Writing Challenge: What Did You Want to be When You Grew Up?

This is a common question we ask young people all the time. It is a question fraught with pitfalls. As a high school counselor, I devised a strategy for my students. I told them “Just figure out a school and some major or aspiration you ‘might’ want to accomplish.” Adults want nothing more than to tell you what you “should” do. Deny them this opportunity by answering them with a thoughtful, plausible path forward. Feedback suggested this strategy was very effective. We used to say people might go through as many as 8 major job changes in their lifetime. What used to be a decision that might last a lifetime is seldom so today. Many of the jobs that will exist for students in the future, don’t even exist today. The idea that we need to have a clear path from point A to point B is silly. We are always self correcting with life’s experiences informing where we end up.

“You don’t need to figure you what you will do for a lifetime, just figure out what you will do next”

Ron Logsdon III

So what did I want to be when I grew up? I did not have a clue. I liked doing miniature sculptures and jewelry making. Since, I liked working with small things my parents planted the idea that I should become a dentist. This failed to take note of the fact that I HATED going to the dentist. I can think of not a single thing associated with people’s teeth and gums that appeals to me. And then there was that time that I lost consciousness when the dentist convinced me it was a little cavity and didn’t need novocaine and I woke up with a mask on my face and people standing all around me… I hate the smell of grinding enamel, the unnatural angle that one lays while having your teeth worked on, the intimacy of having someone trompsing in my mouth. Nope never going to be a dentist.

Next, I was to be a protozoologist. Again I did not have much input into my new career path, parents idea, again. I did like biology, but that is not where I was headed. In high school I took the bull by the horns and bombed my PSAT test and after that refused to consider taking the SATs. The truth is I chose a traditional career path during a very untraditional time. I was a housewife and then a mom. I took a career class at the local community college and the counselor said, “not surprising you don’t know where you are headed as you have clearly outlined being a mom is your most important role.” Good validation there. I really appreciated that.

It wasn’t until my children were in High School that I started college in earnest and eventually got my BA and then a Masters. It was a visit by two Counselor’s from the University Career Center that started me on my path to an advanced degree in Counseling with a Education emphasis. My mentor and dear friend Ron Logsdon III was my inspiration. In reflecting why I ended up there—I think it had a lot to do with having a difficult childhood and yet the schools I attended and the counselors I had never really noticed. I thought perhaps I could be the person for someone else, that I needed back then. And although my career was not a super long one I have had enough students come back and tell me what a difference I made for them— It seems I made the right choice.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write about your own career path or one of your ancestors

What to include

  • Any childhood ideas of what you wanted to be?
  • Any career paths you took and where they led?
  • Any brick walls or detours you took along the way?
  • Funny stories about what led you where you ended up?
  • Who inspired you?
  • Anyone else in the family that did something similar?
  • Did you end up in the career you set out to be in?

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

1 Comments on “Writing Challenge: What Did You Want to be When You Grew Up?”

  1. Pingback: Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

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