Knowing Exactly What You Want To Be When You Grow Up Isn’t Cool

Flickr / J E Theriot
Flickr / J E Theriot

“I like to write.”

That was, and has always been, my response when people ask me what my “hobbies” are, or what I do in my free time.

Except, it’s not just a hobby.

I’ve never been able to explain this in a way that doesn’t sound completely cheesy and corny, but fuck it, it’s the truth, and I think it’s awesome.

One of my earliest memories in life dates back to my first grade classroom. We had just finished reading a Dr. Seuss story (I couldn’t tell you which one exactly), and our assignment was to write an alternate ending to the book. Something simple, obviously.

As I said, I couldn’t tell you what that story was actually about, or what my personal alternate ending was for it, but I vividly remember being engrossed in that one assignment. When everyone else in the class handed their work in by the end of the day, I was asking the teacher if I could have some extra time.

“What you have already is just fine, though!” my teacher said to me. I’d probably written something like three front-and-back loose-leaf sheets worth of an ending already, while most of the other kids likely stopped at just one page.

After that, I started an embarrassingly large collection of journals and diaries. I wrote about my day, about school, about my family. I wrote about people who didn’t exist, people and stories that I’d conjured up in my head while I was bored at school.

And whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be a writer.

Of course, that answer was endearing and cute when I was six years old. It was still cute even when I was twelve.

But the closer I got to high school, and eventually college, the more I realized how immature “I want to be a writer” sounds to the rest of the world. I became so acutely aware of how other people perceived that simple statement. I found myself sweating and anxious when I could anticipate the topic coming up in conversation.

So I started to alter that statement here and there.

“Well, I want to do something with writing…”

“I want to be a writer, but I know it’s not realistic…”

Sometimes, I would actually lie, if I felt that the person to whom I was speaking might be especially judgmental about a career in writing.

I actually preferred telling those people that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, rather than tell them that I’ve known exactly what I’ve wanted to do since I was six years old.

Now, it’s not just the idea of a writing career that gets this bad stigma, although that notion certainly can’t be discounted either. I think what’s really getting the bad rap here, is the confidence I’d always felt for my future.

And this isn’t to say that I think I’m the best writer since Shakespeare, or that I think for even a second that I can graduate from college, walk out into the real world, write a book, and make money. I know the leaps and bounds I’ll have to make it through before I get anywhere near that.

But at the end of the day, I know what I want to do. And as I get older, I’m finding more and more that the majority of my own peers just aren’t the same. I know so many people who are still just sort of floating around, without a clue as to what they want to do. So many people who are eternally grateful that they don’t have to declare their major until junior year. So many people who just pick a major because they heard it was easy, or that it made good money, or for some other equally vague reason.

And there’s a disconnect between me and all those other people. When these kinds of conversations come up, I can feel the tension and judgment when I say exactly what I want to be, or what I want to do, while everyone else either dances around the answer, or just makes a joke of it.

Believe me, I am not condemning the people who aren’t sure about what they want to do. I never would, and I never will. But I ask for the same respect and support that I give to people who tell me they have no idea what they want to be “when they grow up.”

I know what I want to do, and I can’t wait to do it. I’m already on my way up, and your negativity isn’t going to stop me. TC mark

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