What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“What are your plans for after high school?”

“What do you want to study in college?”

These kinds of questions tend to get asked a lot around this time year as graduation looms.

When I was young, my answers to these questions evolved from wanting to be the next Johnny Bench, to a journalist, to a teacher, and then, by the time I started college, to “I have no idea.” Eventually, I figured a few things out, and one of them is that we should never really stop asking the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Now this might be a strange question for most people, especially after one establishes a career, gets married, or has kids. And it might seem even stranger for those of you who are retired. But think about it, after you graduate from high school—after you “grow up”—do you ever stop learning? Do you ever stop dreaming? Does the world ever stop changing?

The truth is that we are always growing up. We are always graduating from one stage in our lives to the next, and, as we are all experiencing right now, sometimes those graduations are not always welcomed ones. Sometimes, our career path hits a detour. Sometimes, things just do not work out the way we had planned. Sometimes, our bodies say slow down when our minds say full steam ahead. Sometimes the world gets turned upside down by something like a pandemic.

Because life itself is an ongoing and continuous journey of becoming, the reality is that we are always graduating from one stage in our lives to the next, even if we do not always take the time to take notice. And because we are all wonderfully human, we always have something more to learn about ourselves, others, and the world around us. There will always be a new path in life to explore. There will always be something broken, in our own lives and in the world around us, that could use fixing and healing. And there will always be something within in all of us that we can discover, develop, and share with others for the good of all—for the common good.

Life itself, whether one is 8, 18, 38, or 78-years-old, is an ongoing experience of graduations, evolution, and changes, and we would all do well, no matter our age, to ask ourselves: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “How am I most needed and what do I have to share?” and “How can I help to make this world a better place?”