Parents, teachers, friends – They all ask the same question millions of times to kids:
A singer? A doctor?
They go on to tell you that “You can be anything you want to be”.
That’s all fine and dandy, and I agree with raising kids’ self-esteems and motivating them to reach for the stars. Every child should be told of their limitless potential and have dreams grow in their hearts.
But my question is this : Instead of anything I want to be, why can’t I be everything I want to be?
I, like a lot of children, wanted to be a singer when I ‘grew up.’ I would prance around the house with a hairbrush in my hand belting out “Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys. Don’t judge – I was six and was just discovering myself. And although I still prance around belting out songs into a hairbrush, there came a day when I realized I couldn’t carry a tune. So, I had to pick another ‘thing’ I wanted to be.
Next I decided on becoming a writer. I excelled in my writing classes at school, entered a few contests, got a poem published, and even won a scholarship when I was thirteen (A whopping $100, yippee!) But as the years went on and there was so much pressure to keep my 4.0 GPA, get into a good college, and find a stable career, I started to second-guess myself. “I’m not that great of a writer anyway. My family and I are poor, and I can’t spend a fortune on college, then write something and just HOPE that something gets published and sells. I need more stability.”
I changed my mind a few more times, you get the idea, eventually ‘settling’ on a nursing career. I put ‘settling’ in quotations because at the time I picked to pursue nursing, it did feel like settling. There was a nursing shortage, right? It payed okay, hours were flexible, and reason, reason, reason. But then I fell in love with it. I love learning about the human body, diseases and pathophysiology, I love helping people, I love the challenges, the opportunities. I excelled at it. Although I want to be a nurse for the rest of my life and couldn’t imagine not being one, I still feel like there is a part of me that’s missing.
And I think it’s all my dreams and goals that I had (and still have) that I never pursued because I was taught – perhaps if only by inference – that I only get to be one thing.
So again, Why can’t I be everything I want to be?
I want, when people ask me what I do for a living, to reply with:
“I write. I own a business. I work as a nurse. I freelance. I travel. I experiment, and experience.”
People have come to expect a career title. I think society places too much emphasis on WHAT you do versus WHO you are, but that’s just my opinion. Why is there such a stigma placed on job-switching? On changing your mind? On holding multiple part-time jobs versus one full-time? No, there has been absolutely no one that has flat-out said ” You have to pick one” or “You CAN’T do everything,” but I feel the way we are brought up and the importance placed on finding A career (not careers) distorts thinking. Plus, I understand the cost of an education, believe me. So even choosing one career at first can seem daunting. Plus insurance and benefits and retirement plans, I know. I’m not saying it’s easy, or for everyone, but I don’t feel like I will ever be WHO I want to be while earning an income without pursuing every avenue of my soul.
What is ‘grown up’ anyway? Is there a specific age for this? 18? I couldn’t tell you what I wanted to do for the rest of my life at that age. I still can’t. Many 40-year-olds still don’t know.
Maybe we should be asking better questions?
Who do you want to be when you grow up? What kinds of things do you want to do to make a living?