What Are You Going to Be When You Grow Up?

This is a question we are often asked as children. It's a question made to inspire, a question that tells kids they have the ability to be whatever they want to be and do whatever they want to do.

And, it's a question I still feel I do not have an answer to.

I'm probably grown up. I'm 24, I have a college degree, I'm married, hold a slightly unpredictable but good job, and we pay the bills (and student loans), manage to feed ourselves and have clean clothes to wear. I still call and text my parents often, but I hope that's something I always do.

However, I'm still not certain what I want to be when I grow up.

When I began college, I wanted to be a Special Education teacher. I took a few Special Ed. classes and loved them, then got frustrated when I learned I needed to get a Bachelors in Education first. As I took my first general education classes, I realized I didn't actually have that big of a passion for education and learning, I just wanted to help people. Education is a great way to help people, but there are a lot of other ways too. Out of my interest in people and relationships and desire to learn how to help, I changed my major to Psychology.

I loved Psychology. Almost every single class I took was fascinating and eye opening. I decided I want to pursue counseling, and then was quickly intimidated by the amount of school and paperwork. I decided I wanted to be a social worker, then realized I probably couldn't emotionally handle the intense and very real situations social workers consistently find themselves in. After that, I wasn't quite sure. All I knew was that I wanted my job to be working directly with others, helping others and giving them hope, and applying the interesting things I'd learned in psychology about relationships and behavior. Besides that, I was wide open.

 At an event during my senior year I heard a speaker say "You know what you can do with a bachelor's in psychology?" My ears perked up and I leaned forward, eager to hear the exciting, fulfilling career path he would offer me. And then I heard his answer: "Go to graduate school."

I've had my bachelors degree for a year now, and like the speaker said, I really do need to get a masters degree to be able to get the kind of job I eventually want. I know the heart of what I want to do, but I really don't know exactly what career is right for me. I'm still considering counseling. I'm learning that having the same schedule as my husband is important to me so I'm also considering a few jobs that would allow me to use my skills and passions within the school system . I think at some point I would love to work within a church in a recovery ministry.

This isn't a decision I need to make right now, grad school is probably a ways away for me, something I can look forward to in the future. I am free to explore and ponder and wonder what I want to be when I grow up.

As I've pondered my answer, I've found myself discontent with the question. When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, the correct response is a fireman, or a police woman, or a zoo keeper. When you ask a soon-to-be college graduate, the correct response is anxiety and uncertainty (or if you're one of those rare graduates with a job lined up, a brief explanation that makes your job sound as impressive as possible, hiding the doubt you have that you're on the right path). But what if we made the question bigger? What about if I thought of what I want my future identity to be, it wasn't about my career, but about my character?  That lasts longer anyway, right?

So, what do I want to be?

I want to be kind. I want to be helpful. I want to share joy. I want to be humble and teachable. I want to believe the best in others. I want to be patient. I want to have constant growth. I want to be adventurous. I want to be someone who notices. I want to be compassionate. I want to be cheerful and warm. I want to be a listener, one who supports, and one who perseveres. I want to give hope, inspire, encourage, and strengthen those around me.

Although I'm not sure of my future career, I know what my heart is, and what my calling is. These things are what I want to be.

Here's a few writings that speak to the heart of what I want to be:

If you want to love someone
Search their soul for where it's broken
Find the cracks and pour your heart in
If you want to love someone

Somehow you had a way of seeing
Just how deep my wound could go
Oh but you were never scared
To run and meet me there
And that's how I know

"If You Want to Love Someone" by Jason Gray

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom,
 so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me
and opens my understanding to his will.

-Isaiah 50:4 NLT

It's okay that I don't know what career I want to pursue. But I do know what I want to be in this world, and I think that is more important.

I wish there was a way that we could get to know others by asking who they are and what they want to be in this sense. It would be refreshing if we had better questions to ask each other than "where did you go to school" and "what do you do" and "what's your plans". Who we are now is important. Who we are going to be is important. Our careers or lack of careers are a small detail of the whole picture.

What about you? Do you get anxious when someone asks you about your job or future, and wish you could tell them more about who you are and what you want to be in this world?

I hope these thought brings you encouragement and peace, wherever you may be on your career or life journey.


  1. Hey, what do you know! I want to be exactly what you want to be!

    This is a season of reinvention for me too. Lots of uncertainty. People asking what I am going to do. I'm just trying to stay close to the Lord and do the next thing. I think I might know where it is leading...sort of. But mostly, I am just trying to be obedient.

  2. Absolutely, Elisa. I think learning to be ok with not knowing what we're doing is a hugely important lesson. It takes the focus off of us and our plans and trusts God to do what he's going to do.


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