Who Will You Grow up to be?

Because “What” isn’t a Fair Question

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Someone once told me you always remember the things that traumatize you. I don’t remember much from my lifetime before I was a teenager, but what I do remember is always having my nose in a book during my late teenage years.

I’ve always been obsessed with learning new things. The more knowledgeable I became the more I believed I could escape the circumstances sometimes children have no choice in.

I also learned a lot about who I was and who I wanted to be by reading, educating myself and utilizing creative outlets.

I remember my daily mantra, I will never be anything like my parents. I was a kid. It was too much pressure to decide the rest of my life beyond surviving one day at a time. I grew up in poverty. In an abusive household. In a culture considered a minority at the time.

The only certainty while growing into adulthood was I would be nothing like my parents, but I didn’t know what that actually meant or what it would look like, or entail.

It would take a great deal of work to reach this goal but over the course of time I was certain I would reach it. I know this because my parents were assholes and I’m not an asshole. When I was younger, focusing on this goal was a lot more important to me than deciding a career. It still is to this day.

Throughout adulthood I’ve had many education and employment roles. I’ve been through an extensive amount of schooling in higher education and have a few degrees. An undergrad in Health Sciences, Creative Writing and a PhD in Advanced Behavioral Science.

I graduated Chancellor award recipient, Pathways candidate for NASA’s Department of Emergency Management and served in the military.

I’ve negotiated hostage situations, worked directly with the task force during a mass shooting, treated patients who were either victims or perpetrators of violent crimes.

Next, I moved on to writing for the news media for years. Not only did I quit at the beginning of this year and suffer a significant income loss, but I don’t and won’t read the news anymore.

I prefer to focus on improving myself and leading by example than focus on all the hate, violence, misinformation and negativity that exists in our world today.

I value who I am more than what I do. As humans we are consistently transforming and adapting to our surroundings.

We do the best we can to ensure our survival but is the meaning of life to survive?

I have a friend who was recently having a tough time. He feels frustrated with life. (Don’t we all? Isn’t this the standard norm nowadays?) We were talking and he said to me, I’m 27 years old and the way things are going I won’t be able to afford my own apartment until I’m 30. I have no idea what I’m doing.

I felt similar when I was his age and I was a single mom back then, with my oldest in kindergarten and my youngest a newborn. Even at this point I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life or what the future held for me and my family.

When I look back at my life the most meaningful and valuable things had nothing to do with money or any type of monetization or materialism whatsoever.

My youngest is approaching his freshman year of college. People often ask him the same thing, What do you plan to do when you grow up? Whether its family, or friends, or staff at school he always responds the same way. By awkwardly looking down at the floor because he doesn’t know what to say.

I chime in and get him off the hot seat.

No need to make rush decisions, I say.

How will he make money? They’ll ask.

He’ll get a job and earn it the same as everyone else does who has a job.

What will he study in college?

How does any of this determine who he’ll be for the rest of his life?

The fact is, what we do for a living has nothing to do with who we are. Growing up isn’t about money, but growing as a person is about how you’ll live your life, the things you’ll accomplish and the contributions you’ll make to the community. It’s about being the person that you want to be.

If we define ourselves as our college diplomas, our jobs slaving away for the man, or the societal pressures that weigh on us there just isn’t much of a point. We lose our lust for life, our passions and before we know it we’re going to work day in and day out, coming home at night to eat dinner, pass out and wake up and do it all over again.

Yeah. That sounds like a heap of bullshit.

And, what defines being a grown up, anyway? I have a career, car and a house, I’m a mother to two children and have been for over two decades and I’m still the first one jumping in the bounce house or climbing in trees.

A living is a means of survival. Who we are is a way of life.

Isn’t the idea to always keep growing, evolving and transitioning into the next chapter in our lives?

It’s an unfair question to ask what we want to be when we grow up when the focus should be on who we want to be, the best possible versions of ourselves, for ourselves.

Therefore our perspective, desire and goals will constantly change, making it impossible for us to commit to being the same person and doing the same thing every day for the rest of our lives.

Growing up isn’t about money or materalism, but growing as a person is about how you’ll live your life, the things you’ll accomplish and who you will be.

Never. Stop. Growing.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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