What You’ll Grow Up To Be


Older. That’s pretty much it as far as a guarantee goes. It’s also a great answer when all those well-meaning people ask you what it is you want to be when you grow up. Other than older, which barring your untimely death is going to happen with great certainty, little else can be guaranteed; certainly not the occupation you end up with.

Did you catch the error in the concluding sentence of that previous paragraph? Read it again and now that you know there’s one there, see how easy or difficult you find locating it. Go ahead, I’ll wait a minute for you to catch up.

The error in the first paragraph is in the singular version of the 5th last word; occupation. You see it really should be pluralized to read, “..the occupations you end up with.” By the time your life is winding down, you will no doubt look back on a working life that has a combination of jobs and careers rather than a single occupation to fill out your adult life. So it’s interesting that adults who themselves have had many different jobs and careers would still ask of those just entering the world of employment, what they want to be when they grow up.

Doesn’t the question itself beg a singular title? “When I grow up I want to be a Teacher.” Surely that is the kind of response most people are expecting when the young person they ask is answering. What would happen however if you overheard a different answer; an answer that actually reflected the reality the person was going to experience? “At this point I think I’ll be a Journalist, but I’ll tire of that in 6 years and turn to conducting market research. After a period of disillusionment, I’ll work in retail sales for a year, return to school and complete a program in Heavy Equipment Operations, work my way up to a site Foreman’s position, then I expect my spouse will accept a job in another part of the country necessitating a relocation and I’ll open a consulting business.”

I think the eyebrows might rise on the listener, the mouth gape a little waiting for the brain to catch up and figure out what to say next. And that’s when the irony of the situation becomes funny; most young people don’t know how to answer the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question, and most who ask the question wouldn’t know how to respond to the answer.

Truth of the matter of course is that the future is so unknown, the options so wide open, the possibilities are limitless. The only limits really are the ones we place upon ourselves. Of course our finances, family encouragement, geography, education all play significant roles in how we develop and the opportunities we might have. The single biggest hurdle or source of  motivation however comes from within ourselves.

In addition to being older, I think you’ll grow up to be whatever you want bad enough. If you don’t think about occupations seriously enough and what will likely make you happy, you may just move from job to job – some of them quite good fits, and some poor ones. You can be very successful and earn a living or living to earn.

If in another perspective, you give considerable thought to your long-term happiness and fulfillment, you might either alone or with the help of someone else, come to settle on a longer-term career goal that based on what you have found out, would appear to offer you the job satisfaction that you personally would find fulfilling.

Either way, I would suggest you give yourself permission to change your mind down the road. Sure it would be great to have such conviction that you get it right the first time and you have a very linear path to your ultimate goal and it’s exactly like you imagined it would be. However, it is also the case that some people find that what they imagined at 17 or 18 was good then, but at 26 and 27 they have had a change in perspective, learned about jobs and occupations they hadn’t ever known in their teens, and what was a good fit then is not right now.

It takes courage of course to change your course. It could mean the tuition you’ve paid has left you with debt and you incur more debt to change your field of education. It could mean too that sharing your change of heart means potentially upsetting others; your parents, family and spouse. But courage to change might be far better if done sooner rather than letting what was expected of you have you end up living someone else’s plan for you instead of your own.

So what will you be when you grow up? Difficult to answer whether you are 14, 34 or 55. If there is something stirring inside that says you are due for a change, it’s a good idea to listen and identify what is driving that inner voice. You may be all grown up at 55, but that voice pulling you to look at other things that would make you ultimately happier is a voice worth listening to.

It may be safe to do the usual; what is expected of you. Safe isn’t bad nor good, it’s just – safe. Doing what really motivates you and enriches your life – that’s living.

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One thought on “What You’ll Grow Up To Be

  1. Oh boy, I always thought I would be a fashion consultant or assistant or buying for men’s fashion in a mid/major department store. I got a taste of the fashion field and ended up working in the accounting and customer service field, until I ended up as a career counselor for the disabled.

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