraid to follow. I will finish a book. I will get it published. I will earn a bachelor's degree in Mechatronic Engineering, and then a PhD in physics (I'll decide which as I learn more about them all).
I will also own a Delorean DMC-12.