I was watching the Disney channel, well… actually I was listening to the Disney channel because it has replaced any type of newscast that I might have time to watch. Listening because when I allow my eyes to venture to the screen, even if briefly, I become sucked in to a vortex of cute kids with great hair and exhilarating lives (also, they can sing), so I try not to allow my eyes to make the mistake of looking too long.
They have these brief little public service announcements for the kids, about fruits and languages and recycling. I heard a brief sentence and I have no idea what the context was but the statement intrigued me and, clearly, stuck with me. It was this, “What do I want to be when I grow up? I don’t know what I want for breakfast. How about asking me what do I want to be today?”
I thought this was perfect, really. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. The best I can come up with is someone who is helpful, friendly, good for a few laughs, and makes her friends crazy only a minimal amount of time. I’m not quite sure what job that would actually be — I’m still looking I suppose.
My oldest daughter is beginning high school in less that 10 days — a freshman. She has many possibilities ahead of her and she is exactly where she should be — some days she wants to be a writer, some an artist, some a pediatrician, some a zoologist. All perfect I think.
When I went to the freshman orientation recently, I was scared. Apparently there are different “tracks” at high school that kids get on to prepare them for college and a career. If my daughter wants to pursue a medical career, she takes one certain set of courses; if she prefers to go straight into the business field, she takes another set of courses. We had approximately 72 hours to think about what course of study we would initially put her on. At 14 we had to start planning for what she wanted to be when she grows up and our decisions could greatly affect her education, the college she applies to… her life.
During my freshman year of college, I changed my major three times — psychology to child psychology to English Literature. During my sophomore year, I changed my major twice — English Literature back to child psychology to elementary education. During my junior year I changed my major once — from elementary education to special education. Then I graduated and got a job working with children with learning disabilities. After a year, I decided I wanted to work with children with behavior disorders. After a few days… I decided I wanted to work with preschools with multiple disabilities. After 13 years, I decided I wanted to work with children with autism. In between, I thought about going to law school and medical school and becoming a writer and there were a few moments of wanting to manage a carnival and possibly drive an ice cream truck. All things I wanted to be right then.
Back to my daughter, we choose the course of studies that would put her in the medical field. We also slid in at least one course on acting (you never know). She doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up and I’m very fine with that. Neither do I, really. This week I thought about being a chef and owning my own restaurant, I thought about going back to school to become a veterinarian or possibly a lawyer, I thought about opening a school for kids with autism, I thought about becoming a writer or a poet.
What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be someone who can say I was everything I wanted to be, I was someone who never settled in jobs or love or life, I was someone who acted with compassion and fervor at the same time. What do I want to be right now? I want to run a hotdog stand and sell the best grilled hotdogs in the land. What about you?