“A man can do all things if he will.” ~ L.B. Alberti
“Specialization is for insects. The human being should be able to do everything.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein
I was about six years old, and it was a torrid August afternoon in my family’s country house.
I had just arrived with my parents from the city, and I was performing the required round of greetings with the enlarged family, followed by the customary commentaries on how much I had grown up, how well I was doing at school, and what sounded like a whole lot of grown-up nonsense to me.
I didn’t know it, but I was about to step into one of those rare moments in life that I would remember forever. Those moments when, like a lost traveler, we unexpectedly come upon a crossroad and we make a decision that will have consequences for the years to come.
That crossroads came under the familiar form of my auntie Laura. She was my favourite aunt, always sweet and calm. She caressed me softly on the hair and, instead of repeating the usual boring stuff, looked straight into my eyes and asked,
“You’re becoming a boy. What do you want to do when you grow up?”
When I re-live that moment in my imagination, it seems like everything had stopped around me, like a carousel coming to an abrupt halt. The room fell silent, and everything else besides my aunt slipped out of focus. I felt a bit like an actor on stage who needed to deliver the most important line in the play, but all I could say was a pretty unimpressive, “I don’t know.”
Which wasn’t entirely true. If I’d had the time to think about the question, I would have realized that I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.