Every teenager’s favourite question is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And by favourite, I mean absolute least favourite. For many adolescents- including me, groan- this headache-inducing questions remains unanswered. In a world where there are countless of different paths to take, it is virtually impossible to decide which ones to go down. The future may be in our hands, but what happens if we don’t know what to do with it? Life isn’t black and white, and what you choose to do with your career and life is one of the biggest grey areas of all.
Recently, I stumbled upon a quote, from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, that inspired me to reconsider how I think about the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The quote is as follows:
“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
-Commander Chris Hadfield
Find Your Passion
Even if you are not crystal-clear on what you want your career to be, the first step is to discover what your passions are- “Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction.” Join clubs, take extracurriculars, volunteer, work a part-time job, do research; do what it takes to find the things that you’re really passionate about. We’re talking the kind of passion that gets you excited to wake up every morning.
Even if your passions and goals are not conventional ones, or even if they seem like they will take superhuman abilities to achieve, work for them. Like Chris Hadfield said, you might not end up where you expected to be, but you will still be closer to living your dream than you would’ve been if you’d just given up on them. So no matter whether you want to be a singer, a doctor, a firefighter, or a writer, find out what you can do right now to get started on that path, and then do it.
Dealing With Doubt
There will be setbacks. There will be mistakes. There will be variables out of your control and times where you’ll feel like you’re not getting anywhere. You know this already. It happens, and it’s okay. You don’t have to have everything figured out right now, or even a year or two down the road. Even if you end up realizing that your college major is not right for you, or that you actually despise the profession that you’ve chosen, it’s never too late to change.
Take these people for example: Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o took IB in high school and graduated with a master’s degree from Yale University before making her film debut at age 30. Actor Jeremy Renner didn’t get his breakout film role until age 37. Fashion designer Vera Wang had careers in both figure skating and journalism before becoming a designer at age 40. None of them had an exactly early start, but they are very successful in their fields. This goes to show that your decisions now don’t necessarily have to define your life in the future. Later, if it turns out that you’ve changed your mind about what you want to do, that’s okay too. You’ve got time.
The good thing about the grey area that is the future is that there are second chances and alternate paths to take if your initial one doesn’t work out. You may have to jump some hurdles and experience some hardships before finding what it is that you really want to do with your life, and it may take you years, or decades. But when you find it, you will discover that none of the paths you’ve taken have been wrong, because while you may not end up where you expected, you will end up in a place that is right for you.