When I Grow Up

I was watching Child of Our Time on the TV last week. It’s a programme that started in 2000 and each year follows a number of children who were Millennium babies. At the end of one this year’s episodes the kids, now 13, started to reel off what they wanted to be when they grew up. It got me to thinking about what I might have said when I was their age.

When I was 13 I probably still believed I could be a pop singer. I flirted with the idea of opera singer and chef too. But none of my wishes were ever really serious. To be honest I had no idea. My Mum always said I would make a good Head Mistress, but that was just because I was/am so bossy! Forget that though because I just don’t like children that much!

When I was in year 13 we had to write personal statements for our University applications. I think I was the only person in my year who had decided not to apply. I remember sitting in more than one lesson that had been set aside for this task, and asking the teacher why I had to participate when I knew I wasn’t going to apply to Uni. All I got back was that I still had to do it, because I still might apply. It wasn’t even considered that I wouldn’t apply by these people. Had they not realised that my whole school life had been a misery and that the only thing that kept me going had been my friends? Could they not tell I wasn’t academically suited to further education? No, they just wanted to up their stats I think.

One of the problems was that even if I had wanted to go to University, I honestly wouldn’t have had a clue what to study. I was fairly good at Physics and Chemistry. I had a like for English writing, but not really reading at the time. I had no skill for maths or music. I didn’t really have much that I was great at, and everyone around me seemed to have a clue. Some even seemed to already have a career path!

So I skipped Uni and still had no idea. I fell into retail and have been in retail or customer service ever since, usually involving management or training in some capacity along the way (see, I got to use my bossy-ness!) The thing is, I love my work. I thought I might be stuck in a shop job forever, but thankfully I’m not. But I’m so glad I’m not lost on a career path. By that I mean I didn’t choose to study to be a lawyer, teacher, scientist etc, and then just fall into that job. I have nothing but pride for friends who did – but this suits me. I have loyalty so I’m not the kind to flit between jobs, but I like the path I’ve chosen and the kind of freedom it allows.

I think the point I’m making is, what’s the importance of a child choosing what they want to be when they grow up? And what’s the importance in forcing someone into the kind of choice that a lot of people can’t make? I understand for some it inspires passion or aspiration but it doesn’t work for everyone. For me it inspired pressure and confusion! Who knows, I might decide years down the line that I want to go back to study – but it would definitely be to better myself rather than for career purposes.

I’m happy with the choices I made, even when it felt like I was drifting for a while. I’m glad I didn’t let anyone pressure me into making big life choices at such a young age. After all, you only have one life, but if you do it right then one life is all you need!
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