What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up
What do you want to be when you grow up? This question starts when we are toddlers. It seems like we are expected to know the answer by the time we hit middle school. Career aptitude tests, meetings with guidance counselors, four-year plans...they all hit us around the time we are 13 or 14. Can we really be expected to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives - at 14? What about 18? 40? We don’t have to know. And we are allowed to change our minds.
Kids are expected to lay out their four year plan for high school in 8th grade. The purpose of this is to have them ready for the course of study they want to pursue in college. What if they don’t want to go to college? By the time they get to college, they’re expected to know what they want to do. Why waste money taking classes that aren’t going to apply to your major? Imagine having to make a decision (other than education) at 18 that you’ll have to stick with for the next 50 years. Most people’s interest change as they grow, mature, move, meet new people. Unexpected events come into people’s lives that shift our trajectory: babies, marriages, divorces, deaths. Life is not a straight line from graduation to retirement. Its road has many branches, many paths that lead to the end. Life tangles, it twists, and sometimes the best stuff is off the beaten path.
We need to be open to veering off that path. We should be continually redefining what success and happiness is to us. Our 14-year-old selves cannot possibly envision what our 34-year-old selves will want or need. Our 34-year-old selves cannot see what we’ll need when we are 64. We have to be open to new goals. A successful career isn’t necessarily decided in 8th grade, or in your junior year of college. It’s okay if you decide to change your mind. It’s okay to try new things. A successful career is about more than surviving, it’s about living. If what you’re doing now isn’t making you happy, don’t waste more of your life surviving your way through it just because it may be what you decided you wanted to do ten years ago. You have more life to live. Take more classes. Move to a new city. Don’t be afraid to get off the path. Sometimes the side roads have better views.