What do you want to be when you grow up?

by Zahra Khozema, Storyteller for RU Student Life

Every Halloween, to put it simply, we avoid ourselves. We change our appearance to be anything or anyone so out of our reach yet somehow still our deeper aspiration. I always took advantage of this day to indirectly come to terms with what I wanted to be when I grew up; to get comfortable in the skin of my role models without taking any responsibility or worrying what my parents might have thought.

Because the spirit of Halloween is harder to condone in real life, I would like to groan my most used non-word: ‘URGHHHH’??

Alright, now that it’s out of my system, let’s continue. You know when you’re having a really good day, maybe you got an assignment done or maybe you just indulged in the perfect pumpkin spice muffin at Tim’s, and then someone, in the middle of an innocent conversation, initiates their attack… You know it’s coming; you want to hide for cover; you remember the stop-drop-roll technique; but your pupils start to dilate and your neck glimmers with the moisture of a Sunday morning spring flower — you forget movement and surrender your future. They see you flinching and twitching, but they continue moving their lips and out comes the dreaded question: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Okay, I realize that’s a little dramatic; but I’m in the arts field, let me be. However, on a serious note, these 10 words are the epitome of stress for a lot of us. For me, like most of us, the answer has been different at each rite of passage and graduation, if not each grade; at each change of outfit would even be accurate. My answers vary from “a Pantene hair model” to “a magician” to “a teacher” to “a lawyer” to “a baker” to “a news broadcaster” to “a writer” to “the salsa dancing emoji girl” to eventually succumbing to “just-want-to-pay-off-my-OSAP-er” — all depending on who I speak with.

There are three things that stress me out the most: not having enough change for my morning coffee, my mom’s phone calls, and the future. I can deal with the second with the help of the first, but I simply struggle to solve the last.

I’ve accepted my indecisiveness and passed the stage of trying to find an answer for this question to please my parents and rude aunts at social engagements. I don’t want to add stress on top of my already mountainous plate of to-do lists. Things will fall into place when the time comes.

But wait, doesn’t grown-up have a stamp of 18 attached to it? So, if my arts brain has done the math correctly, I should have started my life 2 years ago…

When I hear “when you grow up”, I have a difficult time digesting the thought that I am still perceived as a person who has yet to accomplish anything in her 20 years so far. I feel my hard work go through my fingers unrecognized and unappreciated because I haven’t gotten a job with a corporate stamp.

The truth is, we overcame the Peter Pan Syndrome when we did not need our parents’ help to finish our assignments; we grew up when we started taking public transportation alone; we “grow up” every time we survive an all-nighter.

With that said, I do think however we should marinate into the character we want to be rather than a corporate 9–5 job. I’d rather talk about the person I aspire to be today; someone with charisma, dedication, trust, and ambition.

So, next time someone slaps you with “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” answer them with “Well, currently I’m working on/doing/searching for…” instead.

And if you want to compare notes with your peers, try “What is your dream?” (this is not always career related); Or, “What are some steps you have taken to achieve xyz?”

Or if you’re someone like me, pretend you just smelled a fart and run out for some fresh air.