“What do you want to be when you grow up?” seems to be the default question we ask children. I can remember being asked that in primary schools by extended family, friends of my parents and older siblings and that occasional strange woman who would tell me how much I’d grown and insist I’d met her as a child.
My answer to this question changed as I grew up from writer to vet to singer. And then I noticed that the question started to change too. Suddenly it was “What university courses are you applying to?”. It went from “What do you want to be?” to “How are you going to get there?”. But I wasn’t ready to answer the first question yet! I didn’t know what I wanted to be, let alone how the hell I was going to get there! Out of nowhere the form was placed in front of me and I was supposed to sign up to a career path.
And then the question changed again. “What are you going to do once you finish university?”. Apparently there is a wrong answer to this question. The answer is not “Oh, I don’t know, I’ll see what happens.” No. This answer will result in prompting from the asker as to a more pleasing answer: “Well, are you going to work? Are you going to move? Have you thought about working overseas?”
Before I had even gotten close to finishing university, suddenly the question had changed yet again. “So, are you thinking about kids?”
To answer honestly, I have thought about having kids. I’ve also thought about how cool it would be if I could turn into an animal. The thing is that I’m nearly twenty-two. And although I can legally vote, drink, own property and get married I’m not really all that grown up, I’m still figuring things out. I’m not at the life stage where I could answer “Yes!” to “Are you thinking about kids?”. I’m not at the life stage where I can tell you what I plan to do after university. I’m not even at a life stage where I can tell you what I want to be when I grow up, because I simply don’t know.
Sometimes it scares me, not having the answers to these questions. I’m in my second year of university, so I should be able to at least tell you what I want to be, right? I feel like I should have everything together. But then I look around me and I realize that no, I shouldn’t have everything together because no one does. My best friend has just finished her under graduate degree, is starting honors, has a car, a house, a good relationship and a pet rabbit. And even she doesn’t have everything together. How do I know? She tells me. All the time.
When I tell old family friends what I’m doing at university they always point out that I wanted to be a vet and express shock that that’s not what I’m doing, as though the seven year old me who told them that should have known. She didn’t, I don’t and 30 year old me in the future probably can’t tell you either. But that’s okay, because if I never grow up, I never have to answer.