Thursday, July 14, 2011

Childhood Dreams vs. Reality

As a child we are often asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  As a five year old I wanted to be a part-time ballerina and a part-time teacher.  My aunt is my witness.  I wanted to somehow balance my love for dance with my respect for teaching.  Not a terrible idea, except I never took a single Ballet class and although I entered college as an education major, that quickly changed to Community Health.  The closest I get to my childhood dream is wearing ballet flats to work on occasion.

I work for a terrific organization but I spend 40 hours each week in a cubicle.  I jokingly call it my cage.  At five years old I never would have imagined myself spending most of my days in a 5’x7’ space drinking coffee out of a ceramic travel mug while writing and editing reports and correspondence.  I certainly never answered the common childhood question with “I want to work in Development doing things like grant research, editing, event coordination and website operations!”   Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for my job and it’s not a horrible gig.  I work with an incredibly talented and intelligent team and what we do is very important.  In my own way, I am contributing to society (by trying to get wealthy people to give us their money so we can serve abused and neglected kids). 

While this is all fine and dandy, what about passion?  Aren’t we supposed to pursue our passions in life? Shouldn’t I be out there dispelling myths about HIV and AIDS and arming women in African nations with knowledge and tools to save their lives and the lives of their future children?  That’s MY passion as an adult. How do we live a satisfied life if we aren’t currently in a field that fuels that passion?  How do we continue to be inspired when we spend most hours of the week in a cubicle working on rather tedious tasks?

These are the questions I struggle with on a daily basis, especially lately.  This is what I have come up with:

Passion is a beautiful thing.  I think I have enough passion for 2 people (so if you need some, just ask).  At times it is overwhelming.  I can get down in the dumps about the fact that I am not in South Africa right now working in some remote village saving lives or I can see my little job as a major piece to a larger puzzle.  Editing grant requests and updating a website may not be the most glamorous job known to (wo)man, but it’s part of something larger.  What I do here has a ripple effect on the foster system.  My contribution may be small, but with the help of everyone else in this organization we are making a huge impact on the foster system.

It’s easy to get down on myself because I am not working in my field of study but that is alright.  It’s not all about me.  I am still positively impacting my community, just in a different way.  In the end, we are only as happy as we allow ourselves to be.  I need to start seeing the value in what I do and not beat myself up because I am not where my five-year-old self wanted me to be.  I also wanted to live on a farm in rural Minnesota but I am okay with that plan falling through.  I am learning to be happy with where I am at and proud of what I do.  I am not necessarily complacent, just accepting and appreciative of my situation.

I have a purpose.  We all do.  It might not be what we imagined, but life never is.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Is it what you are currently doing?


  1. Ohhhhhhhhhhh've got me thinking this fine noon hour. I was just sitting here at my desk thinking some of the same thoughts...however, my current job is really not having a positive ripple effect in what I would consider beneficial. It is beneficial to my family's income and my time spent with them, but as far as fulfilling as my life's work...not so much :-(

    As a child I wanted to be a librarian. I was a voracious reader. I still love libraries and book stores!

  2. I SO wanted to work for the federal government! :) (It is a great job, I'm not complaining, but neither is it professional lifeguard either.)

  3. I wanted to be a cardiac surgeon growing up, and into my first year of college. Then, while working at the UCLA Med Center, I realized that it was really hard to be a great surgeon and have a social life and family, so I became a teacher (I just finished my 5th year).

    I enjoy my job and I think it's critical that the world have great teachers, but I truly question if this is really what I'm supposed to be doing. But it is what I'm currently doing right now, and despite doubts, I do the very best I can.

    Since there's no way I'm going to med school, I would like to pursue a novel... when I'm not busy chasing around two dogs, training for runs, or grading papers :)

  4. Julie- At the age of 12 I wanted to one day open a used book store/coffee shop, so I can relate! I even made a brochure for my pretend shop.

    Christine- I would love to write a novel as well. I think you would be great at it!

  5. Oh Kate - snap. Can you tell I've been working on this recently? As a child I wanted to be a vet, then an architect. I carried that dream on for years, all through studying English and doing a masters in American Studies (yeah, kind of not relevant to architecture) and then working in publishing and IT. When I finally turned to an interior design course (last year) I realised that while I enjoyed design I did not have real design talent, nor the inclination to do that kind of work. Shock to the system! As someone who never ever ever was good at sport, it's a miracle to me that right now I'm excited to become a personal trainer. I guess what I'm saying is you might stray far from where you started - but you might also find yourself getting closer to where you need to be. And you need to bring home the (vegan) bacon as well....

  6. Kate,
    I agree with you that when comparing your dreams as a child to what you ended up may seem drastically different. I always wanted to become an artist. Yet I ended up in science. Then I wanted to become a doctor, but instead work in a consumer goods business. I feel that as children, we have a very limited view on the world and so our dreams tended to go to the more glorified types of jobs that we would be exposed to from movies or from our little world. To dream big and impact the world in a big way is often a desire but not as easily achievable. I think if you contribute to spreading of goodness in the world little by little than maybe in the course of a lifetime you help a great deal. I honestly believe that life happens for a reason and it doesn't always occur according to a plan. Don't feel bad about not doing more, but feel good that you are doing more than most and by reaching out, you are influencing others to help as well. Find happiness wherever it may come.

    Hope all is well,

  7. I.Love.This.Post.

    The end.

    PS What I Want To Be When I Grow Up changes every few years. I still ask myself the question every once in awhile just to see where I'm at.

  8. Ahaha, this question is always funny for me. I wanted to be a meteorologist. It's not what I'm doing and I don't know that it bothers me. I had a fascination with hurricanes and tracking as a kid. I still do - that and tornadoes. I gave up on the idea probably soph year of HS when I realized few "good" colleges had it as a major/specialty. I figured it was more advantageous, career-wise, to go to a good school than try to follow the weather-girl route. I'm nothing if not practical.

  9. Then there's the reverse. To single-mindedly pursue one dream to (at times) the exclusion of all else. Sure as a kid I wanted to be a Broadway superstar (my inability to carry a tune notwithstanding) but since freshman year of college being a psychologist was my dream. Here I am 12 (gulp!) years later just now entering my field (assuming the stars are aligned on 7/29). Who knows what my life had been like if I hadn't pursued a doctorate and the total lack of any other sort of life or identity that goes with it? There are pros and cons everywhere.

  10. So its funny i had a different job every day of the week, i wanted to be an author, a vet, a caterer / cook, and i forget the two others i think they changed on a fairly consistent basis depending on what i was interested int.

    As i got older my interests shifted, but what I love about my job today is that its interesting and challenging and constantly changing, and I think that's what I craved most, being able to be creative and constantly learn new things

  11. I wanted to be a vet. As far back as I can remember, that was my dream. Even into high school. Then I met a guy and got married and got an associate's degree in health information management instead. I pissed away my dream for a guy that would leave me high and dry and on my own five years later. I have a good job now with an adequate salary, but it is THE MOST THANKLESS job in the entire universe. But we all know what kind of shape the post office is in, and I have sworn to myself that if my job goes down the crapper I WILL go back to school and I WILL get that DVM.

  12. Did you see The Sound of Music? I wanted to be Maria. 'A captain with 7 children…what's so fearsome about that?' And I married a guy who had 6 kids. Score! Lol. I also wanted to be an amazing singing movie star like Julie Andrews. So I got part way there ;-)

  13. You are such a great writer Kate. I always love your thoughts and they make me want to go sit on the beach with you and a glass of wine and talk about life! Seriously we would be great friends if we lived closer. :) These are such big things to think about. I probably have enough passion for 4 people...ha! Teaching or learning has always been my biggest passion so teaching was wonderful for me but my dream was always to be a mother and I'm doing that. And still finding a way to make a difference, write (another passion) and run (another passion). :) Life is good. Where we are!

  14. When I was a child I always wanted to be an astronaut. BUt alas, I have bad eyesight and that is something that can be frowned upon when space travel is concerned. So I ended up becoming a mechanical engineer and was bored out of my mind! I am now a stay at home mom with my 5 year old and although I sometimes wonder what I will do next....(he starts all day school this year) I can't help feel the same way you do. I kind of want to be uber passionate about whatever it is!


  15. Hi! Great post! I always wanted to be dancer! Or a rock and roll super star. Haha! Love your blog. Just found it on The Athletarian. I'm starting to find more fitness blogs which is awesome. Also, I see in your bio you love coffee....I work in the coffee industry. I'm a COFFEE NERD. Haha

    Get Up & Go

  16. Your words are speaking to my heart because I have struggled with this for YEARS now. I went into a field thinking that I would have the power to do great things and then was suddenly halted when obsticles came up forcing me to constantly be chosing between my family and my career. I was choosing family, and that has been something that has prevented me from going where my 5 year old self wanted to go.

    So last year I decided to do something about it, to stop letting life pass me by as I was sitting in the back seat missing all the great scenery. I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm so close and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    You'll get there soon enough. The desires of your heart will not go undiscovered because you have an amazingly strong spirit.

  17. I struggle with the meaningless-ness of my job (lawyer) on a daily basis. Yes, I think about it every single day. What I know is this: I don't have the passion for ANY job or cause out there. What I value is time spent with those I love (boyfriend, family, a few friends), running, walking, hiking, any activity outdoors. I don't value work, even though I know it is great for my brain.

    when I was a kid, I wanted to be a pro soccer player; an astronaut; and a CIA agent. these still resonate with me to some degree. I would love to be a pro athlete. I would love to study the universe (but physics hurts my brain). And I would love to help solve mysteries, but not if it means a secret identity or time away from my loves.

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