What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up? A very simple phrase that is probably one of the most important that you’ll hear. I wonder if you remember where you were in your life when you first heard this phrase. I imagine the first time that you heard it, it probably was with a very elated tone. The wondrous possibilities that lay in the future of a young child. Yet, you probably grew less and less fond of the phrase as you grew older, because it no longer was something that you could dream about, it was something that you had to do. Life is a cruel mistress, in that early on you feel like you can do anything, and that the world is yours for the taking. It’s only when you grow up that you realize that you have limitations, physical, academic, financial, and such. There are many obstacles that stand in your way the older you get. Suddenly, what you wanted to be when you grew up is no longer a possibility, and you’re stuck in this world in a place that you probably despise.

Needless to say, when you were young, the phrase didn’t hold much meaning for you. It was something that you dreamt about, and the possibilities were endless. As you got older, it became more and more serious of a question. Suddenly, you were probably coming to the end of your high school career, maybe even before then, but it was one of the most stressful phrases that there was. What you wanted to do with your life, became what are you going to do with your life. There was no longer any time for dreaming, there was only time for action. I feel that we are “groomed” from such a young age to always think about the future. I mean, we are only around 15 years old when we have to decide what profession we want to do for the rest of our, roughly around 80 years, life.

I know that I am probably overemphasizing the importance of this phrase in our lives, but to me, it is still something that haunts me to this day. I am twenty-something years old, didn’t complete a 4-year degree, still live at home. I have no idea what I am going to do for the rest of my life! By now, most of the people that I went to high school with are already in their “professional” careers, getting married, having kids, making a ton of money (in comparison) and leading what seem to be, amazing lives. I know that everything you see on social media is simply the best parts of someone’s life, but it doesn’t make it sting any less. I am at an age and a point in my life where what I want to do with my life, is what I am doing with my life. The fact that I am stagnated, mostly due to my mental illness, is crushing me.

The reason I wrote this article, is to question why we use this phrase. Why do we ask kids what they want to do with their lives? We shouldn’t make young people choose something that will determine the whole outcome of their lives when they are still running around a playground. The thing is, and the truth is, we cannot do anything we set our minds to. That may just be the depression talking, but if you take a real hard look, hard work can only get you so far. Granted, there are people in this world that can do anything they set their hearts on, through hard work alone. I am saying, that we cannot and should not tell everyone that they can do anything they want with their lives. There are too many variables, too many things that can change or go wrong. We should let the youth decide on their own what it is they want. Not drill into their heads every day that they need to make a decision before life passes them by. Life is so long these days that you can be in your 30’s and still figuring out what to do with your life because if you’re lucky, you still have 40 plus years to go! The point of the matter is, do whatever the hell you damn well please because I’m just some guy on the internet who has no idea what I want to do with my life, and have no reason to be telling you what to do with yours.


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22 Replies to “What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?”

  1. Word!
    That’s the first agreeable statement that comes to mind right after reading your post.
    Growing up, and I’m in my mid-to late 20’s myself, hearing teachers (and parents… and friends.) saying how I need to pick what I want to do for the rest of my life always spun me into a worse state of anxiety, building off the issues that I already had.
    I never finished my 2 year Fine Art degree (Though only have a few classes and I could finish.) and always felt like I was a failure for that.
    But I’m trying not to feel that way as I get older, as I still try to figure out what I want to do with my life, I learned so much and the things I learned in college come in handy everyday. (I was in a bad place in college, in a very unhealthy mindset, and I ultimately chose to leave school, for the time being, because I was failing out, unfocused, and it was just adding stress to everything else that surrounded me in life.)
    So what, you didn’t finish your degree.
    So what, you still don’t know what you want to ‘be when you grow up’ even though you feel pretty grown up.
    I say, if you manage to find a way to pay your bills and care for your needs, always keep doing what you love.
    Even if it doesn’t turn into a career, or maybe you’ll get lucky and it will, don’t let it stop you from loving what you’re doing anyways.
    I don’t like the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but I still think it’s worth giving something your all, especially if it’s something that draws you toward it so strongly.
    Have a “real job”, “real goals”, and then have your hobby job, your hobby goals, the goals that make you jump in excitement when you least expect them too.
    I don’t think it’s silly to ask kids what they want to be, but I like it even better if we could tell them that sometimes things won’t work out, and that’s ok! Have a back up plan, enjoy the things around you, even if you struggle for a while.

    1. I think that we should inspire kids, not force them into a career they might hate. Let them continue to be in wonder about growing up and getting a dream job, because then they might not feel the pressure that I described. All in all, asking kids isn’t bad, but don’t make it a question that they have to answer before they even get into college

  2. A very good point! The problem is that it’s even more present in schools. As early as 8th grade, educators bang onto students about how they need to focus on their careers. Too soon, I think.

      1. That’s way too soon. All I cared about back then was how my sports teams were doing.

  3. For children interested in sports, it’s good to ask them this question because most of them will have short careers if they intend to pursue their dream. Most of them will retire from competitive sports in their late 20s and 30s so, yeah they need to make up their minds early enough but I totally get your point

    1. I definitely agree with the sports aspect, for those not athletically gifted, we are told to find something to do before we even know who we are…I feel like

  4. I totally agree. As a teacher of very young children, most who have developmental delays, language delays, autism and Down Syndrome. Rather than asking what they want to be when they grow up, I ask them how they can make the world a better place. That encompasses everything from baking to teaching to caring for others or by even being president. I foster strengths and teach them love, especially for themselves. So many of us are so focused on the future that we forget to enjoy today. My own children are 21, 19 and 15 and my advice to them is to do what makes them happy. The rest will come. At 48 years young, I’m still finding myself. Daily. You have plenty of time to find yourself and what makes you happy. Be patient and enjoy the adventures along the way! 😊

  5. I think it puts pressure on some. And on others it creates a feeling of failure. Especially if life interferes and they don’t become the person that they expected to be. I took the long way around…. I told everyone I wanted to be a writer… I was told that I couldn’t make a living at it…. Now in my fourties… I AM A WRITER! But I think that that struggle with who I was expected to be and who I wanted to be is not a place I want my children to be. I try to teach my daughter that her future is full of possibility and if one choice falls through then she merely needs to change course.

    1. You are an amazing parent, and you are doing great things it sounds like, you give me hope that one day I’ll figure out what I want to be!

      1. Hope is always a huge thing. Just don’t give up. What you want to be is only half of the equation. The other half is what you are willing to work towards. Life throws curve balls, be willing to adapt and you will do wonderful things!

  6. I was asked to speak to some eight grade classes at the end of last year about career paths. They’re now being ‘evaluated’ to see which ones can go to high school and which ones should pursue other options.
    I was there to tell them that you’re not bound by your early choices. What I do has nothing to do with what I studied. I learned it all on my own and it got me far. Don’t be scared that the choice you make now fixes you for life. The jobs you will do probably don’t even exist yet.

  7. “The wondrous possibilities that lay in the future of a young child. Yet, you probably grew less and less fond of the phrase as you grew older, because it no longer was something that you could dream about, it was something that you had to do.” Spot on. I do feel that asking this question of us when we’re *so young* can actually be damaging – even though grown ups can think it’s cute and innocent. Emilie Wapnick raises similar points in her TED Talk about multi-potentialites, if you get the chance to watch that.

  8. Amazing post. Very honest and real, those are the best kind of blog. You know, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always used to reply that I wanted to “be happy”
    It hasn’t changed, if anything, the hard years of growing under others’ expectations and conformism taught me what you clearly already learn: I should really do what the hell I want, what makes me feel alive and fuel my desire to live, not what people think is best for me or what they think is my place to be.
    Thank you for sharing your lovely post.

    1. I really like that way of thought, just wanting to be happy is something that I have wanted for so long, and only recently even thought it was a possibility. Thanks for reading!

  9. As always, love your post. So easy to relate to. My father always told me if you do what you love, you won’t have to “work” a day in your life. I spent all of my childhood thinking I’d be a teacher (until I started working towards my edu degree), and now I’m near the end of my 20’s, just recently finished a 2 year degree (that took me near 10 to achieve due to anxiety/depression), and am at a job that is an “entry level” still within a school, but not teaching; but I’ve never been happier with a job than I am now, after having a couple long term jobs that just drained me. And I have lots of room for growth in a few different directions now.

    1. How did you end up getting back to school? I’ve been trying to find the time because I’m at a job I hate, and have been for almost 2 years, but feel like I don’t have to time to go back to school

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