What do you want to be when you grow up? (Robert's childhood)

When I was twelve years old I used to ask my mother, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong here. Why am I here?” And my mother used to say, “You’re here to be like everybody else, to get a job, to have a profession. To go into this world and make something out of yourself”. And she used to retaliate, “Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” I used to say, “Nothing”. (laughter) I don’t think that I knew what I was talking about at that time.

But anyway after a while she thought that we should go see uncle Louie. (laughter) Uncle Louie was a physician. And she told him what I was saying, what I was doing. So he said, “I’ll take care of this”. He gave me a physical examination, everything was fine. And again he asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I told him, “I don’t care what I am when I grow up I just want to know what I’m doing here? What am I doing here?” And he asked, “You mean on this earth?” So I said, “No in this body? What am I doing in this body? I feel like I’m in prison. I feel as if I’m confined to something”. So he looked at me and said something to my mother about a psychiatrist. (laughter)

And the next day my mother took me to see a lady psychiatrist. She was a German lady from Austria. Her name was Sonya Leichenstein or Leichenstine. My mum told her the story. What I’ve been doing and she took me into her office. There was a nice couch there I was lying down on. I enjoyed it. She asked me, “So you don’t think you are the body? You think you’re someone else?” And she giggled, “You know Freud used to think the same thing”. So I said, “Who was Freud?” She said, “Never mind”. (laughter) Again she asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up”, and I asked her, “why is everybody asking me this question? There is really nothing I care to be when I grow up at all. I just feel confined to my body. I feel as if I’m in prison. I don’t belong here”. So she said, “Don’t worry about that I will get the little man out of here out of your body. There is a little man in your body that has to come out and we will work on this”.

So I went to see her every Friday. I loved it due to the fact that my mother gave me some extra money and I would not have to go to school that day or half a day at school. And I was able to ride on the bus. I really enjoyed those times. I went to her for about six months. She finally called my mother and recommended another psychiatrist, a man. These people kept on asking me, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” So I went to see this man. He was a different psychiatrist. I really enjoyed going to him also. Finally I got it. And one day he asked me, “Robert do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “Yes I want to be a neurotic”. (students laugh) And that was the end of my visits with psychiatrists.

Q: You were cured.

Robert continues: Now what does all of this have to do with our talk today? Absolutely nothing. (laughter) What is the moral of this story? It has no moral whatsoever. Just something I thought I’d throw in.

Robert Adams

What If I Don’t Awaken Before My Death? – October 4, 1992