Deciding who you will be

Be Future You

I once overheard an eighth grade student admit, “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” She went on to say that some of her friends already know what they want to be (one wanted to be a veterinarian), though she couldn’t imagine it.

When I was in grade school, I couldn’t imagine growing up either. I did my homework, I followed the rules, I watched TV, and I read books. I didn’t worry about what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be until I was faced with the reality of job applications.

I remember taking a survey to match my interests with possible jobs. It was called the “Strong-Campbell Interest inventory of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank” (I looked it up). It matched me with jobs as a fine artist, a photographer, a musician, an advertising executive, and a florist. I shrugged it off – the results weren’t helpful or encouraging (at the time, I didn’t draw, paint, own a camera, play an instrument, or like to garden), and there was no follow-up on the school’s part.

My 9-year old son has a different perspective about growing up, and I’d like to share his insight with you.

This Halloween, a night when we are free to choose who we want to be, my 9-year old son wore a white lab coat – but he didn’t want to be a scientist, an engineer, or a doctor. He wanted to be “Future Me.” He wanted to be himself, but in the future.

It’s a subtle and surprisingly mature distinction. My son is not worried about what he will do in the future. He doesn’t want to be someone else, and he was a little annoyed that everyone thought he was a doctor. He just wants to be himself.

My son taught me that we don’t need to encourage children to do something. We need to encourage them to be themselves. And we should either be happy with who we are today – or change who we are tomorrow.

When you were young, what did you dream of doing? How did you know that you were “grown up”?

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