When I Grow Up

All I wanted to do when I got out of school was be a graphic designer, so in that respect, I’m pretty happy with my job. As I get older though, I wonder if perhaps I pursued that goal a bit too single-mindedly, too much to the exclusion of other career choices I could have made. I wanted to be a writer for a long time, and in self-indulgent moments — like when I’m writing these overlong and unnecessarily complicated blog posts — I still fantasize about renting a house in Saigon or Hanoi and writing a book. I also wonder sometimes if I should have pursued my adolescent goal of drawing comic books for real money, before id lost out to superego and I decided to pursue ostensibly more serious matters.

Lately, I’ve been mentally compiling a list of careers I might have pursued if I had the opportunity to magically return to, say, sixteen, and completely reconstruct myself from scratch. Almost all of these would strike anybody who knows me now to be pretty absurd, but here is an incomplete accounting of them: film director, television producer, comedian, professional baseball player, career officer in one of the military services, foreign correspondent for a cable news channel, Capitol Hill lobbyist, police officer. Some of these I take more seriously than others, of course, but for some of them, it wouldn’t be completely outside of the realm of possibility for me to suddenly take them up. But, here in my early thirties and deep into a job that is threatening to become my life’s work, I guess if I’m going to make a career change then the time is now.



  1. I’ve asked many a friend what they wanted to be when they grew up – trying to figure out if they were what they wanted to be or if they were on the way or life went in the opposite direction.

    As a child I wanted to be an archaeologist – this stems from watching too much Indiana Jones. As I got older I realized it wasn’t like that at all.

    I’ve done some form of art or creativity for most of my life and the truth is that I’ve never known what I wanted to be. I was poised for the longest time to be in some line of business, as my father wished. Part of me liked that he was a diplomat at some point and it was instilled in my early to travel the world and experience new cultures and things.

    However, I seem to have fallen somewhat intentionally into what I do now and I am happy with what I’m doing. Fortunate and thankful even. However, I do see myself migrating to some other field at some point – perhaps industrial design one day or photography.

    I’d also like to one day serve the public and give back on a larger scale. I’ve started to work towards that now.

  2. I’ve had the same thought, but for quite different reasons.

    Growing up, I was blessed with two parents who taught me that any pursuit is worthwhile as long as you do your best, and that all professions are equally respectable, so do what you love. But over the years of getting by on an artist’s income, I began to wonder if they had actually done me a disservice by not encouraging me to pursue an interest that might translate to a lucrative career. I see people my age driving new cars, buying houses in nice neighborhoods, saving ample amounts for the future, and I think: I’m as smart as they are and just as hardworking; I have a degree from one of the best colleges in America; I could have taken a different path and become a doctor or veterinarian or decoder of the human genome….

    I love my job, and mostly I’m happy with the way I’ve chosen to spend my time, but I have to wonder: how much easier would my life be, and how much more secure my future, if I’d ever thought seriously about earning potential when choosing a career?

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