What did you want to be when you grew up?

Oct 13, 2015

 It’s the one question adults always ask kids: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Depending upon the age of the kid, the answer may be “I want to be a firefighter and a doctor and an astronaut and an animal doctor. And a mommy.” It’s fun to be at the age when you don’t perceive limits and anything seems possible.

Taking a long car ride recently, I listened to two podcasts that got me thinking about what my little kid self wanted to be when I grew up. In the first, the interview subject knew exactly what she wanted to do at age 12: work for Unicef. Fast-forward to her adult life, and you’ll find her working for Unicef. She said her friends marvel at the fact that she’s actually doing what she always said she would.

Which got me thinking: what did I always want to be when I grew up? Honestly, I have no recollection of saying “I’m going to be a firefighter or a doctor or an astronaut,” or anything specific at all. What I do remember is recognizing what I wanted my day to feel like. When I was maybe 10 years old, my grandparents took me to visit friends who ran a bed & breakfast. I clearly recall standing in their kitchen, watching them prepare food while opera played on the radio. I felt a sense of freedom and creativity and possibility. “When I grow up,” I thought, “my day will be like this.”

By the time I got to college, however, I had completely forgotten about this. I declared Accounting as my major because I thought it would offer security. And maybe it would have if I hadn’t needed to make a change since my grade point average was a solid D. I finally graduated with a business degree and found my place in the corporate world.

Fast forward a bunch of years to an unhappy me. I don’t love my job, I don’t love the work I’m doing. I still don’t remember that at one time I knew exactly what I wanted my day to feel like, but I do know I’m ready for a change. So I head back to school: first, graduate school for a degree in nutrition and then culinary school because, hey, why not? I decide to combine the two and open a personal chef business and nutritional counseling practice. I spend my days cooking for other families and offering nutrition advice.

I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing some dishes when it hit me: My day feels exactly like I wanted it to when I was a kid. I’m cooking food for other people, I’m listening to jazz, I’m creating my own schedule and deciding how I’m spending my time. I was so grateful to finally be there that I nearly fell over.

That was what really interested me about a concept I heard in the second podcast: if we allow ourselves, we can reconnect with what we wanted to be when we were little. The cool thing is that we can also let ourselves go there, even if it’s been many years since we made that decision.

What did you want to be when you grew up? What are you doing now? And how similar are these two things? If the answer is “Not very,” give some thought to what you might want to do about that.

The podcasts I listened to are on GoodLifeProject – check them out, there’s lots of great stuff here!

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