“So what do you do?”
I knew he was asking me what I did for work. But I responded,
“Well, I love being creative. I write, I make things. I hike and watch sunsets. I have conversations with friends and strangers. That’s some of what I do.”
He got it. Thanks, Seth from the bar, for getting it.
I never knew what I wanted to “do,” or what I wanted to “be” when I grew up. As a teenager, I coded websites as a hobby. I always did enough in school so that I could get a good grade. I was good at faking my way through tests– memorizing information I’d forget 5 minutes after an exam.
College was like that too. I did what was expected of me. I did it well. And I am so thankful for the experience. But I didn’t take true initiative over my own life until my 20s. I was hooked on external validation. After school, there wasn’t a trophy coming from anyone else but myself, and I didn’t yet view that as a good incentive.
After college, I took a job leading trips for the summer. I traveled for three years because it was fun, and a good way to spend my time while I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I view those years as an extended quarter-life crisis– so millennial of me it hurts. Every day I asked myself, what was I doing, what career was I building, what dream was I working toward? As if not having a profound answer to any of those things guaranteed my failure in life.
Well, I figured it out.
I figured out that I will never know what I want to be when I grow up. I will only know who I want to be.
When I grow up, I want to be passion. I want to be a spark so bright it lights up other people and they don’t even have to know where it came from, and when everything is on fire around us, we’ll look over at each other in the light and see each other. Really see each other.
When I grow up, I want to be empathy. I want to look into someone’s life, however deeply they let me, and sit in it with them– tell them they are understood, in whatever battle, whatever arena they may be in.
I want to be love when I grow up. I want it to steam off my skin like rain on the road in the summertime.
I want to be a person who learns. A person who grows, like a weed. A person who seeks failure, who falls and laughs at the same time, in the same moment.
I want to be a person who forgives– who looks at the reasons why she hurts and lets them go because there is only so much we should carry every day.
When I grow up, I want to be awake, plugged into the beauty in this world so I can see and feel it every day.
I want to give when I grow up, to know someone else’s pain and to know someone else’s joy. I want to contribute to the place that I stand on.
I want to be a person who creates, a person who writes and makes.
I want to be a person who takes risks because she believes so whole-heartedly and so strongly in love that she can’t imagine a life without it.
When I grow up, I want to believe in magic, regardless of if things happen for a reason or if everything is completely random. I want to believe in what gets my heart racing, what makes me cry, what gets me to look up at a full moon in awe and wonder.
I am already all of the above, because I commit to it every day.
I get asked what I do for work, and I do a lot of things. But mostly, when someone asks me what I “do,” I don’t answer with a job title unless they specify. Instead, I answer with the things that make up my everyday– the reasons I get out of bed in the morning. Love, compassion, creativity, and the courage to share it.
Who do you want to be when you grow up?
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