What do you want to be when you grow up? How many times have we asked our children this seemingly innocuous question? How many times were we asked it as children? I remember being asked by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, teachers and guidance counselors.
I remember wanting to be a writer and being too afraid to say it out loud. It sounded crazy because itâ€™s like saying you want to be an artist or an actress or a pop star. It wasnâ€™t something you choose as a career; it was something you choose as a hobby.
So, I told everyone what they wanted to hear. I told them I wanted to be a lawyer and I was stuck on that path from junior high all the way through college. I even began to believe my own story.
My dad is a musician but thatâ€™s not his job. He worked in a factory all of my childhood, but he always played music and performed. He was in various bands and he played in the church choir. He played anywhere he was asked; everywhere he could because it was his passion. Music was in his heart. Music is how he expressed himself. When he plays music is when he is the happiest.
His father was a farmer. Farmers donâ€™t necessarily want to raise kids who sit around plucking a guitar all day while they bust their butts in the fields. My dad was raised knowing that he could play music but no matter how good he was at it, he needed to have a real job because a wife and kids canâ€™t eat music any more than they can eat words. His dad squashed his dreams without even trying or meaning to.
Iâ€™ve written since I was old enough to know how to write. Words are like air to me. I need them to survive but my dad gave me the distinct impression, at a very young age, that writing was not a career choice.
I was raised knowing that a parent sacrifices his/her own dreams to give a better life to their child. So how could I possibly be a writer when my father had forgone his dreams so that I could have better than he? I was expected to be the first one in our family to go to college and become something great – a doctor or a lawyer – someone who made a difference in the world. All I wanted to do was write.
My mom encouraged me to pursue journalism; that was her compromise because I could write. But I always heard my dadâ€™s voice in my head telling me that I needed a real job. I kept writing – in journals, papers, speeches, and poetry.
Writing was my drug and I took it wherever I could get it. I joined yearbook and the newspaper and I even took 3 languages. I just couldnâ€™t get enough of the written word but I was on the path to having a career in the law. Itâ€™s like being stuck on the roundup at the carnival and knowing you are going to throw up but you get on anyways. There you are getting sick, unhappy and stuck for the duration.
I arrived at university and pursued my pre-law path, never veering. I wrote for a short while for the school paper and then I became bogged down with all the writing for my classes. It wasnâ€™t creative but at least I was writing. Eventually, around the time of graduation, I realized that law school was not for me.
3 years ago, I started pursuing a writing career. It was liberating and for the first time as an adult, I was doing something I absolutely loved – writing. Today, I am a professional writer. I can exercise my voice every single day on my own blog and any of the four other publications that I write for and I have never been more fulfilled in my professional life. I am pursuing my passion and isnâ€™t that all any of us really want?
Remember that the next time you ask your child what they want to be when they grow up. Encourage them no matter what their dreams may be. Even if it seems farfetched and unattainable or poorly suited, the encouragement that you will give them will provide the self-confidence in life to pursue whatever endeavor they choose in life. If you dismiss your childâ€™s dreams, they may just give up dreaming all together.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
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