I am sure if a child or adolescent received a quarter for every time they were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” they would be rich. We’ve all been asked that question throughout our lives and I recall as a child wanting to be several different things but never really knowing what for sure.
When I graduated High School I still wasn’t really sure but it didn’t take long before I figured it out and enrolled myself in a Criminal Justice Program. That was the beginning of my career as a Police Officer.
As I’ve become older, and since leaving my decade long policing career, I have come to really despise the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.
When you are young you are made to believe that when you grow up you will enter a profession and that will be your career until you hit retirement. You choose a career path, you choose the university or other training institution where you learn the skills you need, you spend countless dollars on said education, and then you begin your career.
And then what?
When I started my career I was on top of the world. I often said I was living the dream; and I was. I loved my job but a few years into it I began to learn more about myself and some of the things I was interested in. I had a strong desire to learn and know more about the psychology of human beings and why they do the things they do.
We are all born with a blank slate. Why does one grow up to make good choices and the other to make bad choices? I had no idea how much this fascination was going to grow over time.
I often found myself bound by a system I didn’t believe in and my hands tied behind my back. I wanted to become something more and I wanted to do work that policing couldn’t offer me.
I felt stuck but I couldn’t quit policing; it was my job. My passion. My career.
Isn’t that right?
I was defined by the uniform and I had no idea who I would be if I wasn’t a cop. So many of us are guilty of defining ourselves by our career. When someone introduces themselves to you, one of the first questions they ask is, “what do you do for a living”. We put so much pressure on our status and our title, but why?
I was literally staying in a job that I grew to hate because I grew up believing that you should never quit something that you’ve worked so hard for. Part of being an adult is having a career that you stick with. You shouldn’t quit a job you hate if it pays you well and offers you a great pension.
Isn’t that right?
I honestly believed this for a very long time.
Until my fiancé died suddenly at the age of 30.
The, “get an education, start a job, work hard and retire” plan didn’t seem to fit anymore. My fiancé did all of these things except the one where you get to retire. He didn’t make it to that point. Although he didn’t hate his job he did hate having to work for someone else as he had a strong desire to live life on his own terms; not someone else’s. We spent countless hours dreaming of what could be and wondering what life would be like if we took more risks.
So there I was a thirty-year-old widow. A woman who thought she had it all figured out until things drastically changed. I still had my career and I still had financial stability but that was ALL I had. My whole life had been turned upside down and if I wanted any chance at surviving the trauma of losing my other half, I had to dig deep and determine what passion I had left.
From day one of finding out my fiancé died I knew that policing would not be the thing that pulled me out of this darkness. I knew policing would do the complete opposite of that and I knew I had to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew out of this tragic time — or shall I say when I grew up.
When are we considered grown up anyway?
So when someone asks, “what do you want to be when you grow up” I think it’s important to consider saying something like this;
I want to be fulfilled and fueled by my passions.
I want to be content with who I am and who I am becoming.
I want to be comfortable in my own skin and know when something doesn’t feel right.
I want to have careers and experiences that make sense and I want to be courageous enough to move on from them when I know they are no longer serving me in a way that helps me serve others.
I want to achieve things that are important to me, I want to learn endlessly, and I want to have experiences that create joy, strength, lessons, and abundance rather than constant stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration.
I want to have the right to change my mind and I want to receive unconditional support through that change and growth.
I want to be able to recognize when it’s time to move on and I want to strive to be the best version of myself every single day. Even on the ugly days.
So how do you know when it’s time to move on one might ask?
The answer is this; you will know.
You just have to listen to what your body, mind, and heart are telling you and although you will feel terrified you need not resist change as it will create opportunities and beautiful experiences you could not even imagine for yourself.
My advice to you — trust the process and believe in yourself as you are the only one who knows what is best for you.
Others will give you advice and that’s okay but be sure to filter out the noise and have a very good understanding of what advice you will take with a grain of salt and which advice you will give weight to you.
This life is incredibly short and you have every right to make decisions that “seem” crazy, selfish, and outright terrifying. You are the boss of you and those who matter will love you and support you no matter which way you choose to live.