Who is your Elizabeth Patterson?

    When my sister and I were growing up, we would play pretend shopkeepers in the backyard and ride from shop to shop on our bikes.  We had pretend names and alter egos, the whole deal.  My sister was Teresa Maloney and I was Elizabeth Patterson.  These names weren’t chosen willy nilly either.  Elizabeth was my favourite name and had an air of sophistication to it.  I’m sure there was further reason for my choice, (a favourite character from a book perhaps?) but it escapes me now, twenty years on.  I do remember that I chose Patterson specifically because of the Australian poet, Banjo Patterson, as I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up.  Until I sat down to write this, I hadn’t thought about ‘Elizabeth Patterson’ in years, and the fact that it was going to be my pen name if I ever published a book. It’s quite amusing now really.

  As a teacher, I have had many students spout their dreams to be me that they wish to be veterinarians, singers, lawyers, doctors and the like.  (Or one girl, who really made me laugh, by saying that she wanted to be ‘famous’).  It has always made me cringe because for half of them I wasn’t sure they could reasonably meet their expectations.  I was afraid they were going to expect too much of themselves and that their dreams wouldn’t deliver.  I was afraid they would hope for something like I did, and not seem to be getting closer to it as the years went by.

  Parents and teachers warn their children with seemingly extraordinary dreams to have a ‘back-up plan’ because becoming a singer, painter or poet will hardly pay the bills, let alone assist you in buying a house.  (And for those who want to be lawyers and doctors, that’s all very well but you have to be switched on and work hard to get into those high-demand courses).  While a back-up plan makes sense to a point, I think sometimes we can get so caught up in the fall-back plan, that our true dreams fall by the wayside. 

  While some of my students seemed completely naive in their idea of a vocation, I have to admit that I have seen many students who have inspired me by their passion.  One particular Year 12 Media class of mine had students with dreams to be photographers, animators and fine artists.  But they didn’t just sit back and talk about it.  They worked their butts off, scored amazing results, got into excellent courses and are now doing what they love.  Go figure.

  So I’m digging up Elizabeth Patterson.  I’m joining the blogging bandwagon with the bajillion others and not expecting much but happy to be doing something I really enjoy.  I do feel short on time these days being a mum to my two little monkeys but time isn’t really an excuse.  My eldest son asked his Nanna today, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.  This made me laugh at the time, but on second thought, it shouldn’t seem so ridiculous. There should always be time to do what you love.



2 thoughts on “Who is your Elizabeth Patterson?

  1. Not what you’d expect from a supposed novice. Very well written, both technically and philosophically.

    I’m intrigued about the doubts you had over some students’ ambitions. Was that based on a general expectation about the difficulty of breaking into said profession, or because you doubted they had the ability or (more importantly) work ethic to get there? For latter, the greatest achievements I encounter are those whose lack of ability is more than offset by their tenacity. Those are the truly deserving achievers. For the lazy, maybe a dose of reality early in their secondary schooling from teachers such as you can be life-changing. I guess you have to pick your targets though, as some would crumble or even rebel thereafter.

    Nice work, Lizzie. Please keep shoehorning these dispatches into your already busy days.

    1. Jesse, thank you so much for your kind words. Praise from you (or any sort of response to my writing) absolutely makes my day. To answer your question- some students I don’t think had the work ethic to become a doctor or lawyer, and for those that wanted to be artists, I just felt like they had ridiculously wild ambitions. I don’t think tenacity can make up for lack of ability for singers or painters, for example. I also don’t think a lot of the students had really thought about how they would get there.
      I considered using you as an example in that blog too, and I’ve often told students about you because you never really had a back up plan and just worked your guts out to get where you wanted. You’ve always been an inspiration to me. Looking forward to dinner tonight 🙂

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