What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

photoPhoto by Ian Schneider


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” -E.E. Cummings

As summer slips into cooler days, I stand at the bus stop with fresh-faced children hoisting heavy backpacks filled with sharpened pencils and smooth-covered textbooks. Watching the yellow bus pick them up and pass by me, I remember my own bumpy ride when I traversed cafeteria-seating negotiations, painful picks for team sports, endless questions and unsure answers.

The most common of these questions was always, “What do you want to do when you grow up?

Except for a brief flirtation with archeology (I don’t have the patience to use a four inch trowel to unearth an ancient bead necklace), I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Pages of maudlin poetry, trite short stories, and literary musings filled notebooks kept and closeted from everyone.

I’d learned at a young age and after years of unsolicited opinions regarding my career choice that becoming a writer wasn’t a vocation to proclaim. So I learned how to stealthily duck and dodge the question regarding my chosen profession. My passion to write didn’t diminish, but my admission of it definitely did.

Even now, it isn’t uncommon for me to avoid the subject of my occupation (this makes marketing my book difficult). It’s usually friends who excitedly announce what I do in a manner similar to announcing a winner on a game show without realizing the prize is a year’s supply of off-brand tuna.

Recently I had coffee with a friend in a small local bookshop. While discussing the idiosyncrasies of four-year-olds, another woman approached. My friend recognizing her, smiled, and introduced me. Soon both women were discussing their current reading list. My friend eagerly added that I’d written a book.

After asking for the title, the woman offhandedly said, “I was going to write a book.” The rest of the sentence seemed to trail off as she placated her small child with a chocolate as he pulled on her arm. She gave us a wave over her shoulder and walked out, leaving her admission open-ended and unanswered.

It isn’t the first time that someone, upon learning that I published a book, responds that they were going to write a book. No matter how many times I hear it, I never know what to say. However, there are a couple of questions I always want to ask.

One—Why didn’t you write a book? Were you too busy having babies, working a corporate job, or did you just find the endeavor frivolous and not worth the time?

Two—Is it so easy to write a book? Is it something one does when they can fit in a few extra minutes into their day? Is the arduous years-long process of writing, editing and proofing to try to perfect every painfully placed word on an overwhelmingly white page simply a hobby never started?

Perhaps I should sympathize with their lack of time to pen the great American novel. Instead I find myself simultaneously trying to hide and defend the fact that I have dedicated all of my time to trying to do the same.

Maybe most people are just trying to make conversation. But possibly many don’t know what they want to do. And just as these people still need to answer the timeworn question, “What do you want to do when you grow up” I still neeed to accept my answer.

I want to be a writer.

No, I am a writer.

Thank you for reading. I’m excited to hear what you think.



6 thoughts on “What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

  1. Honestly, I’ve changed my answer to this question. I realise though that I want to be a writer, and I am a writer, but i know that answer never makes sense. Because i also want to be so many more things than a good, or a great or an amazing writer.
    Whenever somebody asks me such a question, I always say, “I just want to be happy”. And that’s about it. I don’t know why, but being happy is what i want to be. I know writing and acting will always find a way into my happiness, but if for some insane godforsaken reason, they don’t make me happy, I know i might have to let them go.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Shrey. Happiness is an important aspect to consider when deciding how to spend one’s life. I think it is a wonderful thing if one knows what truly makes him or her happy and has the ability to pursue that. It seems as though that is the case with you. So congrats on knowing and good luck with continuing to find and reside in your bliss.

  2. You know, it’s funny, I never really could nail down just one thing that I was going to be when I grew up, other than that I wanted to be a Mom. When it came to careers, I kind of wanted to try everything.
    Now I am a mom and as such, most people never ask me what I do, because they assume I don’t do anything else.
    Ironically, I wear many more hats than most people who know me even know. Only a very small percentage of people know about even one of them let alone ALL of the things I do.
    While I did give up on certain interests and hobbies along the way, (e.g. dancing and acting) I still do a lot of the things I love all the time, and being a Mom has in no way limited me in that.
    I am a professional photographer, (It’s what I have a college degree for anyway.) I work as a freelance graphic designer, and an independent contractor doing writing for a company’s website. I also know how to sew and used to take commissions to design and sew custom costumes. Now I usually take odd jobs here and there, just altering and mending for people. I also write and cover music and maintain a Youtube channel, all from the comfort of my home while taking care of my kids. Those are just a few of examples that actually earn me some occasional money, but I have other hobbies I’ve not even mentioned.
    Being a writer is something that was always there, but I never planned to make a career out of it. I have been writing short stories and poetry for most of my life, but it seemed to come so easily to me, that perhaps I felt like it wasn’t enough of a challenge. Of course writing a novel has proven to be much more difficult. Yet, even now, my main goal is to finish my novel as a PERSONAL challenge.
    If my little girls like it someday that will be a bonus, but I mainly want to really finish something; and I want it to be the kind of book I would have enjoyed when I was young. There have been so many amazing authors who have touched my life and influenced and inspired me, that if by some chance my story could do the same for someone else who I’ve never met, that would be amazing; yet the first goal is to please myself.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Evelyn. You seem as though you are a multi-talented lady! It is true that we are all many things, aren’t we? Even if a person has a particular career, it doesn’t mean that their talents and passions only lie within that path. I have always been interested in photography. I think that all the arts intertwine together nicely and it is easy for one to love and pursue many of them.

  3. It’s the way things are. There are people that will always say things like that but I don’t worry because like you I speak the words and back it up with action. I don’t want to say I thought about, was going to….I am a writer and I won’t apoligise for that but I would like to be better lol

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About Sherry Parnell