Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that “growing up” isn’t this far off into the future thing, it’s something I need to be preparing for right now.
When I’m in these periods of having to look into the future at what I could see myself doing, I oftentimes find myself looking backward instead. I’ve heard it be said that the only person you need to impress is yourself as a kid, which is a pretty good way to pick your career. It seems as though a lot of people work in a career path similar to the one they picked as a child. Because when we’re asked what we want to do as a kid, it’s the purest form of joy. Not yet influenced by onlookers, salary, or any other external factor that dulls our inner passions. So I look back to my kid-self, vying to remember what she wanted to be when she grew up.
I’ve been running into a problem though. As a child, I was very aspirational, although I didn’t always know what I was working so hard towards. I guess that’s one way I haven’t grown much as a person. It seemed as though with each passing week, I wanted to be something different.
My first ‘growing up’ dream was easily the most simplistic. All I wanted to do was be a dog owner. I would move to a big house with a huge, fenced-in yard. My dogs would have free range to run around the yard, and I’d care for them the way some people dream about caring for children. In the dream, it was always just me and the dogs. I didn’t think about this too existentially deep as a wee six-year-old, all I knew was that with my dogs, I would never feel the dread of loneliness.
I had just started a dog business, watching and walking the dogs around my neighborhood. With the business and having a best friend who also happened to be a canine, I was around dogs constantly. The moment that I felt the most important in elementary school also pertained to dogs. I was helping a woman foster dogs, and she oftentimes went out of town last minute. Her daughter was in my after-school choir, though. One day as we were being dismissed, the woman ran up to me with a four-month-old puppy for me to take and watch as she quickly ushered her daughter out. Although I wasn’t quite old enough to understand the insanity of the situation, I was old enough to feel the pride of having a business that would deliver cute puppies to me in front of all my friends.
My second dream was much less innocent than the first, although I didn’t know it at the time. My family always valued experiences over things, which meant we did a lot of traveling. One summer, in particular, it seemed as though we were taking a road trip every single weekend. In those months, I spent a lot of time staring out the car window at the grass, cows, and other cars. After hours of the same scenery, it had been decided, I wanted to be a license plate maker. When I promptly told my family of my new dream, they were not as moved as I.
My brother, Caeden, was the first to cheerfully burst my bubble. “Criminals make license plates, Calihan. You make them when you’re in jail.”
“Oh,” I responded, taking a beat to ponder. “Well, I’m okay with being one of those as well. A criminal, I mean. But I would never get caught.”
That was also the summer we got hooked on The A-Team, so the response made sense.
There was also the permanent, underlying necessity to be a professional soccer player. We all know my absolute obsession with soccer from the ages of 3-17 (some might argue it is still raging), and the dedication I put into the sport at such a young age. Therefore I believe it comes as no surprise that this was one of my biggest dreams. When you put so much time into something – practice every day after school, listening to a nutritionist, putting off sleep and homework to just run one more minute – it will inevitably take over your entire life.
There were obviously many other overarching desires that spawned from my generalistic childhood. I wanted to be a speechwriter for the president when I first started learning about politics, I wanted to be a journalist and would write an entire paper for my family every week, and I wanted to be a marine biologist when I spent my summer in Southern California…
Now the big dreams are management consulting, the business of fashion, finance, journalism, and photography. At the moment I’m studying economics, I’m seeing classmates get these jobs, and I’m connecting with these professionals on LinkedIn. I’m constantly consuming written content about my favorite photographers, or articles that make me stop in my tracks to scribe large portions into my notebook. My pure, child dream of simply living on a farm with my dogs is now tainted by knowing that I want to live in New York, will have to pay rent, and want a respectable job. So even though I enjoy doing these things, that love seems to increases with every extra dollar on the paycheck as well.
Although my kid-self was just as scattered in varying interests as I am now, looking back does give me a sort of comfort. I realize that with every single one of my old dreams, it came because of activities I was partaking in at the time. If I had not been surrounded by related things, would I have had any of these dreams in the first place?
It makes one wonder if the things they are interested in doing in the future, are only so because they are a huge part of their life now. Since economics constantly permeates my life now, looking into my future and not seeing me continue with something that is currently so monumental in my life gives me a sense of unknown. If I’m spending so much time on it now, I should spend an equal amount of time on it in the future.
At 10 years old I thought I would die if I didn’t play on the US Women’s National Team with the likes of Alex Morgan and Mia Hamm, and now professional soccer isn’t even something on my radar. Although I still love it, soccer is now simply a game that I sometimes play with my friends when wasting time or trying to enjoy the weather.
So now, when I sit in my room and thoughts fill my mind that tell me, “I’m going to die if I don’t get that consulting job” I look down at my feet, remember my History of Dreams, and I tell myself that life is not that consequential.
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