I remember the last time I uttered the phrase "I want to do x when I grow up" (where x=something amazing). I was in my 20s and out of college, working in a job that fit within my broadcasting degree options. By most accounts, I was already successful. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt ridiculous.
Except that I've never really felt like a grownup. Maybe that's because the older we get, the more we feel we have to achieve in order to not be stagnant. In terms of success, the sky's the limit, so I'll always have a long way to go.
I'm also a very different person than I was at 18, when choosing a major had more to do with a creative, engaging course load and less to do with how I might spend the rest of my life. I was on financial aid in college, so money was this exotic thing I didn't have and didn't really obsess over. I also never considered that the rather limiting television market would made it hard for me to just live anywhere, especially since I was graduating into a top market already (at the time, San Francisco ranked #5, behind New York, LA, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Dallas/Ft. Worth has since pushed us to #6). Did I want to move to one of the top 4 markets once I exhausted my options in San Francisco? I had no idea. I was just happy to be out of Sebastopol. Of course, now that the video landscape is changing so rapidly, I have a whole new set of rules to consider.
I think lots of people go through a similar "what does it all mean" period around the time they hit 30, which is right about when you have to stop claiming that you aren't a grownup yet. It's not that I don't like my career or that I feel unfulfilled, it's more of a "wow, I could have been a veterinarian" type of wistfulness. Sure, I could still do that, but I probably won't. Mentally I've missed my window.
But then I think about my dad, who, as a result of never getting a college degreee, suffered through a string of crappy jobs throughout my childhood. Eventually he couldn't take it anymore, so at age 45 he went back to school. And graduated with honors. And then became an elementary school teacher and really really loved his job. I'm sure he wished that he had taken the plunge 20 years earlier, but at least he was finally happy. In that sense, it's never too late.
Personally, I don't fantasize about teaching fractions to fourth graders, but there are a few careers I wouldn't mind pursuing somewhere down the road, such as:
- Geographical Linguist
- Travel Photographer
- Tea Shop Owner
- Cat Whisperer
What about you? Kind of a fun exercise.