In the grand tradition of not censoring myself, here's my first response to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" in about a ~20 year timeframe. It is presented here for posterity to laugh at. I expect things will turn out just as awesome as this (if not more so), though I also expect them to be different. I'm actually working actively on making just about everything mentioned here into a reality - see how many projects you can spot...
Mel whistled as she leapt up the stairs to Maker House, unslinging the week-long travel satchel from her shoulder. The door swung open before her hand reached the doorknob, and she found her ankles partially immobilized by a blur of wriggling puppy. "Welcome back!" called James and Anchali from the living room. Dennis's voice chimed in over the speakers; it sounded like he was in the machine shop. "Mel, we set cookies to go in when your plane landed." They should be ready right about..." A stream of Burt Bacharach burst out over the speakers. "...now."
The young professor reached down, picked up Erdős, and walked into the kitchen. Kora was pulling out a tray from the oven, and the entire room smelled of chocolate. "I found an old study to show Tony tomorrow," said her CFO. "Immunized two groups for varicella, taught one group tai chi, they had higher resting levels of varicella zoster virus-specific cell-mediated immunity at the end, and it's actually well-written."
She washed down a mouthful of cookie with soymilk. "Too loud. Hang on a sec," Mel said, tapping her hearing aid. She heard the Bacharach fade into the background as her device hooked up with Kora's, streaming her colleague's directional mics directly into her ears through a frequency-adjusted filter. Kora waited for the confirming beep before she went on. "I'll do it before Push Hands practice since you have that gig at the Middle East - oh, don't put the soymilk away yet, Dennis and Qing are coming up." There was a thunderous clatter on the stairs. "GUYS! WASH YOUR HANDS FIRST!"
"We finished the swingset!" crowed Dennis as he scrubbed. "It's up in the backyard." "We cannibalized some of the treehouse chairs," added Qing, "but we're replacing them, we just waterjetted out some new seat backs." Mel's face lit up. "That's awesome. I'll go try it right now. Oh, and Bob came to my talk in Austria - he sent you some books on motor development in early childhood, they should get here tomorrow." Qing gave an absentminded thumbs-up, occupied with simultaneously consuming 3 different cookies and 2 glasses of milk.
"Go ahead and eat them all," Mel grinned. "I'll make more tomorrow - it's my nephew's birthday, so I'll be bringing a big box of oatmeal raisins to my cousin's house. And by big I mean at least a gross..." "You're going to get all those kids hopped up on sugar," Dennis said. "That's what aunts are for," she replied, sweeping out of the kitchen with some cookies in her pocket.
After being mobbed by Jonas (company doing well as always, 153 new apps this week, development summit in Bangkok starts Friday, Matthias is keynoting), Sherri (don't go in the painting room for a few hours, Tim spray-painted his truck and the aerosol smell is still airing out), Carrie (some of your old friends are dropping by for dinner before the concert tomorrow, can we erase your equations from the mat room window), Karen (did you take pictures of Flat Stanley and the Eiffel Tower for my kindergarten reading buddy, Derek packed your keyboard in the van for tomorrow so you'll have to practice on the baby grand but remember to finish before 10 because I've got the GREs tomorrow and I'm sleeping early) and Mongo (woof!), Mel made it out into the Cambridge sunset and, because it seemed like fun, turned a front flip, came out into a roll, and lay on her back enjoying the cool grass under the apple tree.
She had some papers to review for the IEEE Transactions on Education and a signal processing class to prepare for tomorrow afternoon; doing both engineering and education research and teaching was exhausting, especially with her speaking schedule, but it was pretty cool. So was finally getting into push-hands tournaments. And having the open hardware auditory augmentation platform you developed for your 2nd PhD become the industry standard for personal sound-hacking (with hearing aid development as just a subset of uses to a platform as ubiquitous now as iPhones had been 20 years ago). It was still her favorite of all the companies she'd started. And the privilege of getting to fly around the world a few times every month to hear stories and learn from communities of makers and educators. At some point she should really pick up Hindi - how hard could it be as an 8th language, anyway?
When she finished her next book (a cookbook this time), she could start playing at jazz gigs every week again instead of just once a month. And her students were doing very well - her brother Jason had left a message asking if she had any EE undergrads that wanted to work at his design firm for the summer. Retirement rocked; it let her work harder on the things that really would make a difference. And anonymously fund gap year scholarships. That was one of the most fun parts. Most of her consulting work and speaking fees went to fund those scholarships and other education programs. They had insisted on putting an oil painting of her up in the library she'd built. She insisted that all her grad students be in the painting as well, with everybody wearing funny hats and assaulting the camera with foam darts. The painter was apparently having a lot of fun with this one...
Mel sat on the new swingset, rocking slowly back and forth, content to be home - at least for a while.