When my oldest was about three, I started planting the idea of college in her brain. I remember a particular conversation we had.
“What happens when you’re five?” I asked.
“I go to school,” she answered on cue.
“Where do you go after grade school?” I asked next.
“High school,” she responded.
“Where do you go after high school?”
Then I asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
Smiling, she told me, “A clown.”
Great, I thought. Clown college!
I’ve been thinking about that question we always ask kids. What do you want to be when you grow up? I think we’re asking the wrong question or expecting the wrong answer.
I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years and I definitely hold Teacher as part of my central identity. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a career that they love, much less one that can be part of their character. Some of us have a passion for what we do, but many, many more simply have a job so that they can pursue their passions, or sometimes just so they can survive. We need garbage collectors, car salesman and account managers, and all those jobs provide services modern society needs, but none are likely to make people feel like that is who they are in life.
According to US Labor statistics, people my age have had an average of 11+ jobs. The millennial generation is likely to switch careers even more often. No one will “be” one thing through their lifetime. Maybe what we should be asking is, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”
Do you want to be smart? Everyone’s intelligence can be improved with hard work and perseverance, qualities that would be valuable for any occupation.
Do you want to be strong and brave? Start practicing now, child. Exercise those muscles and face your fears.
Do you want to be adventurous? Then, parents, it’s time for some child-sized freedom or they’ll never be up for a challenge.
Do you want to be athletic? You’ll need some genetic talent, but then practice, practice, practice.
Do you want to be kind? The world could use you right now.
Do you want to be creative? Don’t be a follower. Pursue your art.
Since my husband has retired and taken over many of the chores I used to do, I’m trying self-centered on for size. I think this is what has freed me up to try adding Writer to my psyche. It feels pretty good.
Who do you want to be? Try on a new label and see how it feels.