What Do You Want to Be?
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” How many times did you hear that question as a child? It’s a universal conversation starter between adults and children. Why do we “grown-ups” ask it? Maybe we miss that sense of possibility. We grow up, get older, find jobs, pay bills, but along the way we sometimes forget that childlike sense of wonder and the irrepressible hope. I can be whatever I want to be! I can do anything! It doesn’t matter if we want to be a fairy princess or a space cowboy – kids believe that anything can happen. With a little encouragement from parents, that sense of hopefulness can breed confidence.
It Runs in the Family
Many of our ancestors likely didn’t have much of a choice of what they wanted to be when they grew up. My families tended to pass on occupations like an inheritance, at least in the “old country” before immigrating to the U.S. The Echerer family had seven generations of shoemakers in Bavaria. The mason’s sons were masons or carpenters, a related trade. Similarly, the miller’s sons were millers, flour merchants, or bakers. Farmers begat farmers. The Pater family were all weavers because that was the main factory in the town. Once those families came to the U.S., either times or circumstances changed the occupations, and sons no longer automatically did what their fathers did.
I Wanted to Be What?
What we do as adults to make a living and what we wanted to be as children are different things. I found a hint of my old dreams on the back of a copybook, circa 1977. I was ten years old, and after my name I added several descriptive “titles”. My list described who I wanted to be: Cryptanalysist [sic], Photographer, Stamp Collector, Pro Skateboarder, Softball Player, etc, Tape Recording Expert, Detective, Guitar Player, and Many More Things. So how did my dreams fare?
- I get to be a detective and a cryptanalyst with every genealogical record I find and decipher! I didn’t have genealogy in mind at the time (although I became interested around that time with the television mini-series Roots), but it certain fulfills each of those “likes”. With genealogy, I get to follow clues and solve mysteries, and decipher different “codes” in the form of foreign languages and bad handwriting.
- While I am not a professional photographer, I still have a big interest in photography. I take pride in my compositions, especially my travel shots, and I blush at the compliments.
- Stamp Collector? I moved on to collecting ancestors! But I still have my old stamp collection, and I’ve collected other sorts of things along the way…movie memorabilia, shot glasses, books. I think my interest in stamps was a combined interest in history, geography/travel, and “Is this worth any money?”
- I did not realize I ever had an athletic interest in anything. I did enjoy the skateboard, back in the days before helmets, knee pads, and board big enough to put both feet on. As for softball, my desire far exceeded my talent, but at least I had a dream!
- My wish to be a tape recording expert changed with the technology, which explains why I’m now so interested in video, audio, computers, and any way to combine all three. I don’t get enough time to dabble in it, but I’ve had more fun making videos than few other things I’ve created.
- I can still play the guitar, sort of. Years ago I even played in public as part of a group that fortunately had other more talented players to drown me out.
Take Your Child to Work
Tomorrow is “Take Your Children to Work Day” in the United States. My niece can’t accompany me this year, but we had a great time together a few years ago. The most amazing thing out of that day was that we adult workers most likely did not inspire her one bit to join our workforce…but she (and the other children) inspired us to see what we do with a child’s eyes. “Wow, that’s so cool!” It is? Face it, something as simple as a copy machine is exciting when you think about it. It’s all a matter of perspective, like the child who shared a flight with me who exclaimed excitedly, “Look, they have little tables you can pull down!” Hey, the kid’s right – that is cool, but we’re used to it and it’s become mundane to us boring, old adults.
If you’re taking your child, niece or nephew, grandchild, or someone else’s child to your workplace tomorrow, here is what you can give them: the freedom to dream big. Let them think they can be whatever they want to be – why spoil a dream when reality comes soon enough? Confident and hopeful children become confident and hopeful adults!
What the children you take to work can give you and your co-workers: the ability to see your job through a child’s eyes of wonder. And if your job still doesn’t inspire you after a different look, then maybe it’s time to consider other possibilities for your work. Dream big!
What do you want to be when you grow up?