I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. When I was young I wanted to be a doctor. There are health care professionals in my family and science has always interested me. I had pH paper and remember testing the hot sauces in the family refrigerator and applying Mr. Yuck stickers to the most deadly.
When I was a kid I watched kids. I was a babysitter and worked at a home day care. I had Saturday regulars to care for and they were a bunch of fun. When I was a bit older I did all sorts of office temp work. I answered 15 incoming lines and I got yelled at for using silver paper clips on the Executive’s memos when I should have used gold. For real. I copied, faxed, typed, and filed. I told every office I was assigned to that when (insert name here) got back from her vacation they should buy her flowers because she does so much for them. Yes, they were all women. I hope some of them got flowers.
In college, I quickly learned that academia wasn’t for me. I studied, quizzed, tested, and wrote and wrote my way to a 3.0 GPA and on the way decided against medical school. I was also into and out of the education/teachers program. The thought of spending more time in a classroom with textbooks was discouraging. I briefly considered a career in physical therapy and still think it’s an amazing field. The cost was also amazing, but in a bad way.
Instead I opted for a career in social justice, working to teach girls math and science and trying to turn schools into community center like spaces. It was amazing to be on my own with a group of girls and youth who were looking to me for engaging and enriching activities. I developed a curriculum for owl pellet dissection and played soccer with the kids who wanted to start a soccer club. Then politics happened. The grant money was running out and I was applying for lots of jobs.
I joined the fire department in 2001. I was a Firefighter for twelve years and now I’ve been a Captain for just over one. It’s a challenging and difficult career where I have the opportunity to help people on a daily basis. Perhaps I knew what I’d be doing long before I started.
What do I want to do when I grow up? I’m not sure. I haven’t held a laundry list of jobs. I know that I like to teach receptive audiences. I am pretty sure that if I had to sit in a cube all day I would die. I’m hoping never to confirm this hypothesis. In high school I had a teacher told us we should strive to “be happy.” That is excellent advice and similar to what I heard at my liberal college. I was also advised that “no matter what I chose to do for work, that I will hate it.” I thought this was terrible advice from a jaded man and it has taken a while for me to add my own spin to his words.
I currently believe that work can eventually let you down if that’s all that you have, and that you should find happiness outside of work. In short, make yourself a great life and work will be great as well. That’s what I’m going to do.