STORY BY LESLIE HARRISON | Small Town Kids Jan-Mar 2017
My daughter has a memory from her sixth-grade English class that she’d like to forget. Her teacher announced one day, “Alright class, we are going to go around the room and I want each of you to tell me what you want to be when you’re older.”
Looking at my daughter he said, “We will start with you.”
She thought about it for a minute and then stated, “I don’t know what I want to be.”
Clearly irritated, the teacher said, “You can’t think of one thing? There are so many things to choose from.”
As his displeasure grew, he exclaimed, “You know, participation is part of your grade in this class. You should know what you want to be and if you can’t tell me, then your participation grade will go down.”
She was just 11 and he was pressuring her to know what she was going to be doing with the rest of her life. I turned 11 quite a few years ago, and I’m still reinventing myself. She was actually on to something.
Indeed, one of the benefits of modern society is our ability to evolve in our careers, change direction and even create new “jobs” that didn’t exist.
These days, kids, and even adults, don’t have to know what they are going to be when they grow up.
MORE THAN WORK
Knowing your purpose, rather than just having a job or career, is what we should emphasize as the key to having a fulfilling life.
When my oldest son was a little boy, he announced that he wanted to own an ice cream store. Ironically, his first paying job as a teenager was on the ice cream line of a restaurant.
Not long after this announcement, he became interested in dinosaurs and fossils. Naturally, he altered his life plan to include paleontology so that he would become the world’s first ice cream scooping paleontologist.
I didn’t see any conflict or issue with the evolution of his life’s plan. The fact that these two disciplines were radically different seemed to enrich the value of each.
My 14-year-old wants to be either a marine biologist or a National Geographic photographer. I pointed out that those two careers go together perfectly and there was no need to choose only one.
Maybe I’m biased. I’m a licensed attorney with a personal-trainer certification who teaches group fitness classes, writes for a magazine and runs a small business with an active online presence.
I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to become a certified Food for Life nutrition and cooking instructor.
PURSUING A PATH
I can honestly say that I have no regrets pursing each of my careers. The skills I developed with each discipline carry over into the others. I’ve been drawn to each of these paths out of a desire to help others.
My purpose is bigger than the sum of all my careers.
My kids sometimes ask me if I’ll be proud of them if they don’t have high-powered careers and make scads of money. The unequivocal answer is yes! I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with a high-powered, high-paying career path. We need to earn a living to function in society.
But “living” is the key word on which we should focus. We should teach our children that when they feel drawn to something, even if it’s not what they are supposed to be doing, to explore that feeling and be courageous in finding how it can translate into their life’s “work.”
Based in Tyler, Texas, Leslie Harrison is a working mother who finds joy in tackling the challenges of parenthood.