I have heard this question a million times, by family members, by teachers and even by new people my age I just met. It is probably because my studies here in Germany are a mix of everything that is seen as “useful” in this world. I study intercultural Business and the spectrum of possible professions available to graduates is enormously broad. So I don’t blame people who have asked me this. One could say it is generally just a sign of showing interest in somebody’s future, right? I have also asked this question other people way to often myself. So let me explain why I’ve come to realize that the question is indeed to be criticized and reflects a specific way of thinking of our western, globalized culture.
By asking what we wish to be when we grow up, I feel like we are aspiring to be nothing right now. That, at the end of this road called education, there is a goal to achieve- mostly a certificate, which then magically transforms us into someone. So it does seem like we can rather ” be or not […] be” something worthy. Consequently, this way of thinking creates the thought that by not earning such a graduation certificate, I am worth nothing. But isn’t society nowadays telling us as well that the aim is the path, not the result itself? This seems contradictory.
It even creates a certain tunnel vision. As we focus on one specific thing “to become” those tiny signs of opportunities appearing on the way to switch paths or doubts become invisible. Maybe this explains why a lot of people find themselves in a deep whole once they finally “are” something but it turns out even though they have achieved financial security, the search of their life purpose is not over yet.
So here is my perception. We all are already something in this present moment. It doesn’t matter how old we are or how hard we study or how many certificates we earn; we are all experienced human beings and we are all worth the exact same. Further, we are all enough and doing the best we can with the capacity we have in this moment.
Today, more than ever life is a journey. Our own personal story book we fill with chapters. We have the opportunity to grow out of professions and relationships because we are required to move so quickly. This creates incertitude and I understand everyone who tries to escape an insecure future by focusing on one specific thing to become. But instead, let’s try to see this as an opportunity. Life creates failures and obstacles that keep returning as long as if you haven’t learned your lesson from them. They are the stepping stones; stairs we shall climb up. Not the career path stairs but the ones to get you a little closer to how we live joyfully fulfilled, knowing our selves. By opening up our minds that life is a development towards self-love not money, we have the opportunity to free us from the ambitions and expectations pushed on us by the economy.
Yesterday, I was lucky to hear Amma talking, an Indian Guru and Saint who, for Hindus, is the incarnation of compassion and love. She describes her religion to be only love, already hugged 30 Million people and founded various charity organizations. She mentioned that one of the worlds current problems to master is to teach children two things: How to earn their living and how to live life in a fulfilled way. She realized that unfortunately nowadays it is only focused on the first bit. This leads us into stress, depression and fear. For the second she suggested that living fulfilled can only happen if we learn self love through spirituality.
So by being asked this omnipresent question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, I feel like my counterpart does not believe that I am “enough” just now disregarding my monthly paycheck. It mirrors Amma’s perception as we indicate money leading to happiness and do not worry about someone’s self-love or fulfillment as much as about how he or she can afford their living.
Another thing I realized even more after Amma hugged me is that love is ubiquitous. This makes it easier for me to accept that I do not have all the answers I wish to have by now. I am person full of love, loved and loving and isn’t that what we are striving for by “becoming someone”- to be appreciated, to be worthy of love and being loved?
So I decided a couple of months ago that if my grandparents would ask me this question again, I would ironically answer “a snake charmer”. However they didn’t seem to get my point and from now on I will tell them: I am already someone and I wish for my future that every chapter of my book shall be filled with joy, inspiration, creativity and growth. Growth into an even more self loving person who doesn’t care if society can put a stamp on her and place her in a category of professions.