This I Believe

Ashley - USA
Entered on February 22, 2005

From the time I started school, there was a huge pressure to have goals. Not only was I supposed to try to do kindergarten things like read longer books, write my name more neatly, or color inside the lines, I was also supposed to start thinking about, even at five, what I wanted to do as an adult. Everyone would ask the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

One of the things I learned earliest was that some jobs are more desirable because they can potentially be more lucrative. There was a boy in my second grade class who knew the emphasis grown-ups place on wealth. When someone asked him what he wanted to be he always answered “a doctor because they make a lot of money.”

After hearing that, I began to answer similarly. Moreover, I eventually discovered (for there are many times throughout a young lifetime that “the question” will be posed ) that there were a few keynote jobs whose names, when dropped in response to “the question” would always garner approving nods and sometimes remarks suggesting that I was especially precocious or bright. Thus, throughout elementary school I wanted to be, at any given time, a doctor, lawyer, dentist, CEO, psychologist, and architect.

Money is king to many people. And so, for a while I adopted this widespread view and placed my value in cash and the methods by which it can be attained.

This love of money was perpetuated by the fact that it was not disposable for my family. Middle school brought situations I never imagined. I met kids whose parents were professionals: lawyers, and such. Often, they got what they wanted. Their parents bought mobile phones, exotic vacations, and designer clothes. Eventually I too wanted this. At that point my answer to “the question” was more a reflection of the plush lifestyle I thought I so desired, “I want to be a millionaire.” This answer triggered chuckles and some social platitude akin to “honey, you can do whatever you set your mind to.”

I continued to juggle around what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a leadership seminar as a junior in high school that my true desires revealed themselves. At this point, some of my peers had gotten over responding to “the question” with some top-dollar job. As one of the speakers posed “the question” to a group of us, many answered with new ideas like nurse, teacher, and journalist; jobs that while providing income were not among the traditional a-list. When my turn came around before I could catch my tongue, “happy” rolled off, more naturally than any other answer ever had.

People turned to look to see who had uttered such a silly answer. As the stares came, I realized that whether I have a job or career, happy is what I want to be when I grow up.