When we were all kids, what was one of the most popular questions asked of us?
Most likely, you answered "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
I'm sure I was asked about my future vocation thousands of times, and I probably gave just as many answers. I had no idea what I really wanted or was skilled to do, but the answer to this question seemed so very important to me that I tried on all kinds of occupations.
I think I did this mostly for the reaction... was the questioner surprised, excited, or disappointed by my answer? Did it get his or her attention? Did my answer make me more sophisticated, edgy, or smarter?
Just recently, I decided that if Jon and I ever have children, I really don't want us to ask this question of their young minds. Not that the question is a bad one, necessarily... I just think it misses the point. Too much emphasis is placed on The Occupation, like there is one thing we should do with our lives and that the path to that ONE THING begins in early childhood. It's a lot of pressure, and, I believe, it's a lie. We can take our lives in so many different directions, exploring all aspects of ourselves and our passions along the way. Plus, it's never too late to try something new.
I wish that I had been asked a different question somewhere along the way... something less occupationally centric and more focused on my dreams and aspirations. For me, I think a better question would have been, "What do you want to create with your life?"
This variation is active and evolving, not passive and sedentary. The emphasis is placed on the child's whole life, not just the occupational aspect. It empowers the individual to own the power he has to create his own life, which is powerful tool for any person to possess.
For me, though, the best part of this question is its ability to focus on immediacy and the future. What do you want to do with your life right now? Next month? Next year? In five years? An answer to this question is based on immediate passions and inclinations, helping us identify the things that actually energize and stimulate our spirits. In children specifically, this question could help foster the continual growth of creativity, rather than stunting it for the grasping-at-straws future occupation.
Even though I've long since "grown up", I had never really stopped asking myself what I want to be when I grow up. Over the last year, though, it has become quite clear to me that this is just the wrong question if I'm seeking greater purpose and passion. The question ignores and distracts from the power I have right now to immediately create something wonderful and completely outside of my profession.
I'm no longer asking myself what I want to do when I grown up. Instead, I am asking myself what I want to create with my life right now. The question is liberating, light, and energizing. My answers spring forth naturally and excitingly and are sometimes quite surprising. Most importantly, it reminds me that my life is what I create of it, and the creative process never really stops.
I am so much more than my vocation. I work to live. I do not live to work.