Today is "Career Day" at my daughter's elementary school. The students are encouraged to dress like someone from the future career of their choice.
My daughter said to me, "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up." I told her she's not growing up to be anything other than Amelia Carlock. She can do whatever she wants to do for work, but that's not going to be who she is.
It's 2023, and we're still asking kids and teenagers what they want to be when they grow up. I can't stand this question because it intimates there's a destination that everyone should reach in order to "make it" or to be considered successful.
Work is but one portion of our identity. I teach high school students for my main work. But it's one of many things that make me who I am. I don't like to say, "I'm a teacher," but rather, "I teach."
Those same high school students I teach are under a lot of pressure to figure out what they are going to do for work or for a career. They're graduating in two months and everyone is now asking them, "What are you going to do?"
The truth is, they don't know what they don't know. They're only 18 years old. They haven't lived on their own. They haven't had to pay bills. They haven't had to figure out how to survive on their own. So it's crazy for us to expect them to pick a career now, or to pick a major for college where they'll spend tens of thousands of dollars to study something they think they like from their limited, 18-year old perspective.
They don't know what they don't know. Sure, this statement is true for all of us, but those of us who are older have had years of experience with trial and error. We've tried many things we thought we would like, only to find out we didn't like them. And we fell into certain things we never even thought about, only to learn we loved them.
The way I see it today, as a 46-year old husband and father of two, is that we're looking to find work that feeds parts of our soul (and while we're looking for that work, we're staying away from work that is soul-sucking). And that work needs to allow us the flexibility to feed the other parts of our soul outside the work.
Instead of asking people what they do, or asking teenagers what they want to be when they grow up, let's ask, "Who are you?" and, "Who are you becoming?"
Make it a great day!