An Unanswered Question

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question that we’re asked on numerous occasions in our youth.  Your answers may vary greatly depending on when the question is asked–chances are, your 17-year-old self has a different dream job than your 7-year-old self did a decade earlier.  With a yet-to-be-developed worldview, your options as a little kid are limited to what you know, and well, what you know and aspire to at that point is probably the heroic (doctor, firefighter, policeman, etc.), the famous (basketball player, actor, singer, etc.), or whatever your parents do for a living.

Ten years later, as you’re nearing the end of high school, the question becomes more real as you begin gearing up for life in the “real world” and considering what’s next.  Perhaps college is the next step, and if so, then perhaps you may further delay this decision.  College is, after all, considered to be the period of time when you “find yourself,” as though those 4-plus years are supposed to be the only point in your life when you are expected to discover such self-realizations.  So maybe you begin college with more questions than answers, or maybe you’ve already decided what you wish to pursue but end up changing your mind once you’re taking classes and realize along the way that your “dream job” is less dreamy than you may have thought.

Some will never really experience such concerns.  Maybe you were a smart kid whose goal was to become a doctor right from the get-go, fueled by the fact that you come from a family of doctors who would expect nothing less of you.  Or perhaps it is your dream to play in the NFL someday, and those around you realize at an early age that you actually have the naturally athletic ability to pursue such dreams and eventually make them your reality.  If this is you, congratulations.  You should feel extremely fortunate that you’re living your dream, and you must never take this for granted.

To be sure, even those of us who achieve our “dream jobs” and earn a living doing what we believe we’ve been called to do are still going to experience plenty of challenges along the way.  Doctors will likely endure long hours, potential malpractice lawsuits, and patients they are unable to help, among other things.  A successful NFL player can probably expect to suffer through major injuries, heartbreaking losses in big games, and perhaps watching inferior peers receive far superior contracts.

But chances are, if you’re reading this right now, you are not among the fortunate few that seems to have figured everything out by the time they’ve reached adulthood.  Some of us take much longer to find our life’s calling.  And, frankly, many of us will never really find it at all.  This is a harsh reality of life, and it’s not one that’s reserved only for the underprivileged or those of below-average intelligence.  There are lots of people out there–good, smart, sensible people–who struggle mightily to answer one of life’s biggest questions.

I’d like to think of myself as one of those good, smart, sensible people.  But I most certainly can be counted among those who have never definitively answered that question.  Oh, I’ve had some ideas.  During various points of my elementary school-aged self, I dreamed of being a baseball player or an astronaut.  Typical dreams at that age.  Then again, I also dreamed of being either a weatherman or a mailman.  Most certainly not typical dreams for a kid.  Since then, I’ve added sportswriter, play-by-play broadcaster, civil engineer, ad writer, and stand-up comedian to that list, among other things.

The common thread among these potential vocations is that there isn’t really much of a common thread at all.  Sure, some of them are closely related to one another–three of them are sports-related, after all–but overall, it’s a pretty diverse list.  It is a perfectly imperfect list, and a perfect indication of why it has been so difficult to settle on one field and move full speed ahead in that direction.  There is no “perfect job” to be found among this list–each one has its own drawbacks–but maybe one of them is ultimately the right choice.  Maybe the right choice is something yet to be added to this list.  Or maybe there is no right choice, and there are only options that qualify as “close enough.”  I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have reached a turning point in my life–a point at which I am being forced into reconsidering this question.  I don’t know what answers may emerge along the way, but I know that I’ve often enjoyed writing in the past.  And thus, I have chosen to start committing such thoughts to paper.  A record of my journey, if you will.  Or, as I’ve elected to call it, a “Diary of an Underachiever.”  For now, it is an opportunity to reawaken a passion for writing.  Perhaps writing in some capacity will, in fact, prove to be the very answer to this question.  But for now, it is merely a form of catharsis and relaxation.

In any case, I am thankful that you have chosen to read this, and hope that you come to find this journal entertaining at worst–and perhaps inspirational in the end.  Maybe you and I will both find the answer to that lingering question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

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