What do you want to be when you grow up? A question we are all so familiar with. A question that as kids we don’t really think about. A question that our parents would so quickly counter with, “You can be whatever you want to be.”
As kids, to answer that oh-so-common question we give the oh-so-common answers—a doctor, a cop, a firefighter, a princess, a super hero. Until about 5 I answered with “A PRINCESS!” and then for a few years I was for sure becoming a lawyer…and then a nurse, it was always changing as I grew older. I got to 17 when I was on the verge of graduating high school and NEEDED to decide right then and there what I really wanted to be when I grew up. No pressure. A 17-year-old girl who a month ago her biggest worry was what she wearing to school the next day. Now she has to decide her life’s fate.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
The next few months I went through more answers to that question than I ever did as a child. And here’s the thing, and this is something I wish I realized back then, you don’t HAVE to pick right then and there. It’s ok to wait. It’s ok to take time to think about it. That is a lot for a 17, 18, even 23-year-old to have any idea what it is they want to spend the rest of their lives doing.
We live in a society that is so quick to judge if you don’t go to college right out of high school. Well, if you don’t go college, then you must be going into the military. But why? Why are we so pressured at such young age to make one of the biggest decisions we’ll ever have to make? A decision that will impact our entire lives for the rest of our lives? It is downright scary.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, when you’re 27 working at one of the biggest and best financial companies in the country, that question kind of punches you in the face when you STILL don’t know the answer and your answer is NOT what you’re doing now in your career. Remember before at 17 when this was downright scary? 10 years later, still terrifying. Maybe more.
You got through college. Graduated. Held an internship. Clawed through those years of working those dead end jobs just to get by and pay rent and have enough money left over to get some ramen. Now you’re doing pretty well. You have a house. You have car. You have a dog. You have a steady and strong relationship. You have good friends. All in all, you’re happy. Things are going well and you really shouldn’t complain. But then, you literally cannot wait until Friday. Like you’ve actually been waiting for Friday since Sunday night because you also hate Sunday night. In fact, you dread Sunday nights because the thought of the coming week is draining. And it’s not that you can’t wait until Friday night because you’re going to party and get wild but because you get to sit on the couch with some wine and enjoy a movie and know that you don’t have to set the alarm for the next morning. The best feeling. Ever. No alarm. Am I right?
Why should we live like that? Why should we go through the motions of every day without really LOVING what is it we’re doing? I’m not saying you shouldn’t be grateful to have a decent job with a good company, because you should be. And you should be grateful for the ability and means to work every day. I’m not saying you’re a miserable person because you don’t like Sunday. It’s ok. I don’t like Tuesdays either, for the record. But that doesn’t mean my life sucks. It doesn’t. But it is sad when you what you are doing is going through the motions and not loving what you’re doing. It sucks the life out of you. It takes away whatever passion you might have had. It exhausts you. It exhausts you to a point where you don’t even have the energy to even think about doing what you love.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” My boyfriend asked me at the age of 27, and I could not find him an answer. I racked my brain. Where did I go wrong when I was 17? When I made the big decision? Well, I finally found my answer and the thing is, is I didn’t go wrong. And you didn’t either.
If you can’t answer the question, like me, I have good news. IT’S OK! And you know why it’s ok? Because your 9-5 does not define you. Your job does not entail all that you are and all that you are going to be. If you are doing what you love with your career, my hat is off to you and I think that is absolutely amazing. A few months ago I probably would have envied you. When I was 17, I made a decision that led to about nine billion other decisions that led me to where I am today. I might have a stressful job that makes me dread Sundays, but that same job provides me my security. It took my boyfriend asking me at the age of 27, “What do you want to be when you grow up” for me to FINALLY, after 27 years, actually think about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.
When I found my answer it had nothing to do with a job, a career, a profession. What I want to be…I want to be what I love. I want to have a passion and I want to be obsessively passionate. I want my energy back and I want to put all that extra energy into what it is I love and what is it I’m passionate about. I want to be someone’s inspiration. I want me back and I want me to love me. What do I want to be? I want to be the best me in every single way possible.
After all of this, what I’m saying is that if you don’t know the answer just yet, don’t worry, you’ll find the answer, I know you will. Any if there’s one thing I hope you take from this, I hope you remember to remember your passions and don’t put what you love on the back burner. If you’re 17 making a big decision on college, it is ok to not know and please do not be pressured. If you’re 27 second guessing your career, it is ok because that does not define you.
My favorite writer, Charles Bukowski, wrote some of my most favorite words, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” If you love to paint, then paint. If you love to travel, then travel. If you love to run, then run. I could go on and on and on. If you love it, do it. Do it right now and do the best you can and do it until you turn blue. 17 or 27, do what you love, be who you love.
Me? I’m going to write.