What do you want to be when you grow up? (pick one!)

Parents, teachers, friends – They all ask the same question millions of times to kids:

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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.

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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?

Ideas? Comments?

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