A friend of mine got married and moved to the US where she could not work for a few years due to Visa restrictions. Unfettered by these aspects, she decided to use her creativity and became a fashion blogger attracting tons of visits and appreciation over a period of time. Enthusiastic about the response she found online, she decided to start her own online shop selling curated jewelry and fashion products. Unfortunately, after 3 years, she said this:
“I have decided to close it for now and step back and reanalyze my steps. It wasn’t working and I was drowning. Now I am back to the drawing board- What should I be when I grow up?”
It struck a chord with me. Perhaps at our first birthday parties, parents and everyone else around starts speculating what we would be when we grow up. For my own 1 year old nephew, we have talked about professions ranging from Engineer, Doctor, Scientist to Matthew McConaughey. The good thing about today’s world is that all of these are possible. Our drawing boards are an open slate. We may be 1 or 31, we can try new things on an ongoing basis and learn from them. Failures are not bad but experiences that we learn from.
What Did I Want To Be When I Was Growing Up?
As a fourteen year old obsessed with books, all I wanted to be was a storyteller. I read L.M. Montgomery’s – The Story Girl and it enchanted me as a kid. But somehow I was unable to see the profession tangibly. No one I knew was into storytelling and I could not understand how people could do that unless they lived in rural Canada. As the high school graduation came closer, I realized my obsession with Mathematics and soon knew I was going to be an Engineer. It took exactly one year in Engineering school for me to realize that I didn’t really enjoy the subject (although I was never bad at it). I told myself, I am going to work hard, get a great job and before I retire and I have a lot of money, I am going to study language and storytelling. I am going to write (in the end).
The 8 Year Detour
My own expectations from myself as a student in school (I was nerdy with books and good with grades) were high. When I eventually started work at McKinsey, it seemed like something that people expected it would happen. It was a shocker when I left McKinsey, to study again (even though I had already finished a Master’s program). I left because I was exhausted by the idea that I was going to work for 14 hours a day and not have a sense of fulfillment. As a grown up, after spending 7-8 years working in a firm, you sometimes feel the need to get out of mediocrity and carve out what you really want to do.
What Am I Doing As Grown Up?
Psychologists have run experiments on what kind of professions make us most happy. Some have come back with research that says that childhood professions (that is, what we wanted to be when we were younger) show the highest correlation with professional happiness. This means, if I am doing what I wanted to do when I was younger, I am most likely happy with my life.
Going back to the drawing board as an adult can be tough because you have your own expectations as a professional and for me personally, I didn’t even remember what I wanted to do when I was younger, till I really forced myself to think. If there was any advice I’d give my younger self, it would be to note down inspirations and what I enjoy doing. If you can’t imagine any professions with your interest, maybe you can create one.
Obsessed by stories, I created my own content marketing, storytelling and branding organization earlier this year. Dear twenty year old self, I said to the younger me, you do not need to wait for retirement to start drawing on your boards, you need to start now.