What do you want to be when you grow up?

We all got asked this question along the way. The answer, unsurprisingly, changed as we got older.

The thing of this is – why did that answer change? Sometimes it was based on who we are and what we learn. We often want to be very different things as children than we want to be as adults, or else I suspect we’d have far more lion tamers, acrobats and bulldozer drivers.

Sometimes our abilities and capabilities change this. A lack of mathematical or scientific aptitude can make becoming a doctor or an astronaut far more difficult. Not impossible, because I believe we can all do nearly anything we put our thought, feelings and actions behind…but while we may be in love with the idea of such a thing, the acts needed to achieve it can lose their allure.

Sometimes this change comes of necessity. In order to have certain things we have a finite number of “realistic” choices. We have to go to school, get an education, get a job, work all day so that we can have homes and cars and computers and so on and so forth. We have to “grow up” and become a contributor to this society in some form or other.

The problem lies in our societal belief that things will make us happy. We need to have more than the basic necessities, we need to have our computers and our smart phones and our e readers. We want more than just a car with four wheels four doors and an engine, we want the moon roof and the leather-trimmed interior and other toys. We associate these things with happiness…and while they can admittedly contribute to happiness, they do not make happiness.

The question of what do you want to be when you grow up is misleading. We frequently identify ourselves by outside influences. We identify ourselves by job – salesman, lawyer, doctor, garbageman, teacher and so on. We identify ourselves by our nationality – American, British, Canadian, Chinese and such. We identify ourselves by our religion – Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindi and the like. We identify ourselves by the color of our skin and by gender. We then put several of these things together to label who we are.

The truth is that we are none of these. They are identifiers, certainly, but they are not who we each individually are. For some reason we are fascinated by labeling things, including people. Because we choose to do this, we often get lost in this outside-influenced identity, and happiness becomes a much greater challenge.

You cannot be happy all the time. That’s as may be, but that does not mean that we should be so frequently un-happy. The jobs we do should not make us miserable, the days should not be slogged through with our spirits tattered and torn and the prospect of sleep and the escape to the next day driving us. While the material things we strive for can make us feel good, they will not guarantee us happiness.

As children we have a narrower perspective of the world. We all get exposed to different things by our parents and their friends, by the rest of our families and then by our own friends. As children we don’t worry about paying the mortgage or insurance or any of those other bills. We are still free to dream, and we can choose a seemingly outrageous answer to the question – what do you want to be when you grow up?

Pathwalking is about choice. In walking our own paths, we are choosing who we are and what we want to do and who we want to be. Pathwalking is about awareness. Instead of letting outside influences label who we are, we want to choose for ourselves. We want to be in control.

When I was nine years old I wanted to be a writer. I wrote a fifty page, illustrated sci-fi novel. When I was in my early teens I typed out a thirty-page sci-fi adventure. In my late teens I won an award in school for a technothriller story. But out of a combination of fears of success and failure and getting pigeon-holed into something I might not be happy with I never truly answered the question – what do you want to be when you grow up?

I tried theatre. I liked it in high school. I sort-of liked it in college, and majored in it. I wanted to be a director more than an actor or stage manager. The reality of theatre was not for me. The answer to the question of what do I want to be when I grow up evaded me for nearly two decades as I shifted from job to job. I acquired things like you do, and they brought me some happiness, but it was fleeting.

I even tried to not grow up. I immersed myself in the fantasy world of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and gave all of my effort and attention to the weekend escapism rather than the other five days of the week. I found a place for myself, but it was not somewhere I could live. My persona and my time at practices and events make me happy, but it doesn’t pay the bills. I came to realize that the rest of the week deserved the attention I was giving the escape. The upshot of this was that the people I met in this world help me to become a better person in general.

The important thing in all of this is that the ultimate answer I have come up with to what do you want to be when you grow up is something applicable to everyone. What do I want to be when I grow up? True to myself. I want to be genuine, I want to be honest about who I am, I want to love and be loved and to be happy. My job, my nationality, my religion, my gender and the color of my skin are not who I am. I am the person I choose to be. I am a number of self-identifiers that I strive every day to improve upon to make me the best me that I can be.

Do you want to be true to yourself when you grow up?


This is the one-hundred eighty first entry in my series. These weekly posts are specifically about walking along the path of life, and my personal desire to make a difference in this world along the way. Feel free to re-blog and share.  Thank you for joining me.

The first year of Pathwalking, including some expanded ideas, is available in print and for your Kindle.