When I Grow Up. . .

21 Feb

A round of giggles shot through the public library. Slightly annoyed, I look up from my laptop, like a librarian glaring over her glasses’ rim. The culprits? One gangly girl, three rowdy boys and a wiry guy in his late 20s sitting at a nearby table.

A curious bunch indeed.


“Okay, so what do you want to be when you grow up?” the man inquired as the kids simmer and begin wildly scribbling away in their lined notebook pages. I later learn they are practicing essay composition—in preparation for an exam that will allow these elementary schoolers to escape the horrors of public education for private school.

The tutees go around the table and reveal their respective responses. The girl yearns to be a lawyer. One boy wants to be businessman. Another specifically seeks to be an entrepreneur. As these three debated how many figures each can expect, the last respondent announces his desire to become a sports broadcaster. The selection quiets the table as the boy lists his gift of gab and adoration of sports figures to explain his choice. “It’s not a six-figure income, but hey, money is money, right?” he asks with no reply.

The tutor sighs dramatically. “I’m sad that none of you said you want to become a teacher, like me,” he states. A long awkward silence follows as the children glance amongst themselves. Suddenly, laughter spills from one child to the next. Between chuckles, the boldest pupil replies, “Sorry. Not enough money.”

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A job is a central part of human identity.

Hi. My name is LaShonda and I am a __________________.


Hi. I’m LaShonda, the ___________________.

The word that fills that blank determines whether you are the center of the social circle or its leper.

The weight of this decision becomes sombering with age, resulting in general shifts from frivolous to the secure: In other words, goodbye, ballet dancer. Hello, doctor.

Most of us become so fearful of failure that our passions and dreams become collateral.

But what is the price of security?

 An artist.

I believe that was my earliest response to the timeless question: I loved to draw. My father was an art teacher.

But as I grew older, I realized that life as a starving artist was hardly glamorous. So I sought an alternative. Well, I hated the sight of blood, avoided arguments at all costs, and refused to follow my parents into the teacherhood. All of the world is business, I reasoned. And all the people are either sellers or buyers. I figured if I understood its principles, I could apply them to any profession. In other words, pursuing a business undergrad bought me extra time.

Now, my Bachelor’s degree collects dust on my mantel. I know I can always fall back on it. But I’ve also realized the importance of chasing my dreams. When they die, a part of us is buried along with them.

When I grow up, I want to live a life that is worthy of memory, a life that positively affects those in my local and global community.

Grandiose goals perhaps, but undoubtedly worth the effort.




2 Responses to “When I Grow Up. . .”

  1. Minecraft Guide March 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    It’s interesting to see this point of view. I can’t say fore sure if I agree or not, but it is something I will think about now.


  2. Dienna February 5, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    That’s another issue that comes up when pursuing a career—the conflict of doing something that is your passion but that not providing a proper standard of living, or doing something that makes you miserable only because it pays the bills. If only there were a balance. And it’s sad that those kids were obsessed with making $big money$ that young.

    And yes, too many people define themselves by what they do. During my period of unemployment, people would not take “I’m unemployed” as an answer and move on to something else. I remember one person asking “so what did you use to do before you lost your job?” It’s insane. Talking about jobs is boring. Is this what adulthood has come down to, that you can only be considered an adult if you have a certain job?! Oy.


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