Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

We had this conversation at the dinner table tonight. My in-laws were here and Nana asked each of the kids: What do you want to be when you grow up? Evan's response: a doctor. Joy couldn't decide between a doctor, an artist or an author. Hope indicated that she would like to be a meteorologist or an architect. Faith said (and I quote), "I don't know how much money they make, but I kind of want to be a teacher." Now, those all sound like the idealistic answers most kids would give, right? (Although, one of our kids initially answered "terrorist", so we're still investigating that one. . . .)

When I was little, I wanted to be lots of different things when I grew up. I had a Barbie styling head which prompted my desire to be "beautician" (even the word sounds archaic, doesn't it? Don't even try to guess what year it was when I wanted to be a beautician.) I also wanted to be a teacher. I think at one point, I wanted to be a secretary, so maybe I am really do what I've always wanted to do! Ha!

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a marine biologist. But given the fact that I have a deathly phobia of dark, deep water, I probably would have been pretty limited in my research.

Also, in high school, we went on a field trip to a nearby community college. I don't remember anything about the trip except picking up some pamphlets about mental illness. I thought, "Huh, that might be interesting." So I declared psychology as my major in college. I took a small detour into elementary education, but then I veered back into psychology. That was about as much conviction as I had for choosing my career at age 18.

Here is my point: How many 18-year-olds know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives???

What I wish is that I had known what I had wanted to do with my life before I went to college. Eighteen years of age, at least for most people, is not old enough to make decisions that will define the rest of your life. I wanted to be a psychologist? Ha! I'm 41 and I haven't even figured myself out yet, let alone everyone else! I wanted to be a teacher or do day care? Hmm, that worked until I worked in day care for 9 years, and then birthed my own preschool and cared for them for 10 more years. Nineteen years of little kids pretty much burned me out. I'm currently employed as the secretary at my kids' school, a job for which I am well-suited, given my organizational skills and my matronly figure, but I don't know whether I still agree with my 8-year-old self, that is truly what I want to do when I grow up. (Shhh, don't tell my employer.)

I wonder if I'm having a mid-life crisis? I mean, I guess I have done some of the things on my "career" wish list: I've done day care, I've been a secretary, and I cut my own hair this past Saturday - does that qualify as a beautician stint? Maybe I'm thinking it's time to set some new goals and get down to what I really want to do.

Now, I'm thinking about my kids and the constant barrage of "You have to go to college". Don't misunderstand me: I am quite keen on all of my offspring going to college. However, I feel it's kind of irresponsible to push them into making lifelong decisions when they may not be ready to do so at age 18. Do we push every kid to get married at 25, or buy a house at age 28? "Well, son, it doesn't really matter that you don't know who to marry. If you don't do it now, you'll never have another chance." No, we want our kids to grow up with the wisdom to make good, solid decisions based on good timing and not to rush into anything just because they have to make a decision. However, most college-bound people end up going to college right after high school. Why don't we give them more time to get out in the world and discover what they really want to do? There is so much to be said for life experience, and yet our society places little value on it when forcing kids to make a decision that will affect their entire life.

Once again, I'm rambling. I'm also getting a little miffed that I didn't get a better first chance at education, and I hope that my kids will be better equipped to make the decision when the time comes.

And I hope I still have time to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.


  1. I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THAT! Most kids who go off to college at 18 have never even had a job, or just a summer slacker job. HOw do you know what you want to do if you have never done any of it???

  2. I'm married to a man who spent the first 5 years of our marriage deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up. (He was a high school teacher at the time, so we didn't starve. lol) Now he's in his 3rd year of grad school, going for his PhD in philosophy. He is much better at it now than he would have been had he started right after undergrad. I guess these things take time.


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