It’s one of those questions that parents ask their children whether they are 3 years old or 25 years old; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Actually it may start off as as that but gradually, over the years, it might change to be said in a more accusing tone, with the implication that person being asked is somehow whittling away their life. That they should know by now, should be working towards it.
It’s asked in a different form at job interviews “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” And the expectation is that you will have a plan, a route forward, marked out with incremental markers along the way; earn more; work less hours; get a promotion; run the company.
I’ve always thought that it was an extremely difficult question to answer. It’s also one full of pit falls. What if I say I want to be running my own business, earning lots of money and yet in reality in 5 years I’m still in the same job that I’ve been in since I left school, because I actually quite like it and it suits my lifestyle. Have I somehow failed at life?
What if I say I want to get a degree in maths, and I enrol and then halfway through I realise that it’s just not adding up for me? That I’m bored, that I’ve changed my mind, actually I rather fancy doing anything, as long as it doesn’t involve me having to do sums? Am I a drop out? A failure? Or have I just decided that for me failing would be sticking at doing something that I hate, in order to fulfil everyone’s expectations of my answer to a question I answered 2 years ago, in a different time, a different place?
The past few months I’ve had more than one reason to look at what I want to do in relation to work, I love my job but sometimes I despair of it. I wonder if I could do something else, but one thing is for sure; if anyone had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer wouldn’t have been the job I do now. Not because I couldn’t imagine doing the job I do now, but because I didn’t even know it existed. Or the job I had before that. Or the one before that.
Why can we not just see where life takes us? What’s wrong with trying a few career pathways/lifestyles before we find the one that suits us? And why does it have to be one thing? I currently have two jobs, both very different from each other but both I love. They fulfill me in different ways. Neither would I ever have put myself in as a child, nor 5 years ago. We are under pressure from such a young age to plan and know what we are going to be/do when we grow up, but surely that’s just limiting ourselves? Sometimes there’s nothing like waiting to see where life takes us, because inevitably life takes us on the path it chooses, not the route we planned aged 3.