When I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up

The question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” used to be asked by adults as a bad ice-breaker, but now I’m at the age when it’s turning into (if it hasn’t already) a question that they’re actually expecting an answer from. At this point, how I respond to that question usually depends on how much I like the person and how I think the person will respond.

It’s like when Doctor Strange in Infinity War looked into the future and said they win in exactly one scenario. There’s only one positive outcome from this question that I can see happening out of all the millions of possibilities. I know that I’m just speculating while he actually saw the future, but me not speculating would mean this post wouldn’t exist.

Things could go wrong in a variety of ways. This might have something to do with me being an A(merican)B(orn)C(hinese) and the environment I’ve grown up in (actually, that is exactly the basis of this entire post), but when I’m around Asian parents, it sometimes feels like there’s a limited number of acceptable answers to that question- doctor, engineer, lawyer, and accountant (or anything finance related) being the ones that come to mind first. Aka stable, reachable, and well-paying jobs that everybody has heard of.

When you’re little, there’s all the classic answers to the what do you want to be question. For me, that would include firefighter, teacher, professional sports player, president, astronaut, vet. It’s weird to think that if I answered any of those jobs now, they would all fall into one of the following categories that I’ve created: That doesn’t pay well.
That’s too hard.
That doesn’t pay well and that’s too hard.
That’s barely a job.
Are you crazy?
That’s a job? I’ve never heard of it before.

(Sidenote: the writers of this interesting post actually asked 500 kids what they wanted to be and then broke down the statistics. The ending is amazing. Also, I cannot believe one kid answered “hedge fund manager.” The first time I even heard about hedge funds was last year, and I still am fuzzy about them.)

The lines can get blurry between these classifications, but here are some examples for each.
That doesn’t pay well. Teacher, historian, archaelogist.
That’s too hard (as in there’s a very limited amount of spots for these jobs). Athlete, senator, talk show host.
That doesn’t pay well and that’s too hard. The arts and ministry.
That’s barely a job. All the jobs that need to be done but very few people (if any) actually want to do.
Are you crazy? Soldier.
That’s a job? Hand model.

Then there’s the possibility of me saying one of the answers that is inside the box, but it wouldn’t be true. And them reacting with an approving nod to whatever I fabricate is possibly wrose than them looking at me strangely. Another thing is the that there would be pretty good chance that parent would tell other parents. Because the mom grapevine is very much a thing.

What would be the parallel of the the one good scenario Doctor Strange saw in this scenario? “Oh, that’s cool” & a genuine exclamation mark.

I believe that everybody was given different and specific interests and abilites for a reason. I believe that these were given to each of us by God. And to ignore or avoid them because of money or because of how normal/abnormal it is is to ignore and avoid what we were made to do.

This reminds me of a passage in the book, Present Over Perfect.

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great thing beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.” 
Job 37:5-6
I love the freedom and grace that flood through me when I read this passage from Job.
God says to the snow, “Fall on the earth.” That’s it. Just do one thing. Just fall. And then he sasy to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.” Essentially, he’s saying: just do the thing I’ve created you to do. You’re rain: so rain. You’re snow: so snow.
I love the simplicity of that, the tremendous weight that takes off my shoulders. God’s asking me to be the thing he’s already created me to be. And he’s asking you to be the thing he’s already created you to be.
He doesn’t tell the snow to thaw and become rain, or the rain to freeze itself into snow. He says, essentially: do your thing. Do the thing that you love to do, that you’ve been created to do…
…The snow is only meant, created, commanded to fall. The rain is only meant, created, commanded to fall down. You were only meant created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely.

Maybe another question to ask is not what we want to do or if we know what we want to do, but if we know what we are created to do. Maybe we will know we are right when the answers to both questions become one and the same.

What did you want to be when you were younger, and has that changed or stayed the same? When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher for a while. In pre-K, I wanted to be a pre-K teacher, but that changed when I went to kindergarten, and then again in first grade. But then after second grade, being a second grade teacher was my answer for the next few years. Not because I loved her that much, but because my second grade teacher is the only teacher in school that I’ve decidedly disliked. As a disgruntled second grader, I wanted to make sure that future second graders had better experiences that I did.
Do you feel restrained in job choices by how adults around you feel?
How do you respond to the question, what do you want to be?

16 thoughts on “When I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up”

  1. I love this post! I truly relate to this struggle. (Related: the question “what college do you want to go to?” has recently become another very real question recently. That comes with a whole new set of boxes.) I really don’t know what I want to do, but I love how you say that we need to find what we were created to do. I think God created me with the purpose of helping others in some way, I just haven’t figured out what that way is yet. A few jobs that I think I could maybe see myself doing: occupational therapist, physical therapist with dance injuries, counselor. When I was little, I definitely wanted to be all the things that little kids want to be. XD I had a short-lived vet phase, a slightly longer artist phase, and a teacher phase that lasted until a couple of years ago.
    My parents are teachers, so I haven’t felt restrained by job choices by adults around me exactly. I’d say that more my parents are encouraging me to find something that I love AND that pays well (they especially encouraged that during my teacher phase), and I’m just not sure how to figure out what that is. Part of me wants to say I have plenty of time but it seems like we’re expected to already know the answer to our career.
    I usually respond to the question “what do you want to be?” with either a “I have no idea” if it’s another kid or if it’s someone who might have more expectations, I just talk about the few jobs I listed above that I might be interested in.
    It’s such a hard question, but I really enjoyed this post! I literally agreed with everything you said. What do you want to be when you grow up? (Or, what are some things you might want to be?)

    P.S. “hand model” made me laugh. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Oh yes, that’s another question. In-state, out of state, personal loyalties, prestige. Can you explain what an occupational therapist is? Oh, that would be so cool for you to be physical therapist for dance injuries because you would completely get the dance world. And I think counselors are so important and amazing. :))
      I didn’t go through a vet phase when I was little, but I think that’s because we didn’t have a pet. But yes, the teacher phase was a long one for me.
      Oh, that’s awesome! What subjects do they teach? My art teacher this year is married to another art teacher. I wonder if it’s more common for people who are married and both teachers to be in the same realm of subjects or contrasting ones. Also, a very relevant literary example is The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet (did you ever read this book? it’s middlegrade and I really liked it)-in it Hamlet’s parents are both Shakespearean teachers. Well, if I remember correctly. I think my parents are a lot better at encouraging me to do what I love than some of the other adults at my church, but they’re definitely hoping for a better paying job too. I know, I agree. Have you heard of TAMMS? It’s this program where kids can go junior and senior year to this place that’s basically like college, and it’s if you’re interested in the engineering, computer science sort of fields. So basically you already have to know.
      Thank you! As of right now, I think I want to become a journalist-I think.
      Hahaha, yayy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! It’s a whole other struggle. Oh, an occupational therapist is sort of like a physical therapist, but they help patients with more of everyday tasks, like dressing, brushing their teeth, and cooking or eating. I don’t know too much about it, but my cousin is an occupational therapist and she described it to me once in a much better way that made it sound really appealing. :)) I know, right? That would be so much fun!
        Haha, I didn’t actually have a vet in my vet phase either, but I did have a lot of stuffed animals that I vividly pretended were pets.
        My mom is an English teacher and my dad is a science teacher. Hmm, I don’t know! In my case, I like that they teach contrasting subjects because if I need help with something I have one humanities-based parent and one STEM-based parent to ask. I have read that book! It was a long time ago, but the title is extraordinarily familiar.
        Yes, I have heard of TAMS! I am currently a little bit mad at it because one of my good friends is going there next year. I’m happy for her, but sad for myself because I’ll miss her. It’s so amazing that the opportunity exists, even though I personally want to go through all my years of high school in high school. (Not to mention have no idea what I would actually want to do.)
        That’s so cool! I can definitely picture you being a journalist. I feel like you have the right level of curiosity and observational skills and the writing talent, too.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh okay, I see! So it’s kind of like a physical therapist friend who helps you throughout the day? No, your description is interesting too. Have you ever thought about being a sign language interprator? It’s okay if that doesn’t sound intriguing at all, it just popped into my head-a podcaster I listen to used to be one and it has a kind of similar feel to occupational therapy.
          I had a lot of stuffed animals too-specifically pandas.
          Oh, interesting! Okay yea, that’s amazing. Oh yay!
          Oh nooo, I’m sorry. One of my guys at my church is going next year too. I’m happy for him, but I’m also sad for him too because I know there’s now way it’s going to be easy. I want to go through all my years of high school too. A while ago I saw this college that offers early college for I think it was would be sophomores! Have you thought about any kind of going away party/gift? The thought crossed my mind yesterday, and I was wondering if you had any ideas I could “borrow.”
          Ahhhh, thank you so much! :))

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Haha, I love that! I haven’t thought about being a sign language interpretor- but that sounds like a really interesting (and fulfilling) job. Thanks for telling me about it! I’ll also be sure to mention it to one of my friends who has been taking sign language as her foreign language.
            Aww, pandas! I think I had a lot of dogs, and then an odd assortment of random animals because I loved Webkinz.
            Definitely! Wow, it would be crazy to not have all the years of high school. I haven’t, sadly! I’ll be thinking about it though. When my friend moved away, I wrote her a very long letter and gave her pictures in a frame of us. But I’ve never had a going away party before!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. You’re welcome! I agree. I think sign language is awesome. Have you seen any videos of people signing songs?
              Hahaha, I loved Webkinz too! Webkinz and Club Penguin. And Mario Party 8 on Wii. And also this game CyberChase had.
              I know! Ohh, letters and pictures-I personally would love that. I’ve been to them for people at church, but not for a friend I think. Off the top of my head, it would be fun to do a game of memories or something.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Yes! It really is amazing.
                Ahh, Mario Party 8. One of my childhood friends and I once played it 5 times in a row (it took hours) and called it “Mario Party 40.” For some reason I remember it being the highlight of our summer, we were so proud of ourselves. XD Did you play Primary Games?
                Ooh, I think a memory game would be fun.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. No way!!! Haha. Oh, I love that. I would’ve been so proud of myself too. Do you remember the secret level that you could obtain after defeating Bowser? I like how games do the bonding thing that they do. I don’t think I played Primary Games. What is it?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Oh my gosh, the secret level! Was that on Super Mario Bros? I was never any good at Super Mario, but I remember my dad and sister used to play it and they reached that level once after finally defeating the super giant Bowser. XD Ahh, Primary Games is a website that has all kinds of computer games- like cooking games, fashion games, racing games- and it was a key part of my childhood, haha.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. It was on Mario Party 8! I actually don’t think I’ve ever played Super Mario Bros. I have played Super Smash Bros at my friend’s house though, even though I am not good at all. Yes!!! Defeating the super giant Browser! Oh, that sounds like this website called Cool Math Games (which is not an accurate title) I played!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Whaaat, at my school, people are still playing Cool Math Games. Last year, it was Run 3 (or some other number) and also Oregon Trail. Apparently the freshmen this year play some other game.

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post! The question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has become more and more terrifying as I get older. My parents have not pushed the “good career” options on me, which I am grateful for, but I still have to choose something. The thing is, my family is super artistic- my parents are both writers and theatre people, which is awesome- but they are also both working as custodians right now. They can do amazing things, but they don’t get paid to do them. I love to write and I would like to do it for a living, but that’s “not realistic.” I am sort of afraid that I am going to end up with a job that I don’t really like because I am pursuing my artistic interests instead of looking for a realistic career option. But I would rather have time to work on my artistic interests, even if I am in a job like a custodian, than to pour myself into something that I don’t care about at all. My parents are trying to get their theatre company off the ground and then maybe they won’t have to work as custodians. Maybe someday I will get to do what I love as a job, but it might take some time to get there.
    I dread the question being asked to me. I feel like I am not being responsible because I don’t have a plan for my future. I don’t know what to tell people. Am I following what God has for me to do or am I just being lazy? I struggle a lot with that.
    Again, this is a really good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Wow, that’s amazing. My family is a weird blend, I would say. My parents are both engineers, my sister is a fashion designer, and I think I want to be a journalist. But I’ve always been surrounded by adults who have “good careers,” mainly because I would say 99% of the people at my church are engineers-as immigrants, it would’ve been really hard to come over and find a job as a history professor or something. What makes it even more crazy is that a bunch of them went to the Ivy Leaguers of China. While I don’t many people who are writers or artists in general, I am seeing people I know who are still figuring things out in their late twenties and doing well, and that is really inspiring and reassuring. That is definitely a fear I have either. I’ve always taken a strong stance on doing what you love internally and externally that backing down and choosing something safe feels like I’m betraying myself and not holding to my word to others. For me, the worry is specifically that I will do what I love but not be “successful.” Another part of it is me not knowing if I would be able to withstand having to work another job to support what I truly want to do. There’s that fear of am I strong enough? For me, my mind worries about what if I’m not being realistic or responsible because I think the perspectives of the people around me rub off, but at my core, I know that what I want to do in its true form is what I am meant to do, and to do anything less would be going against that. But then because that belief has no grounding, no evidence, my mind doubts it because it feels like I’ve been taught that the unexplainable is not trustworthy. I struggle with the thought of, am I doing enough? Also, I really truly hope your parents get paid for what they love doing one day and soon. And I know this can sound insincere, but I will be praying for them. And us. I’m going to write it on my prayer list right now. :))
      Again, thank you so much! :))

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, that is a lot of engineers! It’s weird when you get to the point when you can’t just follow in your parents footsteps anymore- like when you’re little they can teach you the basics- this is how you walk, this is how you eat, this is how you do math, drive a car, make a sandwich, do the dishes- but then when you get to the point where you are choosing a career path that is something they have never done, you can’t always turn to them for advice. And while that can be exciting, it can also just be terrifying.
        “Successful” is a tricky word, because it can be defined in different ways. When some people use it they mean you make a lot of money, but it can also mean you’re making a positive impact, creating change, or just living the life that God wants for you, whether that involves much money, major change, or not. A small impact on just a couple of people isn’t necessarily less successful than impacting a thousand people, because to God (and therefore, to us) each person has infinite value.
        I worry that I am making the wrong choices sometimes, and I realize more and more how important it is to constantly be praying about it instead of just deciding that I know what’s best for my life.
        I can relate to you in feeling that choosing a safe option feels like a betrayal, but it’s also super scary. I WANT to be safe. But I also want to live the life God has for me, and I know in order to do that I can’t hold on to my own security. I have to give it to him.
        I relate to so much of what you are saying here. Am I strong enough to pull off working a job and pursuing what I love at the same time? Am I doing enough? Am I being irresponsible? I think it’s all these fears that paralyze us and keep us from pursuing God’s will for our lives.
        I am touched that you are praying for my parents and me. I will be praying for you too, that you can have the courage to pursue the truest version of yourself in God’s eyes, whatever that looks like. Growing up and facing these kinds of decisions is hard, and we cannot do it alone! We need each other.
        Thank you so much!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I know right? The idea of not being able to follow in your parents’ footsteps anymore actually is something I’m okay with. It’s because I’ve never wanted to follow their career paths. Well actually, sometimes I do wish I wanted to be an engineer or something in computer science because it feels safe and like there’s already a tried and true path. But besides that, I know while they can’t help me with career things, they’ll be able to help with all the other stuff I have no idea how to do-like pick an apartment, do my taxes, fix things around the house. Then the big life questions-why do you believe what you believe, is it possible some parts of it are different? And that’s what I really, really, really need help with.
          Yes! A teacher actually spoke on this during chapel last week. He talked about how success was simple and we make it too difficult-it’s putting God first. Which like other truths it feels like, is both the most simple and the most complex thing in the world. Yes! (Haha, again.) I heard a quote on a podcast-when you change the world for one person, you change the world.
          Ah, I needed to hear that. I am realizing that I need to let go (my soul and trust in him, the waves and wind all know His name-those are song lyrics that just popped into my head) of my future and completely put it in His hands. Something that helps me is that I heard (also on a podcast) the idea that you aren’t powerful enough to mess up God’s plan for you.
          Yes!! That is exactly what I meant with wishing I wanted to have a safe job. But dude, that’s impossible. A world can’t survive if everybody does the same thing. For me, am I doing enough becomes heaviest when thoughts and conversation about college admissions roll around. And then the question of am I strong enough comes when I think about what comes after college.
          Thank you so much. The truest version of yourself in God’s eyes-I love that. That reminds me of the verse, if I told you what was going to happen, you wouldn’t believe me. Oh my goodness, yes. Hearing other people feel the same questions and doubts makes it so much better.

          Liked by 1 person

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