In kindergarten I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I answered with the typical six-year-old girl’s response: “A princess.” Living in a magical kingdom where animals follow me around everywhere, I have a beautiful singing voice, a handsome prince, horse-drawn carriage, and fairy godmother who helps me live happily ever after would be ideal. But unfortunately, there aren’t many job listings for princesses in the real world—unless you’re name is Kate Middleton. Eventually, I dismissed the dream that one day I would become a princess. Then with each birthday came a new aspiring profession.
Age twelve—children’s book author and illustrator.
In middle school all of my friends wanted to be veterinarians. That seemed promising. I like animals. I’ve always had pets. Then I discovered that I didn’t like math or science, I’m afraid of needles, and even the slightest bit of blood makes me squeamish. My fate was reaffirmed in seventh grade biology when Mrs. Teague informed the class we’d be doing a pig dissection. With one look at the tiny piglet cut in half surrounded by pointy, metal scissors, blades, scalpels and spatulas I fainted and was sent to the nurse’s office. I won’t be a veterinarian.
Then came high school. And every boy said he wanted to be an engineer, and every girl, either a teacher or a nurse. I had already decided I can’t stomach anything in the medical field, but why not engineering? Then I took physics and pre calculus. I discovered that any career that requires extensive knowledge of frictional force or any math more difficult than addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division would send me into eternal frustration. Engineer—off the list.
I have many different interests, but I can’t imagine having a career with any of them. I’m a vegetarian and very health conscious so I briefly considered being a nutritionist. First semester of junior year, I job-shadowed a nutritionist and asked what she had to study in college in order to land this job. She replied, “A lot of chemistry.” Well I only passed chemistry because I memorized every element in the periodic table. No more nutritionist.
After my elbow surgery junior year, I spent many months in physical therapy regaining strength. Every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour, I sat on the table and lifted little two-pound weights, while chatting with the other patients. Mary was in a car accident and broke her leg. Josh caught a football the wrong way and broke three fingers. Susan ran a marathon and tore her meniscus. I learned about these stranger’s lives and how their perspective injuries should be treated. I was fascinated. But I’m just not cut out to be a doctor.
Senior year I took environmental systems as my science course. I recycle every plastic water bottle and cardboard box, but there’s two problems. Problem one: I don’t want to spend the rest of my life solving the waste management issue. Problem two: science.
Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” That sounds easy enough. Now when people ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I say, “I don’t know.” But secretly I do. I know exactly what my dream job is. I’m not sure if I hide it because the job is so unlikely or because the job sounds so superficial. I would love to write for a magazine, specifically, a fashion or social magazine like Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of A Shopohoilc or Kate Hudson’s character in How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days. But something about spending my days writing about overpriced shoes and handbags doesn’t seem right.
My mom calls me an oxymoron. She doesn’t understand how the same girl can have so many different interests. I flip through fashion magazines and stalk fashion blogs like a madwoman. I talk about Hollywood movie stars like they are my best friends. I also long to work with underprivileged children in a Spanish-speaking country. But I can’t work in an orphanage in Mexico while wearing Christian Louboutin designer shoes. The two careers just don’t match up. I have to choose.
During high school graduation valedictorian, Chris Tutunjian asked us the same question we were asked thirteen years ago, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead of various responses along the lines of “princess” or “firefighter” Chris only saw wide eyes and scared faces.
Age eighteen—I don’t know.