What did you want to do when you grew up?

When I was 16 I just kind of fell into the web. No, not some giant spider web, but that great world wide one that people keep blathering on about. It was the good ole dot com days, where anyone who knew what a <p> tag was could get hired. I’d always been a bit of a computer geek, it was a source of endless fascination with me and I remember many a childhood hour whiled away typing in DOS commands or other mindless pursuits. But I never really planned on being a professional geek.

By the time I was 18 I was already on the path to a career and a jagged hop through an assortment of gray cubicals, large corporations, small companies and everything in between. I’ve been a designer, a developer, a webmaster, and a code monkey (not my official title, but really, it should have been). It’s been a dozen years and until recently I never really stopped to think, is this what I want? It just was what it was. The bills were paid; some days my mind overflowed with excitement and ideas, and other days my feet had trouble moving I was so numb from the drudgery. It was work, basically. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I really sat down and thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up and even that didn’t go further than a constantly changing idea of “what could be” and an unused bachelor’s degree achieved while still working the same sort of jobs.

When I was a kid computers were always there (despite it being the early 80s), but they weren’t my overriding passion. From the time I was 6 I wanted to be a doctor (before that I wanted to be an actress/singer, I’d still take that job, if only for the paycheck). First a pediatric cardiologist (try asking most 6 year olds to pronounce that much less explain it!), then later a research biologist (but still a medical doctor) once someone introduced me to medical laboratories and let me play for a couple of days with centrifuges and other assorted equipment. The mysteries of the universe opened up before me, it was thrilling.

Now though, now I don’t know. I’m rushing towards 30 and I still don’t truly know what I want to be when I grow up. I can keep following the path I’m on and will likely continue to grow and enjoy my career or I can put on the brakes and completely change paths now, while I’m still young enough that I’m not that set in my ways.

So how about you? Are you doing what you’ve always wanted to do? Or did you fall into something that you really enjoy, but wasn’t an overriding passion or an intentional decision? What would you do if someone handed you 4-8 years worth of living expenses and said “go to school and study your heart’s passion, you just have to come out of it with a paying job and support yourself after”? What would you study?

Me, well I still don’t know. I know I’d miss what I’m doing now, it has become a passion. Maybe not my first passion, though. When do you give up on the what-ifs and what-could-have-been kind of thoughts? Is it when you finally grow up?

2 Replies to “What did you want to do when you grew up?”

  1. Well written. Didn’t we just throw a bunch of tags out there? Of course they were back then – we weren’t so worried about well-formed anything as long as it made the text part like the Red Sea.

    I still haven’t decided myself. I’ll have to think on it.

  2. Neat post, D! Well, the gorgeous thing about the question – ‘what did you want to do when you grew up?’ – is that what we do now hardly existed way back then. Without the foresight to see social media, blogging, or even the web coming, I wanted to become a pilot, or a teacher. I think the latter ambition has translated well into what I do now and thankfully, I really love my job.

    If I had another chance, I’d go back to school, study geology and become a volcanologist. Then I’d catch a slow boat to SE Asia and spend my days dropping instruments into hot holes in the ground. But that said, I’d probably be just as happy as I am now.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wondering, ‘what if?’ If anything, it keeps us on our toes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *