I Don’t Know What to Be When I Grow Up

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Hi, I'm Erin!

I am a photographer passionate about the outdoors, meaningful travel, creativity and intention in all things. I hope to use my platform online to show the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and to encourage genuine connection to the world and all the magic within it.

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“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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  1. Taylor says:

    miss erin,
    this just made my thursday morning, my week, my month! as I’m getting ready to go ski (before I go into work), your words really struck a cord in me. what do I do?what do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be inspiration- giving people strangers or familiar, positive outlooks on whatever it is life is bringing to them. that if someone wants to accomplish, feel, find or just be how they are in this moment that they have possibilities and opportunities. a smile and kind conversation with one person can turn their whole outlook around. it warm my soul to see this in people even as I check them out in the grocery line at whole foods market. cheers to you lady, keep on keeping on.

    • Wow, thank you so much Taylor! This is so good: “a smile and kind conversation with one person can turn their whole outlook around.” Thank you, truly, for being YOU!

      xo E

  2. Michael says:

    You said “When I grow up I want to believe in magic.” Believe it, you are magic! The fact that you can find the words to explain your aim in life, at this point in your life, is nothing short of magic. The lives you touch will be better for knowing a soul like you. Girl, you are one of the good ones.

    East of the Sun West of the Moon

  3. evenkelsey says:

    Love this!!!

  4. Love this post Erin, and I can completely relate!! Not only do you have a beautiful Instagram feed, but your blog posts are thoughtfully written as well. I’m happy that I came across you on Instagram! Being a good person is so much more important than feeling that you have to attach yourself to a labeled career. Your words serve as excellent reminders for myself. 😉 Looking forward to reading more from you here!

  5. Jaymie says:

    This was so refreshing to read. It reminds me of an encounter I had with a woman in her 60’s this past year. I was dropping my friends off at a trailhead in the Eastern side of the Sierra and she needed a ride into town. On our drive, this conversation came up and she (fresh off the trail, having summited mt. whitney days before, solo) looked at me and said she’s not sure what she wants to be when she grows up either. I told her I wasn’t sure if that was encouraging to hear or not. And we both laughed. In some way I knew that will be me someday, giving permission to the younger generation to not have it all figured out because it’s been 60 years and I am no where near it either. <3

    • I love that so much! I’ve had similar conversations with women much older than me. The support and the permission are so comforting. It’s kind of amazing that we feel like we NEED permission to begin with- because we’re “supposed” to have all the answers. I’m okay with never knowing. xo

  6. Eva Schaeffer says:

    Thanks a lot for this blog post! I feel exactly the same way!

  7. Sean Billups says:

    Ever heard of sympathetic vibration? It’s when the resonance of one object causes another to begin harmonizing along with it. One thing brings life to anther. And to me, reading your words was that tone–that connection you seek to make. That passion for life is something I feel a kinship with. That passion for learning, for people, for beautiful moments and surreal, awesome places full of magic.
    Thank you so much for your honesty and passion for seeking out the beautiful in life. I’ll be keeping tabs on your adventures.

    “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” –Ronald Dahl

  8. Heather says:

    Wow! My eyes filled up with tears by the end of this blog. I spent my last six years trying to figure out what I was doing with my life and why. Or asking myself, what do I want to do with my life? I’ve always had this beautiful picture in my head of all the wonderful things that I was going to do. But it all seamed unrealistic so I started to give myself excuses why I can’t try. This blog has motivated me to look differently “what I want to do when I grow up”. I will be printing this and keeping these word as a constant reminder that it is okay to not know the answer. Thank you Erin!

    • Sometimes the fear of failure is enough to stop us from trying altogether. I am SO glad this resonated with you! There is truly no reason why we can’t try something: we only get one life, and if we fail, we just learn more about ourselves. Compassion and kindness for yourself has to be number one! It is okay to BE and to TRY many different things– in fact, we should. We were never meant to be one thing, especially not a job title. Love to you, Heather! xo E

  9. Tasya says:

    This is really lovely and resonates with me, I can’t even explain. Everyone keeps saying I should be this and that, and I honestly struggle to fullfill their expectations, that it became a struggle to know what I want to be. This post is really inspiring and makes me really happy, thank you<3

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Hey, I'm Erin.
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If you’re interested in travel, the outdoors, artistic expression, or want to learn more about photography, you’re in the right place. I’m an adventure trip leader turned photographer, passionate about learning & sharing the real stories from the places I visit (real or imagined).



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