Every once in a while, I’ll meet someone I went to high school with.
Usually, it’s a good meeting, if I don’t dive behind the display of Cheerios I’m standing next to in order to avoid them. Usually if I stick around, I find the other person did something with their lives. They turned out to be reasonably successful. But every so often, I have to hold back the words, “What happened to you?” from popping out of my mouth. Some people just took a…different path than I did. Maybe they dropped out of high school and had twenty kids and got a tattoo on their face or something. I always wondered what those people wanted to do with their lives back when we were in elementary school. They probably didn’t want to drop out of school and have twenty kids.
But it made me think about myself. I wanted to be a lot of things when I was a kid. And I’m glad that for the most part, I did none of the things I dreamed of as an eight-year-old. It made me think of all the dreams I had, and all the adults around me very kindly encouraged me in my dreams, as silly as they might have been. I’m not so sure I would have been so encouraging to myself. It kind of made me wonder what I’d say if I could give eight-year-old me a pep talk about career and life choices…
Matt Gives Himself Career Guidance
When I was six, I wanted to be my Dad.
Just about any kid wants to be like one of their parents, if their parents are worth emulating. But, young Matthew, this is not a good life plan. You’re dad’s a good guy and all, but in just a few years, he’ll become the biggest idiot on the planet in your eyes, and you’ll be too busy disappointing him to even remember that you ever wanted to be anything like him. Just give it time, and in the meantime, find something else to dream about.
When I was ten, I wanted to build a spaceship.
Okay, I notice you don’t actually want to go into space. I get it, you’re afraid of heights. That’s cool. Practicing up on your legos, I see. What’s that you have there? Oh, you wrote to NASA and they sent you a big packet of really cool stuff? Neat-o. But you know, building spaceships isn’t exactly a growth industry…yeah, they pretty much build a new spaceship about every twenty years. Now, if you want a growth industry, you should get in on the ground floor of building high definition TV satellites. That’s the brave new world you’re inheriting.
When I was fifteen, I wanted to be an artist.
Again, not a great way to make money. Van Gogh never sold a single painting in his lifetime, and he was way better and crazier than you. Look out the car window, Matthew. See that “starving artist” sale in the Osco Drug parking lot? Take a good hard look at that word “starving.” Imagine the words “not showered” next to it too.
When I was sixteen, I didn’t care, I just wanted a girlfriend.
Get ready to wait a long time, hot shot. By the way, have you decided to shower regularly again, Mr. Artist? I won’t say that will help, because it won’t, but it can’t hurt.
When I was eighteen, I wanted to be an actor.
Let’s see, no talent: check. No serious committment: check. Extremely self-absorbed desire for attention: check. Lucky for you, in a couple of years, there will be this new fad called “reality TV,” and you are eminently qualified. If I were you, I’d get into a really dysfunctional relationship with a girl right now, get on fertility treatment and have a bunch of babies. Trust me, you’ll thank me later when your family is the most famous trainwreck in the country.
When I was twenty, I wanted to be a preacher.
Well, I guess you’ve come around and you want to be like your old man again, huh. Well, it’s better than your other choices up to this point. Boy, you sure know how to pick the lucrative career paths, huh? By the time you’re done with school, you will have the same number of years in school as a lawyer! But I can’t even begin to tell you the spiritual changes this pursuit will bring you over the next few years. I hope you’re prepared for it. I hope you feel God is leading you on this, otherwise you will certainly fail.
When I was twenty-five, I wanted to be a teacher.
That’s cool, you want to be a pastor, and a teacher because you believe in being bi-vocational. You’ve got down emulating Dad, so you might as well pursue your mother’s career path. That’s funny. I know everyone is saying that there’s a huge teacher shortage and they’re desperate to get people into the classrooms, but…that’s not really going to be the case by the time you’re done getting certified. Something about the economy. Just as long as you know that one un-lucrative career, plus another un-lucrative career does not equal one big lucrative career.
I tell people today that I’m really awesome at working, I’m just terrible at making money. Plus I’ve got this blog, and some plans to go along with that, but there’s no money there either. But at least I’m happy at what I’m doing, and I feel like God is too. I have no idea what I’ll want to do in two years. I’m glad I didn’t “follow my dreams” when I was eight years old the way everyone told me to. I’m glad my dreams changed.
What did you want to be when you were eight? Did you follow your dreams, or did your dreams change? What would you say to eight-year-old you if you could give yourself a pep talk?