Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I wish I had said: I have no idea.

Adults like to pose this question to the young ones now and then, and with good intention.


My niece had just graduated from nursery school. After being showered with congratulatory messages, her mum asks, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” Suddenly, her demeanor changes from bubbly to a pensive mood.

Probably contemplating how best to respond, she starts to fiddle with her fingers.

After a long pause, her mum reminds her, “Don’t you remember you once told me you wanted to be a doctor?” With a reluctant smile, while nodding, she admits, “Yes, I did.” 

Her sweet face now has doubt written all over it; maybe that’s not what she desires to be at the moment—I think.


This incident takes me back to my childhood years, probably when I was the same age as her. My dad posed the same question to me: “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”

I had never taken time to think about it seriously, but I responded, “An air hostess.” Their beauty and strut that drew others’ attention—mine included—were some of the reasons I thought a flight attendant was a suitable career choice.

However, my dad dissuaded me from considering it as a career option, saying I needed to think “big.” (Looking back at that response and knowing that maintaining a set standard of appearance 24/7 is hard work, I feel like I dodged a bullet.)

Years later, now in high school, faced with the monumental decision of choosing a suitable university program, I heard about this “prestigious” field that was tough and had few qualified experts.

I thought to myself; I can do this, and sail through it, I did. Four years later (having completed, invested time, money, and energy), deep down I feel, I shouldn’t have taken this path— and that’s the brutal truth.

Still, I’m not sure who I want to be; I’m going through each day by trial and error. Sometimes I wonder, if I hadn’t set my mind on a particular path and allowed myself to explore what life has in store, things might have turned out differently: or not.

As it’s only after campus that I heard, “everybody has their path to success,” but before that, “there were specific sure ways to victory.”


Growing wings to fly
Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash


Every day, I have to remind myself that I want to live a life of purpose (which I have little clue about.) One way to uncover this is to try and fail, and try again, until I get there. However, we cannot ignore that coming from a 20-sth-year-old, this may sound absurd.

Besides, I am female, and the biological clock is ticking too. On the other hand, everybody else seems to have their affairs together. Yet, here I am on this discovery journey— that gives me pleasure most time—as I become more aware of who I am.

However, when I look back at everyone else, I sometimes falter in my steps.


I put myself in my niece’s shoes, and I wish someone had encouraged me to discover who I am and try new things. Take time to become self-aware while I was still at a tender age and had no responsibilities.

You know, that age when you know that you only need to ask to get what you want. You don’t have to worry about money, or where, and how people get it. Not continually longing for independence (because you don’t know what it entails.)

I decide to chip into the conversation. I remind my niece that she is capable of achieving everything she sets out to do. Encourage her to live a life of discovery: following her curiosity and not limit herself to a single path.


For, if Sir Isaac Newton hadn’t wondered why everything that goes up has to come down, maybe we would have never known about the laws of gravity. We would continue living knowing that what goes up must come down, just because it always does.

Someone has to ask why and try the path least trodden. So, for the 20-sth-year-old or over, who is yet to figure out what they want to do with their lives— you are not alone! All you have to do is try. Remember, it’s never too late to start over.

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