What Are You Going To Be When You Grow Up

I was thinking about a few different things lately. One item that took center stage was the question, often asked of young people, what are you going to be when you grow up?

Do you remember ever being asked this?

I think it’s pretty common, especially for adults to ask kids. It seems to grow in intensity once children are in high school and nearing college age. The focus seems to change from speculation to a need for precision.

Our high school asked every senior about to graduate what they thought their eventual career would be. Like most everyone else in my class I had no real idea. I liked facts and figures, so I answered that I might be a statistician.

Yeah right. Who in their right mind chooses that for a career?

That led me to wondering how far astray each one of us goes from our original plans. That was certainly the case with me. I spent twenty-five years in banking and thirteen years more in the non-profit world before retiring. As soon as I left the work world behind, I began helping take care of our two local grandchildren, which I consider my most rewarding ‘career’.

Of course, none of these things were on my mind as young child or even as a seventeen-year-old high school senior on my way to college. In retrospect, I wonder just how many people end up choosing the career they’d imagined when younger.

This is certainly the case with my daughter. Prior to attending kindergarten, she wanted to be a gas station attendant because she liked the smell of gasoline so much. This was back when the gas station staff filled up your car for you. But, as soon as she went to school, she wanted to be a teacher and she never looked back and in fact, she still is a teacher, and an excellent one at that.

I wonder about the number of times folks change their careers or pursuits. In the generation before me and well into my generation, it was a rare thing to shift to a different job. But now it seems to be fairly normal to have many different jobs and employers during your career. It makes me curious about what inspires the changes and whose decision it is.

Back when this whole idea surfaced something jumped out at me. When our focus is on the future, how much of the present is lost? Do we miss valuable present-day experiences because we’re planning and dreaming about our future life?

I thought about this for myself, wondering what I’ve missed out on, by side stepping the present, in favor of thoughts about my future.

Could the present and future somehow sit side by side in an easy companionship? Can they for you? And would there be some benefits if they did?

I also wondered about the clarifying part of the question, “when you grow up.” When exactly does this happen? Is it by a specific age or maybe once we’ve achieved certain milestones? It’s also amusing to me what children answer about this, especially because they consider anyone older than them to be a ‘grown up’.

Since I’ve asked a lot of questions, I thought it would be fair to answer some of them, so here they are. Personally, I don’t ever intend to ‘grow up’, if that means having to pay full attention to all of the TO DO items and lose sight of the fun stuff, like throwing snowballs, jumping into a puddle or two, staring at rainbows, watching the sun set and finding laughter in everyday events.

If I had it all to do over again and my current self could give some advice to my kid self, I’d tell him to relax, slow down, enjoy what you have, try new things, explore more, make mistakes, and connect with as many people as you can.

What would you tell your younger self? What changes feel like good ideas to you?

Here’s to hoping you find all of your best answers.