My earliest recollection was that I wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer when I grew up. Now I did have some idea as to what that meant, although the enormity of the mathematics that would entail was, at the time, beyond me. More on math in a second.
As I grew older, I thought I'd like to be an Architect. In fact, I used to create my own floor plans for imaginary schools and similar buildings using big sheets of paper. Some if it, I think, was probably quite good. Then I started Algebra in high school, and early into the class the teacher asked each of us what we wanted to be "when we grew up". I said "Architect". She said, in front of the whole class, that I probably wasn't good enough in math to make that happen. Before then my math grades weren't bad, but they weren't spectacular either. Thereafter I got good in math. Real good, in fact.
As I approached college, I still wanted to be an Architect, but the realities of college financing (we had no money), the competitiveness of Architectural school programs, and their relative scarcity made that not all too realistic. I settled on an Associate's Degree in Architectural Engineering. That lead to acceptance into a Bachelor's degree program in Civil Engineering. Then I changed my major to business administration.
Why the change? I just didn't want to be an Engineer. I almost got into the Architecture program at the University of Cincinnati, but then those realities of finance reared their ugly head again. That and a general lack of encouragement for that kind of change spelled doom for my Ohio dreams. Anyway, a major in business administration seemed like a safe bet. I ended up having some difficulty with study-based courses, as I had been pretty much wired for math during my first two years of college, but all told I made a good run of it, finishing my BBA degree within four years and having a boat-load of math credits to boot. Then I got a job in retail, mainly because it was 1986, and jobs were somewhat hard to come by. My starting salary was the princely sum of $13,500 per year. Needless to say, I ate a lot of Corn King hot dogs. And I still didn't know what I wanted to do "when I grew up".
My retail career lasted about three years, and along with a new family came a need to earn more money, so I ended up getting hired by a large insurance company (the one without the cartoon beagle). It had nothing to do with anything I actually wanted to do, but it was challenging and it paid reasonably well, so I stayed.
Fast forward to now, and I've had a long and varied career to date. These days I do "HR stuff", and it continues to be challenging. Heck, I'm nearly 70% of the way towards a Master's degree in the field, so I must be at least competent. But is it what I wanted to do when I "grow up"?
Interestingly enough, I had a conversation with the vice president I report to, and she asked a very reasonable two questions: What do you want to do? What are you interested in? I actually couldn't answer either all that well, truth be told. What did I end up saying? Well, here you go: "The things I'm interested in are well above what I do for a living."
I know, that last statement sounds cryptic or brilliant, but it has the benefit of being true. After all these years, I really don't know what I want to do "when I grow up". I have, however, learned that a few things about myself:
- I like learning, continuously
- Despite not really liking people, I actually do like to help them
- I enjoy a good challenge
- I (now) like math
- I enjoy writing
I may in fact never know what I want to do "when I grow up", mainly because, perhaps, I've never grown up. And I think this is probably okay.