What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

It seems to be the most popular question to throw at young children. They are asked by their parents, their friends, their teachers and anybody else they might come into contact with. They tend to spout typical replies of a nurse, a police man, a fire man, a teacher or a pop star. Throughout primary school, the issue of who and what you want to be is ever-changing as we try to come up with the most unique aspiration. During secondary school, college, and university, the question progressively becomes more serious and the “when I grow up” part simmers away.

What do you want to be (now you are grown up)?

When you think about it, it’s actually one of the hardest questions for an adult to answer. When I was around six years old, I had no problem deciding what I wanted to be. I was one hundred percent certain that I wanted to be a police woman through the week and a Gladiator at the weekends (for those that remember the ITV television series in the 1990s). Yet on my last day of primary school at the age of eleven, I declared on our leaver’s film that I wanted to be a nurse. Have I ever wanted to be a nurse? Absolutely not. I’m terrified of needles and everything else to do with hospitals, but all of the other girls said they wanted to be a nurse and so naturally, I copied.

The thing is that I’ve never really been sure what I want to be. Does it matter to me? Not really. I’ve been the nursery child who wanted to pursue a career as a fairy, the infant who was determined to become a police woman and a Gladiator and later a Spice Girl, and the junior who followed the crowd in considering a career as a nurse. Right through school, college and university I continued to change my mind. Then I learned that there’s no rush to make a solid decision. Baz Luhrmann once said that some of the most interesting people still don’t know at 40 what they want to do with their lives, and I completely agree with this. My grandparents are two of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, but when I asked them what their dream jobs would have been they were stuck for words. Who really knows?

Of course there are people that spend their whole lives knowing exactly what they want to be, and they might well go on to achieve it. I really do admire their certainty, but the people who don’t know what they want to be yet shouldn’t be made to feel less superior. Life is all about trying things, enjoying some and not enjoying others. So the next time someone asks you what you want to be, don’t be embarrassed to say you don’t know yet. It’s alright to still be working it out.

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