WHO do you want to be when you grow up?

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Let’s travel back in time. Picture lil’ Alex in Kindergarten and he is doing atypical kindergarten things. He wakes up, goes to school, eats some snacks, gets stories read to him, and he is socializing among his newfound peers. Life is simple and his concerned about such trivial five-year-old things. At this juncture, he started such a critical moment in his life, beginning to form his identity. Some of the events that occurred in Kindergarten will affect the next 13 years of his life while others won't. Alex won’t realize that certain questions he was asked will affect him so much until years later. What event had such an impact on his life? It was when he was asked the simple question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In that moment, I sealed my fate for more than a decade trying to achieve the “what” I wanted to be. What did I want to be? I wanted to be a Veterinarian.

Asking that simple yet, friendly question sent me on a quest to achieve my childhood dream. I convinced myself that I loved science, math, and the like. I formed my identity around what I wanted to be. Even when I began finding my passion in the arts I talked myself off the ledge and said, “This is just my pastime. I am doing this because it is fun.” In hindsight, doing it because I have fun doing it is reason enough to partake in the activity. By no means do I have to pursue what I have fun doing outside of school. Despite that, there was a red flag that started to encroach on my life. That flag is that I told myself I wasn’t good enough to try for a career in the arts/entertainment. Now, this is where I realized I wasn’t paying attention to what I wanted to do instead I tried to do what I thought was feasible, sustainable, and stable. So, I said out with the arts and in with science and math. Flash forward to my first year at THE Ohio State University, I am now pursuing my childhood dream and majoring in animal science. I am thinking, “Wow. I am really doing this, I am going to become a Vet.” Three weeks into the year, enter the breakdown and revelation.

For the first time, I realized I didn’t want to be a vet and now I had no clue what I wanted to be. My identity crashed, crumbled, and burned. The student I thought I was since kindergarten appeared to be a complete stranger. Who was I now if I was no longer pursuing my childhood dream? What do I do with my life? The snowball only continued to grow in size when I realized I actually didn’t love math or science. My brain went into utter chaos. I just thought I was supposed to like all of those things because I was good at it. If I don't like that, what do I love to do? For the next few years, I began searching for who I am. I didn’t know where to look but, the search started.


Today, I know more about who I am than ever before but, I am still learning more and more about who I am. I realized that the search for learning about who I am is a long journey because I am constantly growing into myself. While I am still learning about who I am, I do know who I want to continue to grow into. I want to be someone who is caring, empathetic, friendly, and creative. I want to be someone who can envision a better future. Someone who is trying to make a positive impact on other people's lives. Someone who is a good friend to others and themself. Someone who has fun. Someone who let’s themself feel all the emotions. Someone who is proud to be themself.


Some of these statements reign true right now but, I still want to grow into that person in the future. I think if I was asked "Who do you want to be when you grow up?" instead of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would have been sent on a different path. The childhood dream job I chose has qualities of the "who" but, I got lost in the "what". What if we started asking our kids who they wanted to be? What would that look like? It sounds a bit harder and more abstract but, what if we tried it? Maybe children will be able to grow into the person they want to be versus into the title they want to obtain. Here is to finding the who do I want to be in life.



*Alex circa 2004/2005


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