How are you today? I have a question for you. When you were young (young enough that it wasn’t possible for you to know what you wanted to be when you were no longer young), what was your answer to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I always thought this was a ridiculous question. When I was in high school, this question really began to annoy me because I always felt like it was putting so much pressure on me and my friends.
So, my friends and I started making up answers. We would literally sit around and brainstorm possible answers that would shock our parents’ friends.
One day, after one of our small southern town church services, one of these friends approached my mom and me. She had a friendly enough smile, said a really nice hello, probably hugged my mom, but I can’t remember, then it happened. She asked. The. Question.
“Hi, Heather. What’s the plan for after high school? What do you want to do with your life?” (See what she did there? She rephrased it just slightly in attempt to throw me off, but the question was still just as pressure-inducing.)
My friends and I had just watched the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Shue, so I said…
“I’m thinking about becoming a bartender.”
My mom’s friend’s eyes widened to the size of pancakes. I’m pretty sure my mom stopped breathing.
I quickly realized I had said something wrong, so I tried to make things better by saying, “Oh, but not like one of those bartenders at the local bar (not to insult those hard-working folks, but I was seventeen at the time), but you know… One like Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail… Like at the beach… Or in New York…”
I just kept talking. Adding additional jaw-dropping comments to the end of the statement that had pretty much silenced everyone in the middle of our church sanctuary, until I finally said in a small voice, “I haven’t really decided.”
Yeah… My mom didn’t talk to me for hours (maybe days – my memory is a little fuzzy) after that. Fortunately, no one at church asked me what I was planning to major in at college or what I was planning to be when I grew up ever again.
I don’t tell you this story to lessen the importance of the job of a bartender or to insult anyone who is or has been a bartender. I have absolutely nothing against bartenders. But as a rebellious teenager, I thought it would be funny to tell this nice lady in the middle of church that I wanted to be one. Apparently, according to the two-hour lecture I was given later, it wasn’t funny. At all.
But it made me scared to really admit what I did want to be. I spent a couple of years exploring the idea of becoming an FBI agent. I’m pretty sure my parents would have flipped out if I had decided to go that route. I don’t know if that had any effect on what I did eventually choose, but I never did apply to the FBI Academy like I had wanted to. I just stared at the application for a few years.
Now, after saying goodbye to a 20-year career as a CPA, I did leap into a career I really wanted. I jumped into a career as a writer where I get to pretend that I am an FBI agent (In Darkness series), a cloned human on the run from the government who wishes I didn’t exist (Mindspeak series), and the only survivor of a deadly Ebola-like virus (Emerge series).
In order to take my career as an FBI agent seriously, I attend police academies, get shooting instruction, and do anything I need to do to make sure my books are as accurate and real as possible.
So, I’m curious… Leave a comment below: What did you want to be when you grew up? And did you end up choosing that as a career? And have you ever changed careers?
Until next time,