Yesterday I wandered to the local garden centre. I’ve recently taken on a bit of an upcycling project at my new house in my overgrown garden. I’m recycling old tins, spraying them and plonking plants in, hoping that it’ll divert eyes away from the patchy brown grass.
At the garden centre I of course got distracted and ended up buying coriander and parsley, I’ve a new love for coriander (have you tried it in a salad?!) and then I made my way to what I’d actually come for, some pretty little pots that would do the job in hand.
A young boy leapt out of his parents car, one parent spoke English to him the other Welsh. I marveled at his ability at the age of about four to converse easily swapping from one to the other. He was very excited, he ran past the lavender and as I was smelling the coriander he shouted ‘hi’ in a very loud, excitable voice. I turned around to his grinning round face and said hello back. Loving his sparkle. His innocence.
That’s when I thought. In about 11 years time, someone is going to ask you a question and then you’ll be asked that same question over and over and over until you make something up just to stop them asking. What do you want to be when you grow up?
What is grown up?
Aren’t we always growing?
I spent the best part of 48hrs this week with 16 year olds facing exam results, decisions about their future, stress, tears, laughter and of course adults continually asking them ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’.
I’ve done it myself but the reality is there’ll be a lucky few – a footballer, a doctor, a musician, a vet that’ll have it in their bones but the rest of us meander from one thought to another and worse than that we probably do know what we’d like to be but we mostly don’t think we’re good enough.
When I went to my career advisor at 16, he eyed me up with a look of boredom. I didn’t do ‘well’ in school. I wasn’t one of the naturally clever ones. I didn’t sing particularly brilliantly either. I was ok at sport. I was ok really at most things. I didn’t shine.
You’ll probably be a secretary he said.
And that’s what I ended up doing for the first few years of my working life. Nothing wrong with that but in my panic and viewing this adult as someone who knew exactly what I could do I didn’t aim for anything different. I didn’t aim to be a lawyer, a journalist or a run my own business. I became an office worker.
I still actually don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.
What I do know is that most of the 16year olds, particularly the more miserable ones, did better than I did at that age at their GCSEs.
I did go on much later to do A levels and my degree in my 30s, finally accepting and believing I wasn’t ‘that stupid’ after all and actually I could be anything I wanted. Anything!
Trying to get this through to young people is mostly impossible, particularly if they don’t fit in with school expectations and more importantly perhaps not fitting in with the needs for education establishments to fulfill their status.
I wish for a system that also focused on the abilities away from academia, for those that take pleasure in planting a seed or that kid reading a book on astronomy, the child that relaxes while painting or another who is swinging a golf club at 4. What about the potential of the dreamer staring out of the window or the quiet one with an amazing imagination?
In my 4th decade I’m only just getting there in knowing what I might want to do….. and I expect that’ll keep changing as I keep growing up!
The truth is – we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up.
Don’t let anyone tell you different!
Happy Sunday everyone x